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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).

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

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

    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 Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) website at firb.gov.auExternal Link (please note: this website is in English).

    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 cost $5,000.
    • 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, please 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 $5,000 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.
    • Only temporary residents buying established dwellings via auction can submit an application selecting an 'unspecified dwelling'. Otherwise, a dwelling must be specified.
    • New dwellings do not include established or second hand residential property that have been refurbished or renovated. You can find out more in English at firb.gov.auExternal Link.
    • Vacant land means there is no substantive permanent building on the land that can be lawfully occupied by persons, goods or livestock. If you select 'new dwelling' for this type of land, this will lead to you having to request a variation which could cost $5,000.

    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 can't be transferred if you change your mind about the property you are purchasing. For instance, if you applied for 5 Smith Street and now want to purchase 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.

    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

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

    For instance, 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.

    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 Register regardless of value or whether they require approval.

    Registrations

    Land Register

    The land register is designed to collect data on purchases, sales and transfers of land and/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.

    If you are a foreign person 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.

    Find out more at Land Register (please note: this information is in English).

    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

    See also:

      Last modified: 07 Jul 2016QC 48761