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FIRB Approval

What is the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB)?

This Australian government department assesses applications from foreigners who would like to invest or buy a home in Australia. If you would like to buy real estate either to live in or as an investment then you may be required to obtain FIRB approval.

Please see the section which applies to your situation to find out whether you need FIRB approval.

Who needs FIRB approval?

You’ll need FIRB approval if you fall into the following categories.

Temporary resident

If you’re on a temporary visa such as a spouse visa, 457 work visa or student visa:

  • You need approval from the FIRB.
  • You can only buy one established dwelling and it must be to live in, however you will be required to sell it once you do not live there anymore.
  • You can buy an investment property, however it must be a new property or vacant land to build a new property.
  • You don’t need FIRB approval if you’re buying the property with an Australian citizen as joint tenants and you’re in a spousal relationship. This means it doesn’t apply to other relationships like business partners, mother/father and child, siblings, friends or relatives.

Foreign investor

If you’re a foreign investor:

  • You need approval from the FIRB.
  • The investment property must be a new property or vacant land to build a new property.
  • You can’t buy an established dwelling as an investment property.
  • They can buy a new property in their name and rent it out to their child that is on a temporary visa.

Exceptions for foreign citizens

However you are exempt if:

  • The property developer has obtained an exemption certificate for the new property that you are buying.
  • You inherited the property.
  • You were awarded the property by a court order.
  • You were awarded the property in a divorce settlement.

Please refer to the government department website for the full details of who is and is not eligible.

Who doesn't need FIRB approval?

Australian citizens

If you’re an Australian expat living overseas or Australian Citizen living in Australia:

  • You don’t need approval from the FIRB.
  • You can buy a new property, existing property or vacant land.
  • You can live in the property or it can be an investment.

Permanent resident

If you’re a foreign national who has a permanent residency visa:

  • You don’t need approval from the FIRB.
  • You can buy a new property, existing property or vacant land.
  • You can live in the property or it can be an investment.

New Zealand citizen

If you’re a New Zealand citizen:

  • You don’t need approval from the FIRB.
  • You can buy a new property, existing property or vacant land.
  • You can live in the property or it can be an investment.

Temporary resident buying with Australian citizen spouse

If you’re on a temporary visa such as a spouse visa, 457 work visa, or student visa and are buying the property with your Australian citizen spouse*:

  • You don’t need FIRB approval if you are buying the property as joint tenants and you’re in a spousal relationship. This means it doesn’t apply to other relationships like business partners, mother/father and child, siblings, friends or relatives.
  • You’ll need FIRB approval if you are buying the property together as tenants in common.
  • You can buy a new property, existing property or vacant land.
  • You can live in the property or it can be an investment.

*Includes de facto partner (both same sex and different sex).

Buying as an investment versus owner occupied?

Will it make a difference if you live in the property or not? As a general rule, investment properties are accepted more readily.

If you’re on a temporary visa or work visa then you can:

  • Usually buy a new property or an established property.
  • Will usually be required to sell your home when you leave Australia.
  • If you obtain citizenship or permanent residency then you won’t have to sell your property.

If you’re a foreign citizen living overseas then you:

  • Are unlikely to be allowed to buy a property to live in Australia. This is because you don’t have a valid visa which allows you to stay in Australia.
  • If you’ve been granted a temporary residency visa then you may be able to buy a home before you move.

If you’re an Australian living overseas you can:

  • Buy a property to live in in Australia as long as you can prove to your lender that you’ll be able to afford the debt.
  • Either you’ll need to prove that you’ll continue your job in Australia or that you have another income source.

Does FIRB charge application fees?

Up until mid-2015, application fees were not required. However, now FIRB charges an application fee to all foreign investors who want to buy land or property in Australia.

The only exception to this is if you’re an Australian citizen, a permanent Resident or a NZ citizen.

Fees can vary depending on the value of the residential property or land that you want to purchase:

  • $1 million or less: $5,000
  • $1 million to $1,999,999: $10,000
  • $2 million to $2,999,999: $20,000
  • $3 million or higher: $10,000 per every $1 million

Typically, residential land will cost less than the fees for buying a business, commercial property or farmland.

For more information about these fees, you can refer to the official FIRB application fees page.

How do I lodge a FIRB application?

You can lodge your application on the Australian Tax Office’s Residential Real Estate Application Form.

You’ll need to provide your contact details, full legal name, address of the property and pay the required FIRB approval fee.

Have your passport and Australian visa (if applicable) handy as you’ll need to enter those details.

If you don’t know the title details of your property then you can leave these blank. For new properties they often do not have title details until a few weeks before they are complete.

Types of properties you can buy

  • Investment properties: In most cases the Australian government will approve applications to buy an investment property on the condition that it is a new property. You can often keep an investment property if you leave Australia.
  • Home (owner occupied): If you’re buying a home then you may be able to buy an established property (one that wasn’t recently built). You’ll have to sell your property when your visa expires and you leave Australia.
  • Vacant land (investment): In most cases the Australian government will approve applications to buy vacant land on the condition that you commence construction of a dwelling on the land within 24 months. You can often keep a property that you build as an investment property if you leave Australia.

Applying for permanent residency / citizenship

It isn’t known to us if owning real estate in Australia in any way affects your application for citizenship.

Please speak to a migration agent for more information.

When is FIRB approval required?

You can’t apply for FIRB “pre-approval” so you should refer to the FIRB guidelines before you begin looking for an Australian property. You can only apply for FIRB approval when you have chosen a specific property to buy.

As long as you’re following the FIRB‘s rules then it is highly likely that your investment will be approved. Once you find a property then you can sign the contract of sale with a condition that allows you to back out of the purchase if FIRB approval is not granted.

However, you can get pre-approval for the mortgage itself before you find a property. To find out more refer to our applying for a loan section.

Why does the government monitor foreign investment?

The government monitors foreign investment to ensure that the investment will benefit Australia. In particular, foreign investors are limited to investing in “new” properties so that their investment adds to the existing housing stock in Australia. This is to prevent speculation which has little benefit for the Australian economy and that could result in escalating housing prices.

Did you know that the government approves the vast majority of FIRB approval applications? If you meet the guidelines provided on their website then there are very few reasons that could cause your application to be declined.

Do you need help with a mortgage?

We are mortgage brokers that specialise in financing the purchase of Australian real estate by foreigners, Australians living abroad or people temporarily residing in Australia.

Please call us on 1300 889 743 or +61 2 9194 1700 or fill in our free assessment form and we can contact you via email or phone to discuss your finance options.

  • Matthew

    Hi, I’m on a 489 visa at the moment and have almost 2 years for its expiry. My partner is an Australian and we’re trying to shift to a new home. Do I require a FIRB approval for this?

  • Hi Matthew,

    If you are planning to buy a property with your Australian partner, then you are not required to get a FIRB approval.

  • Rohith Krishna

    Hi, I was on a 457 visa when I put a deposit and signed the contract to purchase an ‘off the plan’ property (Feb 2015). However I have formally lodged the PR application prior to that (Jan 2015). And I got the PR visa in July 2015 and now my “off the plan” property is about finish construction. Based on this, will I get FHOG grant in NSW? The transfer of title was done in December 2015. Also will i get any trouble from FIRB as I didn’t seek approval(not aware) while signing the contract in Feb 2015?
    Many thanks

  • Hi Rohith,

    You may be eligible for the FHOG. You’d have to call the OSR in NSW to confirm this as it’s complicated! My apologies but we can’t advise on this one. Their phone is 02 9689 6200.

  • Rohith Krishna

    Thanks for your reply. I have rang them now and they told me I won’t get it as I was not PR while signing the contract :( Not sure what to do from now. Should I approach this through a lawyer or through a lender like a bank or mortgage broker?

  • Hi Rohith,

    Unfortunately if you did not meet the criteria I doubt there is much you can do. The government has strict criteria and they don’t make exceptions. If you’d like your home loan reviewed to see if it is competitive then please call us on 1300 889 743 however there isn’t much we can assist with regarding the FHOG.

  • Patricia

    Hi does an American company need FIRB approval to buy a house in Australia for its Australian-based employees to live in? Does the house/property also need to be a new or can it be an existing property? Thanks

  • Hi Patricia,
    Good questions. Yes a corporation / business that is registered in the USA would need FIRB approval and would need to purchase a new property.

    It may be easier to fund a deposit for your employee to buy their own property. If they’re a USA citizen on a temporary visa they could buy an existing property as long as it’s their home.

    Alternatively it may be easier just to pay their rent if this is part of their relocation package.

    In terms of loans we’d have to research to confirm this is ok and we’d need a full application to begin that process. We’ve financed many investors based in the USA but not a company buying residential real estate in Australia.

  • Adrian

    Hi, I am living in The Netherlands but wish to buy an existing home in W.A. for my daughter who lives there and has no income and lives on benefits. I want to pay cash for the transaction. Am I allowed to buy this old small sized cottage in my name?

  • Hi Adrian
    If you are not an Australian citizen or PR holder then you cant buy an existing property.

    Buying in your daughters name may be easier depending on your circumstances. You could lodge a caveat on the property to maintain some control if this is important to you.

  • Stephanie-anne Higham

    Hi my mother in law is a NZ citizen living in NZ and is wanting to buy an investment property here in Australia through her own business will she need Firb approval?

  • Hi Stephanie-Anne

    I’m not 100% sure as a foreign company as a buyer is a little unusual. In most cases it’s best to keep it simple and for her to buy in her personal name. I’d recommend that she check with the FIRB to be sure +61 2 6216 1111

    We can likely finance a NZ company buying in Aus

  • Deirdre

    Hi, I have just applied for my parent visa, I have been told it will take anything up to two years to be granted. Can I buy an old property now. And will I be entitled first time buyers grant.

  • Jonas Pilhage

    We are Australian Citizens under 55, but would like to get access to a New ‘Off the plan’ development, to initially be used by my foreign parents (aged 75) and then move there ourselves when time comes (will turn 55 in 5 years). Some research say that they do not need the FIRB approval IF the developer have registered the development for sale including Foreign Residents (non-Australians).

    Two questions: Would it be better to try to buy it via a Family Trust or other Trust (in our names) and they get the right to stay there? Then we would save on the Foreign Stamp Duty Surcharge, keep future capital gains taxes lower (or zero if we live there more than 12 months) and less complications. Second question would be – will the developer for 55+ agree to such setup with Australian Family Trust buying? Not sure myself.

    Lastly it would be interesting to hear any other angles of this dilemma, challenge? Can we apply for them to become Residents of Australia, given that we only received ours in 2009?


  • Hi JP,
    As Australian Citizens if you buy in your name or in an Australian trust / company structure that you are the directors / beneficiaries of then you do not need FIRB approval. If you’re living in Australia this will be easy and we actually have a lot of experience financing over 55’s properties Please be aware that they’re much more difficult to finance than standard properties.

    If you’re living overseas then refer to our Australians living overseas page for more info
    If your parents are buying the property then refer to our foreign investor page

    I don’t believe that property ownership would affect their ability to get a visa to come to Australia. However you’d need to speak to an expert in migration to be sure.

    We don’t know the details of your situation so it’s hard to make a recommendation but in the majority of cases it would be best to buy in your names only. You’re right this would avoid the foreigner duty and would be favourable for getting a loan as well.

    The developer will not mind who the buyer is (foreign, local, trust or individual).

  • Hi Deidre,
    Sorry for the delay in replying. We must have missed your message.
    If you’re a temporary resident then yes you can buy an existing property now as a home and get approved for a loan depending on your current visa subclass. However if you are not yet a temporary resident then you’ll need to wait for your visa to come through first. Please call the FIRB to double check as we are not familiar with the specifics of your situation.

  • Judge

    I am actually here in Australia on a protection visa or 866 visa as I am a refugee. Can I be allowed a home loan to buy a house here?

  • Hello there,
    Yes, you can get a home loan to buy Australian real estate and you won’t need to get FIRB approval because an 866 visa is a permanent residency visa. Please feel free to contact one of our 866 visa home loan specialists on 1300 889 743 to discuss your personal situation and loan requirements.

  • Michelle

    Hi I’m an Australian citizen and my spouse is a NZ citizen we have owned our Australian home for 13 years- I have just been given a new job in NZ and we have decided to move there but keep our Australian property and rent it out (just in case things don’t work out in NZ) under the FIRB system are we required to sell it as my husband is a foreigner

  • Hi Michelle,
    You’re allowed to keep the property in this situation. You should talk to an Australian and a NZ accountant about how tax will work. In particular you may want to refinance your home loan to a lender that isn’t affected by the Non-Resident Withholding Tax in NZ

    This is something that we can assist with, it’s probably easier before you move overseas. If you’d like our help then please contact us

  • Angel Toh

    Hi, my partner is an australian citizen and he would like to add me under the ownership of an australia property (strictly residential not commercial or investment). We will not be getting married till 2 years later, can I be added into the property ownership? If it requires FIRB approval, what is the cost and am I require to pay australia property tax since I am a foreigner?

  • Hi Angel,
    It depends, what visa are you on? What’s the reason he’d like to do this? You’d need to refinance the loan when you do this.
    I’d strongly recommend that you wait as when you’re a PR this will be much easier.