• Foreign investment in Australia

    Foreign investment is integral to Australia’s prosperity. It has helped build Australia’s economy and will continue to enhance the wellbeing of Australians by supporting financial growth.

    If you’re a foreign investor (including temporary and non-residents) who has invested in, or plans to invest in Australian agricultural land or residential real estate, you may need to notify us about your investment.

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    Applications

    Agricultural land

    Proposed investments in agricultural land generally require Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) approval where the cumulative value of a foreign investor’s agricultural land holdings exceeds $15 million. Exceptions apply to investors from Australia’s trade agreement partners and a A$0 threshold applies to Foreign Government investors.

    All acquisitions of interests in agricultural land by foreign people must be registered on the Land Register (formerly Agricultural Land Register) regardless of value or whether they require approval.

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    Residential real estate

    Most foreign investors need to apply for approval from the Australian Government before purchasing any residential real estate in Australia. You can do this through the FIRB website at firb.gov.auExternal Link

    Registrations

    Land register

    The Land Register (formerly Agricultural Land Register) is designed to collect data on purchases, sales and transfers of land and properties by foreign people. You must notify us if you:

    • have acquired an interest in agricultural land or are required to as a condition of your approval to purchase residential real estate
    • no longer have an interest in agricultural land
    • have changed 'foreign person' status, either becoming a foreign person or ceasing to be a foreign person
    • have changed the land or property type from, or to, agricultural land or residential real estate.

    If you start to hold agricultural land, you must register with us within 30 days after the date of purchase. Penalties may apply if you do not register within 30 days.

    If you are a foreign investor who had to apply to the FIRB for approval to purchase residential property and start to hold residential real estate on or after 1 July 2016, you will need to register your purchase as a condition of FIRB approval. This will only apply to residential property purchased after 1 July 2016.

    You also need to notify us when you no longer have an investment in agricultural land.

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    Penalties and fees

    Application fees

    There is a fee for foreign investors to apply to purchase Australian real estate. Different fees apply depending on the sale price and type of property. You can find out the cost of your application using the fee estimator available at firb.gov.auExternal Link (please note: this website is in English). Your application will not be processed until the fee is received.

    To ensure we receive your fee payment, provide your payment reference number (PRN) exactly as it appears on the application confirmation page. Do not add spaces, names, hyphens or other text with this number. Adding these will cause delays in processing your application.

    Save or print the confirmation page for your records.

    The fee cannot be transferred if you change your mind about the property you are purchasing. For example, if you applied for a house on 5 Smith Street and now want to purchase a house on 7 Jones Street, you will need to apply for a withdrawal for 5 Smith Street and re-apply to purchase 7 Jones Street. You will need to re-pay for a new application. Generally the first fee will not be reimbursed.

    Penalties

    New penalties now apply to breaches of Australia’s foreign investment in real estate rules. If you deliberately avoid your obligations, you could be risking an infringement notice, criminal prosecution or civil penalty orders.

    For example, if you enter into an unconditional contract for purchase prior to obtaining approval, you are in breach of your obligations and could face an infringement notice, or civil or criminal penalties.

    Criminal penalties have been increased to $135,000 or three years imprisonment for individuals, and $675,000 for companies.

    Fee waivers

    There are limited circumstances where a fee waiver or remittance will be granted, and this is determined on a case-by-case basis. Fees will generally not be waived or remitted if you are unsuccessful in your attempt to purchase the property or if you decide not to invest in the targeted property.

    Fee waivers will not be considered before an application has been submitted.

    Resources and links

    Foreign resident capital gains withholding

    New rules now apply to vendors disposing of certain taxable Australian property under contracts entered into from 1 July 2016. A 10% non-final withholding will be incurred on these transactions at settlement.

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    Support videos

    We recently ran education sessions for Chinese audiences on foreign investment obligations. The videos below capture key topics about foreign investment.

    Relevant links

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    Last modified: 20 Jul 2016QC 46091