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  • Residential investment

    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.

    On this page:

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    Before you invest

    How to apply

    Complete a Residential real estate application form.

    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 firbresidential@ato.gov.au, 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.

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    Exemption certificates

    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.

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    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

    Vacancy fee

    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.

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    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.

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    Last modified: 05 Aug 2021QC 52586