Can you buy a property in Australia as a foreigner?

The Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) is a governing body who evaluates applications of interest by foreign persons to invest or buy a home in Australia. This process is done in accordance with the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act (1975).

The government regulates foreign investment to ensure that the investment is beneficial to Australia.

Who does not need FIRB approval? 

  1. Australian and New Zealand citizens
  2. Australian permanent residents
  3. Temporary residents who purchase property as ‘joint tenants’ with an Australian or New Zealand citizen spouse or an Australian permanent residence spouse
  4. Foreign persons who purchase property as ‘joint tenants’ with an Australian or New Zealand citizen spouse or an Australian permanent residence spouse

If you fall into any of these categories:

  • You are able to purchase a new property, established property or vacant land
  • If it is a new property or vacant land, you can live in the property or the property can be an investment. If it is an established property, you will need to use it as your principal place of residence. 

Who needs FIRB approval and what are the conditions?

  1. All temporary residents require FIRB approval.

Temporary residents include (but are not limited to):

  • All temporary visa holders (regardless of the visa period length) e.g., student visa holders, temporary graduate visa holders.
  • Those who are residing in Australia and have submitted an application for a permanent resident visa and is awaiting the outcome of this application.

Temporary residents can purchase one established dwelling which must be used to live in. If you cease to live in this property, then you are required to sell it.

A temporary resident is also able to purchase new dwellings, vacant land and/or established dwellings for redevelopment. This can be purchased alongside the established dwelling (that is used as their primary place of residence). There is no restriction on how many new dwellings are purchased as long as they are approved by the FIRB.

  • All foreign investors require FIRB approval

Foreign persons are able to purchase an investment property but it must be a new property or vacant land on which a new property will be built.

Foreign persons are typically prohibited from buying established properties in Australia. There are some exemptions to this including:

  • If an application to redevelop an established dwelling proves that it will genuinely expand Australia’s housing stock.
  • If it is a property you have inherited
  • If it is awarded by a court order
  • If the property was awarded as part of a divorce settlement

Please refer to the government website linked here for more details.

How to get FIRB approval:

You can apply for FIRB approval directly through the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) website. The instructions to apply for a residential real estate application are linked here.

The ATO charges an application fee for all FIRB applications. This fee is dependent on the property value.

Every matter is unique and has its own nuances. As such, it is best you read the FIRB’s guidance notes and contact the ATO for any further questions:

Written by Priscilla (and edited by Sofia Maniam)