Online forms unavailable from 17 June
From 17 June most current forms for foreign investors will be unavailable as we prepare to start Online services for foreign investors from 26 June 2023. Check how this may affect you, and what you can do to get ready to use the new online service.
There are approval and registration requirements for foreign persons buying residential real estate in Australia.
On this page
Changes coming soon
As part of foreign investment reforms a new Register of Foreign Ownership of Australian Assets will be introduced on 1 July 2023.
From 26 June 2023 our new ATO online service, Online services for foreign investors, will be available. You will be able to use this service to manage a range of foreign investment obligations online, including:
- applying for residential approval
- registering your assets
- updating your details
- lodging your vacancy fee return.
Before you invest
If you’re a foreign person (including a temporary resident or foreign non-resident) and you plan to invest in Australian residential real estate, you may need to comply with the following:
Residential real estate includes:
- new or near new dwellings
- established dwellings to live in
- properties for redevelopment
- off-the-plan properties
- vacant residential land.
You may be invited to complete a survey after your interaction with us. We welcome any feedback on your recent experience and any suggestions for improvements.
How to apply
Complete a Residential real estate application form.
If you experience any issues accessing or using this form:
1. Complete the form
2. Save the form using the "Print Friendly PDF" option at the bottom of the page
3. Contact the ATO residential team at FIRBresidential@ato.gov.au.
Note: You can attach up to six files to your Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) application. Each file must be less than 10MB. Use only English alphanumeric characters to name each file and keep file names as short as possible. File names in a different language or using special characters, such as # @ & $, may affect the submission of your application.
If you need to attach more files to your application, send them separately to email@example.com, along with your FIRB approval number. You will receive a FIRB approval number once you have submitted your application.
We cannot consider your application until you have paid your fee. Make sure you use the correct payment reference number to reduce any delays.
There are limited circumstances where a fee waiver or remittance will be granted. This is determined on a case-by-case basis. Fees will generally not be waived or remitted following an unsuccessful attempt to purchase property or if there has been a change of mind to invest in the targeted property.
For more information, see:
If you don't have a specific property identified for purchase, an exemption certificate enables you to purchase one property in a specified state or territory without having to apply for individual approval for each property you are interested in.
Temporary residents can use an exemption certificate to purchase a single established dwelling to live in. They can also purchase a new dwelling or vacant land for development. Foreign non-residents can use an exemption certificate to purchase a new or near new dwelling or a single block of vacant land for development.
An exemption certificate enables you to make multiple attempts to acquire one property without having to seek individual approval for each property you are interested in.
Apply for an exemption certificate using the Residential real estate application form.
If you already have an approved exemption certificate and wish to vary the conditions of the approval, you will need to apply for a variation.
Examples of when you may require a variation:
- If you have received approval for an exemption certificate for an established dwelling to live in and subsequently wish to redevelop this property into more than one dwelling, you will be required to apply to vary the conditions of your approval. A fee is payable upon lodging the variation.
- If you have received an exemption certificate for vacant land to develop and require further time to construct or you wish to sell without developing, you will be required to vary the conditions of your approval. A fee is payable upon lodging the variation.
Variations that don't substantively change the original FIRB approval would generally be considered as a proposal for a variation. In contrast, a proposal that seeks to broaden the scope of the original approval will generally require a new application. A fee will be payable to vary your exemption certificate.
For more information, see:
After you invest
You must register your residential real estate purchase with us using the Land and water registration form no later than 30 days after the date of settlement. There is no cost involved in registering.
Settlement generally means that you are able to occupy the property if there is a dwelling on it or you are able to commence building if it is a piece of vacant land that you have purchased. You do not have to register if you have just signed a contract and have not yet taken possession of the property.
How to register
Register by completing a Land and water registration form.
You will need to update or remove your details using the Land and water registration form if:
- you no longer hold residential land – when you sell or transfer the land to someone else
- you are no longer a foreign person
- the property is no longer residential
You must lodge a vacancy fee return every year and make a declaration about the use of your residential dwelling in the previous 12-month period (vacancy year). The return must be lodged within 30 days of the end of the vacancy year.
The vacancy fee return must be lodged by foreign owners of residential dwellings who:
- made a foreign investment application for residential property after 7.30pm AEST on 9 May 2017
- purchased under a New dwelling exemption certificate that a developer applied for after 7.30pm AEST on 9 May 2017.
If you are required to lodge a vacancy fee return, you will need to pay a vacancy fee if your dwelling is not residentially occupied or genuinely available on the rental market for 183 days or more during the vacancy year.
A vacancy fee may also apply if the vacancy fee return is not lodged by the due date.
See Vacancy Fee: Return for foreign owners webinarExternal Link on atotv for more information on Exemption certificates.
Foreign investment rule breaches
If you avoid your obligations, for example, if you enter into an unconditional contract for purchase before you receive approval, you could face an infringement notice, or civil or criminal penalties.
If you have information about someone you think may be deliberately breaking our foreign investment rules, you can report them confidentially.
For more information, see:
Foreign Investment Review Board Guidance notes
Approval and registration requirements for foreign persons buying residential real estate in Australia.