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Sabah Biodiversity Centre



Does the access licence apply to foreign researchers who will be entering forest reserves for ecological research but not doing any collection?



When should I apply for access licence?

A committee is setup to vet your access licence application and this committee meets four (4) times a year. Kindly be informed of the processing period and it is important that you comply with the terms and conditions to expedite service.


Does research assistant need to apply for access licence?

Yes, they may go under your application as group members. Kindly take note that you are required to include them when you apply for access licence. Failure to do so may result in further delays or rejection when you decided to include them later in your research project.


I have already obtained my access licence but decided to engage foreign research assistant(s) for my research project, what should I do?

You are highly recommended to engage local research assistant(s) to help out in the field. However, should the locals cannot meet your research demands and you have decided to engage foreign research assistant(s), you are required to submit the following documents to SaBC for further considerations:

  1. A letter from you (the principle investigator) to justify the needs for engaging foreign research assistant(s), specify the tasks and skills required, and to show that you have made the effort in finding local research assistant(s)
  2. Passport copy of the foreign research assistant(s)
  3. A letter of support from your organisation/university to hire/engage research assistant(s) for your research project
  4. A letter of support from your local collaborator
  5. A letter of support from resource manager(s)
  6. Research assistant(s) curriculum vitae

Important note: You are to ensure there is no independent research (besides your research) carried out by your research assistant(s). This separate application is subject to approval and no guarantee for successful application.


If granted, how long is the validity of my access licence?

The validity of your access licence depends on the research activities (that involve access) in Sabah. However, the licence is renewable depending on the nature of access activities. Validity period varies from 1 month to a maximum of 12 months. Kindly indicate when do you intend to access and the duration in the access licence application form.


I have missed the submission date but need to commence my fieldwork very soon, what should I do?

It is the applicant's responsibility to be aware of the procedures/ rules and regulations before conducting research in Sabah. All information are as stated on our website and you are required to make the necessary early arrangements to obtain the documents. You should only confirm your travel dates once you receive email notifications from us notifying you the result of your access licence application as the committee has the right to reject research proposals as it deems fit.


I am running behind schedule to complete my research, can I apply for temporary permission to begin preliminary work in Sabah?

There is no provision for temporary permission as all applications are vetted by the committee as well as it involves the Sabah State protocols before permission is given. It is an offense for any person who in contravention of the provisions of the Sabah Biodiversity Enactment 2000 engages in, carries out, or undertakes any access activity without having an access licence: Subsection 26(a). Please refer to the schedule published on our website to plan in advance.


I have submitted my access licence application/ export licence application, what should I do next?

Initial screening of your application will be done by SaBC to make sure everything is in order. Any incomplete documents, discrepancies found between documents and vague information will be queried by SaBC through email and you are obliged to answer these queries before we can process your application. If no queries, we will acknowledged receipt of your application through email. Kindly add sabc@sabah.gov.my to your email safe sender's list to ensure uninterrupted communication from us.


I have submitted my access licence application one week/few days before the deadline but received query on incomplete documents/ unclear information about my application, when do i have to submit my documents in order to meet the deadline?

The day when you reply and finalise the queries by submitting the necessary information, particulars or documents to SaBC will be the date of your submission (not based on your first incomplete submission/ unclear information). It is highly recommended that you apply earlier to the various agencies to get the necessary supporting information, particulars or documents and submit your application to SaBC. In case there is query, you still have the time to gather the necessary information/ documents to meet the deadline as published on our website. Otherwise, your application can only be processed in the next window of submission.


Can I collect my access licence before the validity period?

Yes, you may collect your access licence before the validity period and proceed to apply for Professional Pass from the State Immigration of Sabah, Kota Kinabalu and to collect any entry pass from the resource manager(s) (if any). You are also required to keep the original copy of your access licence. However, you should only commence your fieldwork according to the validity date and any preconditions imposed must be complied with.


How do I collect my access licence?

Kindly print out and complete the Statutory Declaration (signed and stamped) and hand it over to SaBC office in order to collect your Access Licence in person. Please take note that the Statutory Declaration Form must be signed in the presence of a Sessions Court Judge, Magistrate, or Commissioner for Oaths in Sabah or in Malaysia. 


After collecting my access licence, what should I do?

You are required to apply for Professional Pass from the State Immigration of Sabah, Kota Kinabalu. IMPORTANT NOTE: It is the applicant's responsibility to check with the Immigration Department of Malaysia and to fulfill the visa/pass requirements (before traveling to Malaysia) as the requirements and charges vary from country to country. You are also required to report to your local collaborator, to the relevant resource manager(s) or to collect the relevant entry pass before entering the area(s) as mentioned in their notice/ letter of support.


What are my obligations once I arrive in Sabah?

Refer to this flow chart to understand your obligations before and after your fieldwork


I have been granted a Visit Pass upon entering Malaysia, do I still need to apply for Professional Pass?

The Visit Pass is only for social visit purpose in Malaysia, it does not give you the provision to conduct research. The purpose of your visit (to conduct research) requires you to apply for Professional Pass in regardless of the duration of your stay.


My research involves aerial survey/ drone/ unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), do I need permission?

Yes, you are required to do the followings:

  1. Mention aerial survey/drone/ unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) usage to the respective resource manager(s) when you apply for permission to enter their area(s)
  2. Be very detail about your drone specifications, the usage (including flying altitudes etc.) in your access licence application form and proposal
  3. Write to two (2) departments; (i)State Internal Affairs & Research Office, Chief Minister's Department of Sabah and (ii) Department of Civil Aviation, Malaysia to obtain the necessary permission before submitting your access licence application to SaBC Note: Include support letter from Department of Survey & Mapping Malaysia, resource manager(s), date and time of operations/activites, flying radius and coordination, flying altitudes, drone specifications, operation purpose, company details (if any), drone pilot information (for operating drone above 20kg you need to provide Private Pilot Licence/ Commercial Pilot Licence).


My research area(s) involve marine water/ marine park in the East Coast of Sabah, what other documents do I need to submit other than the letter of support from the resource manager(s)?

If your research area(s) involve marine water/ marine park in the East Coast of Sabah, a written security clearance from the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) and/or National Security Council (Kota Kinabalu branch) is mandatory. You may write to the following address to obtain security feedback:

Secretary of State Security
Malaysian National Security Council
Prime Minister's Office
Level 6, Block A
Federal Government Administrative Complex
Jalan UMS
88400 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.

Tel: +6088 488 500
Fax: +6088 488 510

You may email your letter of request to mkn.sabah@gmail.com 

Note: You are required to follow the subsequent instructions stated by the Malaysian National Security Council once the letter is issued and forward to us a copy of the letter in order for us to process your access licence.


My access licence application/export licence application is rejected, can I appeal?

Yes, you may appeal through SaBC within the period of three (3) months beginning from the date you received the decision. The submission of your appeal will be tabled in the next committee/ council meeting for further considerations.


Common errors that can cause delays

  • Letter of support from resource managers/ institutions/ local collaborator not attach together with your submission
  • Discrepencies in information- access location listed in the form is different from letter of support from resource managers/ local collaborator and proposals; biological resources to which you are seeking access is different from what you seek to export/ different from your proposals
  • Elaborate on the use of the biological resources which you seek to access. For example, "chemical analysis"/ "DNA analysis" not sufficient to describe the activity
  • Group application- group members' passport copy not attach, no support from local collaborator/resource managers (these letters of support must have their names identified as reflected in the access form)
  • Submitting your application 1 week (or less) before the deadline is not recommended. It usually takes more than 5 working days (or up to 1 month depending on the issues and institutions involve) to sort out the queries. You are recommended to read the instruction on our website carefully and make the necessary arrangement once you have decided to conduct your research in Sabah



Can I renew my export licence?

No, you can only apply for new export licence. The procedure and processing time will still be the same.


When should I apply for export licence?

You are recommended to apply for export licence as soon as you have decided to export the specimen. The processing period will take a longer time than access licence. Kindly check out the application flow chart.


If a researcher were to borrow specimens from an established government herbarium in the state of Sabah, or in the case of exchange of specimens between other herbaria with the state herbarium; are these subject to export licence application? If so, does it mean that the export licence application has to be applied for every transaction?

Yes, an export licence is required (according to the Enactment).


Do I need to apply for export licence if my specimen is listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)?

Yes, please note for species protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the export of CITES specimens require the application of an additional permit (CITES permit) from Sabah Wildlife Department (animal- except fish and coral, and plant- except marine plant and timber), Sabah Fisheries Department (fish, coral and marine plant) after an export licence is issued.


If granted, how long is the validity of my export licence?

The validity of your export licence is one (1) year from the date of approval. However, the export licence is a single-use licence and subsequent export activities would require new export application.