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  • Foreign investment in Australia: what you need to know

    This content is also available in Chinese – traditional (繁体中文) and Chinese – simplified (簡體中文).

    If you are a foreign person (including temporary resident or foreign non-resident) and you plan to invest in Australian real estate, you may need to notify the ATO about your investment.

    Check your status

    Before you start, you need to check the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) Guidance Notes to see if you are affected by these rules.

    Find out about:

    On this page:

    Residential real estate application

    Obtain FIRB approval

    Under Australia’s foreign investment framework, foreign persons generally need to apply for foreign investment approval before purchasing residential real estate in Australia.

    To apply to purchase residential real estate you will need to complete a Residential real estate application and pay an application fee (note that this form is in English). A fee applies for each application and the amount is determined by the value of the property.

    Residential real estate includes:

    • new dwellings
    • established dwellings to live in
    • properties for redevelopment
    • off the plan properties
    • vacant residential land.

    The residential property investment: fact sheet for foreign owners provides information to guide you through the requirements of applying to purchase Australian residential real estate. The fact sheet is also available for download in Chinese – traditional and Chinese – simplified.

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    Exemption certificate

    An exemption certificate allows a foreign person to make multiple attempts to acquire one unspecified property, in a specified state or territory, without having to seek individual approval for each property they are interested in.

    Temporary residents can use an exemption certificate to purchase an established dwelling to live in while residing in Australia.

    Foreign non-residents can use an exemption certificate to purchase a new or near-new dwelling, or a single block of vacant land.

    Apply for an exemption certificate using the Residential real estate application form.

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    Tips to avoid delays

    Make sure your name appears correctly in the application form. In the ‘last name’ field, enter your family name/surname. If your approval letter does not match your identification documents you will need to seek a variation which could attract a fee.

    Make sure your email and telephone contact details are correct and up-to-date. This is especially important as we will email your approval letter, delays in contacting you will result in delays to your application.

    Provide the unit, lot or street number in your application, if you do not have access to the unit number yet provide your lot number with the Deposited Plan (DP) identifier if you have it, with other details to follow later.

    Thoroughly check the details on your form before you submit it. Variations could attract a fee.

    If you have a contract in place, ensure you know if the contract is binding on you or not. This is important because you may already be in breach of your obligations under the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 2015. See penalties for more information.

    New dwellings do not include established or second hand residential dwellings that have been refurbished or renovated. You can find out more in FIRB Guidance Note 3: Residential real estate – foreign non-residentsExternal Link.

    Review your FIRB approval conditions

    Your approval letter will set out the conditions you must follow when you purchase residential real estate and after settlement (the date that ownership of the property transferred to you, not the sale date).

    If you do not comply with these conditions you may be liable for an infringement notice, criminal prosecution or civil penalty.

    Land and water register

    As a condition of your FIRB approval you must enter your residential real estate purchase on the ATO land and water register. You must register your purchase within 30 days after the date of settlement (the date that ownership of the property transferred to you, not the sale date). There is no cost involved in registering.

    Once you enter your information you will receive a land registration number, which you will use when you lodge your annual vacancy fee return.

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    Vacancy fee return

    If your land has a residential dwelling on it, you must lodge an annual vacancy fee return within 30 days of the end of every 12 month period you own it, known as the vacancy year.

    If your dwelling is not residentially occupied or rented out for more than 183 days within a vacancy year you may be liable to pay a vacancy fee.

    We will email you a reminder to lodge your vacancy fee return to the email address you gave us in your land and water registration. The email contains the information you need to lodge your vacancy fee return.

    You are required to lodge a vacancy fee return even if you do not receive a reminder from us. If you have not registered your property on the land and water register and haven't received your vacancy fee reminder, submit a land and water registration form. There is no cost involved in registering.

    If your property is vacant land you do not need to lodge a vacancy fee return until a dwelling has been constructed on the land.

    The vacancy fee return: fact sheet for foreign owners provides information to guide you through the lodging of your vacancy fee return. The fact sheet is also available for download in Chinese – traditional and Chinese – simplified.

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    Update your FIRB email address

    If your email address changes, you need to notify us by using the FIRB update email form. If you have a land registration number, use this reference type when filling in this form.

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    Application fees

    There is a fee for foreign persons applying 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 FIRB fee estimatorExternal Link (note that this website is in English).

    To ensure we receive your fee payment, provide your payment reference number (PRN) exactly as it appears on the application confirmation page.

    Save or print the confirmation page for your records.

    The fee paid can't be transferred if you change your mind about the property you are purchasing or the sale does not proceed. You will need to pay for a new application fee. If you do not have a specific property identified to purchase, you may consider applying for an exemption certificate.

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    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.

    Penalties

    Penalties apply to breaches of Australia’s foreign investment real estate rules. If you avoid your obligations you may be liable for an infringement notice, criminal prosecution or civil penalty.

    Agricultural land

    Proposed investments in agricultural land generally require Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) approval where the cumulative value of a foreign person's agricultural land holdings exceeds $15 million, with exceptions applying to investors from Australia’s trade agreement partners and a $0 threshold applying to Foreign Government investors.

    All acquisitions of interests in agricultural land by foreign persons must be registered on the land and water register regardless of value or whether they require approval.

    To apply for approval to purchase agricultural land complete the FIRB application form and pay an application fee. You can find out the cost of your application using the FIRB fee estimator (note that this website is in English).

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    Land and water register

    The land and water register is designed to collect data on purchases, sales and transfers of agricultural land or properties by foreign persons. 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.

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    If your situation changes

    You must notify us if your situation or the ownership of your property changes. Update your details by completing the land and water registration form.

    Penalties

    Penalties apply to breaches of Australia’s foreign investment real estate rules. If you avoid your obligations you may be liable for an infringement notice, or criminal prosecution or civil penalty.

    Water entitlements

    Foreign persons who hold interests in registrable water entitlements or contractual water rights on or after 1 December 2017 are required to register their interests on the land and water register. You must also notify us of any changes to your ownership or situation.

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    Land and water register

    You may register your interest at any time during the year (for example, when the event occurs), but no later than 30 days after the end of the financial year in which the event occurred.

    Refer to the Water register information notes for more detail on:

    • registrable water entitlements
    • contractual water rights.

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    If your situation changes

    You must notify us if your situation or the ownership changes. Update your details by completing the land and water registration form.

    More information

    To find out more you can phone us on:

    • 1800 050 377 within Australia
    • +61 2 6216 1111 outside Australia.

    If you do not speak English well and want to talk to a tax officer, you can phone the Translating and Interpreting Service on:

    • 13 14 50 within Australia
    • +61 3 9268 8332 outside Australia.

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      Last modified: 09 Oct 2019QC 48761