How to get FIRB approval when purchasing property in Australia

If you are a temporary resident or a foreign investor purchasing property on Australian soil, you may need to seek approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB). Find out if you need to apply and how much it may cost you.

How to get FIRB approval when buying property in AustraliaThe FIRB has recently introduced new laws surrounding foreign investment along with new application fees and compliance policies.

If you’re thinking of purchasing residential or commercial property for investment purposes, make sure you understand how to apply for FIRB approval and the type of property or land that you can purchase.

What is the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB)?

The FIRB is an Australian government advisory board that reviews the purchase of residential or commercial real estate by someone who is not an Australian citizen, a permanent resident of Australia or an approved migrant.

The government body reviews foreign investment to ensure that the investment will benefit the Australian economy and to control stock within the property market. Foreign investors are often limited to investing in new properties. This helps prevent speculation, which can inflate local property values.

Do I need FIRB approval?

If you’re thinking of purchasing property in Australia, you may need FIRB approval if you are a temporary resident or a foreign investor.

Temporary residents

If you’re on a temporary visa, including a spouse visa, 457 visa or a student visa, then it’s likely that you’ll need FIRB approval. If this describes you, make sure you notify the FIRB of your intention to purchase a property.

You are a temporary resident if you hold a temporary visa that allows you to stay in Australia for 12 months or if you hold a bridging visa and have completed a permanent residency application.

If you’re buying a live-in residential property, you can only purchase one property and you must sell it when you longer reside in it. However, if you obtain Australian citizenship or permanent residency, you won’t have to sell your property.

You can also purchase an investment property, but it must be a new property or it must be for the purchase of vacant land (from a developer).

As a temporary resident, you do not need FIRB approval if you’re purchasing property with an Australian resident as joint tenants.

How to get a home loan as a temporary residents

Foreign investors

As a foreign investor, you may also need FIRB approval to buy property in Australia. The investment property must be a new property or vacant land to build a new property.

If you’re a foreign citizen living overseas, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to buy a property in Australia without a valid visa.

What types of property can I buy?

Typically, temporary residents and foreign investors can purchase the following property types:

  • Investment property. You can generally buy an investment property as long as it is a new property (a dwelling that has not been previously sold or occupied for more than 12 months).
  • Residential property. If you’re purchasing a property for residential purposes, you may be able to buy an established dwelling.
  • Vacant land. Depending on your visa status, you may be able to buy vacant land if you start building a property within one year of acquiring the land.

How much does it cost to get FIRB approval?

FIRB logoThe FIRB charges an application fee to all foreign investors who want to buy property in Australia, unless you’re buying property with an Australian citizen or permanent resident or a New Zealand citizen.

You can expect to pay around $5,000-$100,000 depending on your situation, the property value and property type. As a rule of thumb, residential property or land will cost less than investment property.

For instance, if you're acquiring residential property where the price of the acquisition is between $1 million to $2 million, the application fee is $10,000. On the other hand, if you were acquiring an interest in agricultural land where the acquisition price is between $2 million and $3 million, you would pay a $20,000 application fee.

How can I apply?

You can apply for FIRB approval by visiting the FIRB website and following the online application process.

Generally, the FIRB takes 30 days to grant approval. However, it could take longer depending on your circumstances.

When should I apply for FIRB approval?

You can only apply for FIRB approval once you have selected a property to buy. In the contract of sale, you should include a clause that allows you to withdraw from the purchase in the event that the FIRB approval is not granted.

How is tax treated for an investment property?

If you acquire an investment property in Australia, you will need to declare the income on your Australian tax return. You can generally claim a deduction for expenses associated with the maintenance of the property, including the interest on finance.

The treatment of tax for your investment will depend on whether or not your property is positively or negatively geared. You may also need to pay capital gains tax (CGT) when you sell the asset. As at 2012, the Australian government announced that non-residents would no longer qualify for the CGT discount on any capital gain earned after 8 May 2012.

For more information, visit the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) website or speak to an accountant.

Getting finance for a foreign purchase

You can choose to take out a foreign currency loan in the currency in which you earn your income or you can organise to take out an Australian mortgage.

The primary benefit of taking out a foreign home loan is that you may be able to secure a lower interest rate compared to what would be available in the Australian market. On the other hand, the advantage of applying for an Australian home loan is that you can generally borrow up to 70% of the value of the property, which means it’s relatively easy to access a home loan.

What happens if I receive FIRB approval but then change my mind?

If you receive FIRB approval for a property purchase but you then decide to not go ahead with the purchase, you need to notify FIRB of the change.

For more information about FIRB approval and whether you need it, visit the Australian government website and speak to a migration agent to explore your options.

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Rates last updated August 22nd, 2018
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Loan purpose
Offset account
Loan type
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Name Product Interest Rate (p.a.) Comp Rate^ (p.a.) Application Fee Ongoing Fees Max LVR Monthly Payment Short Description
3.89%
4.24%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Sharp interest only package rate
Fix your rate and minimise repayments for 2 years with this interest-only investor mortgage.
3.99%
3.99%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Special discounted interest rate
Get a discounted, low-fee investor loan from a convenient online lender. 20% deposit required.
3.98%
3.98%
$0
$0 p.a.
70%
Requires a 30% deposit
Investors can get a 100% offset account and a low rate if they have a big deposit. 100% online application process.
3.91%
3.92%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Add an offset account for $10 a month
Investors can go from application to approval in as little as 20 minutes with this innovative online lender.
3.97%
3.99%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Competitive investment package loan
Package your owner occupied loan with investment loan and receive a discounted investment rate. 100% offset account included.
4.09%
4.87%
$0
$395 p.a.
90%
10% deposit option available
Buy your investment property and set your repayments for the first year. Available in QLD, NSW and ACT only.
3.93%
3.94%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Competitive investor rate with plenty of features
This investment loan keeps fees low, has a sharp interest rate and comes with a 100% offset account.
3.99%
4.14%
$0
$0 p.a.
70%
Competitive investor mortgage for borrowers with a 30% deposit.
4.29%
4.31%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Flexible, low fee mortgage
Investors will pay no application or ongoing fees for this interest-only loan.
4.18%
4.18%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Competitive investment mortgage
Investors get a 100% offset account and pay no application or ongoing fees on this loan from an innovative online lender.
3.99%
3.99%
$0
$0 p.a.
70%
Save on fees with this investor mortgage
Investors with a 30% deposit can get this low rate loan to fund their property portfolio.
4.29%
4.31%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Simple, flexible investment product
A simple, variable rate investor loan from an online lender that keeps fees to a minimum.
3.99%
4.62%
$395
$0 p.a.
80%
Flexible fixed investment loan
Investors can enjoy flexible repayments and an easy application process with this pioneering online lender.
4.24%
4.68%
$0
$0 p.a.
90%
Investor loan with a small deposit option
Fix your investment repayments for 1 year. You can get this loan with a 10% deposit. Available in QLD, NSW and ACT only.
4.13%
4.14%
$0
$0 p.a.
90%
Available with a 10% deposit
Access a fee-free offset account and a special interest rate for investors.
4.14%
3.96%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Low fee investor mortgage
Investors can go from application to full approval in as little as 20 minutes with this innovative online lender.
4.18%
4.19%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Line of credit for investors
Investors can easily access their equity using BPAY, a debit Master Card or cheque book with this interest-only line of credit.
4.31%
3.95%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Rapid online application process
A variable interest-only loan for investors. Fast application, low fees, optional offset account. 100% online lender.
4.14%
4.17%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Competitive rate for investors
Investors can enjoy flexible repayment options and pay no application or ongoing fees.
3.94%
3.92%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Add an offset account for $10 a month
Lock in your interest rate for 2 years and enjoy flexibility, an optional offset account and a fast online application process.
4.29%
4.27%
$0
$198 p.a.
70%
Lock in your investment rate for 3 years
Fund your property portfolio with this fixed rate mortgage which includes a 100% offset account. 30% deposit required.
3.84%
3.91%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Flexible low fee mortgage
Enjoy a fast application process and flexible repayment options with this fixed rate mortgage for investing.

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10 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    GrahamMarch 25, 2018

    Hello
    I am a New Zealand citizen residing in Australia under a Special Category Visa. My partner is a Canadian citizen also residing in Australia under a “New Zealand Citizen Family Relationship (Temporary) visa (subclass 461)”. We would like to together purchase an existing residential property in Australia. Will my partner need FIRB approval to purchase such a property in Australia?
    Thanks
    Graham

    • finder Customer Care
      JoshuaMarch 27, 2018Staff

      Hi Graham,

      Thanks for getting in touch with finder.

      Since your partner is under a temporary visa, she needs to get a FIRB approval. You can expect to pay around $5,000-$100,000 depending on your situation, the property value and property type. As a rule of thumb, residential property or land will cost less than investment property.

      I hope this helps. Should you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach us out again.

      Have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Joshua

  2. Default Gravatar
    jackieAugust 7, 2017

    Hi there:
    If I change mind and don’t buy a house in Australia, do I get FIRB fee refund? I just paid FIRB and I haven’t sign the house contracted yet.
    Thanks a lot
    Jackie

    • finder Customer Care
      MayAugust 7, 2017Staff

      Hi Jackie,

      Thank you for your inquiry.

      You’d need to contact FIRB directly if you changed your mind about the property purchase and would want to get a refund. They can be reached on 1800 050 377 or +61 2 6216 1111 8am–5pm, Mon–Fri (AEST) except for national public holidays.

      Cheers,
      May

  3. Default Gravatar
    QingApril 5, 2017

    I applied for FIRB approval as a temporary resident in 2016 and paid $5000 for it. Later I got permanent resident visa in 2017. Is it possible for me to request a refund from FIRB?

    Thank you very much. Appreciate your help.

    • finder Customer Care
      LouApril 14, 2017Staff

      Hi Qing,

      Thanks for your question.

      Unfortunately, I can’t find any reference as to the refund policy of FIRB. You may have to directly call them on 1800 050 377 or +61 2 6216 1111 to enquire.

      Cheers,
      Anndy

  4. Default Gravatar
    ChrisJanuary 31, 2017

    Hi,

    How long does it take for FIRB approval?
    I am a seller with a foreign buyer, his application has been before the Board for over 2 weeks. In the Offer he has been given 28 days to obtain approval. Will it take this long?

    • finder Customer Care
      MayFebruary 1, 2017Staff

      Hi Chris,

      Thanks for your question.

      Basically, the FIRB takes 30 days to grant approval, but it could take longer depending on your circumstances.

      Cheers,
      May

  5. Default Gravatar
    MohiniSeptember 20, 2016

    Hi sir/madam
    I have bought vacant land in last year in Melbourne without FIRB approval and settlement is not occurred yet.I am holding 487 probationary visa for three years and within next one year I will lodge file for permanent resident.
    Actually,to be honest, when I bought land, I never knew about FIRB at all and sign the contract but one day I went to bank to get information about loan, then I realized that I need approval. So what I do , please help me how to apply for FIRB and what is the process to rid of penalty if I get. I am showing the genuine statement that I don’t know what is FIRB during buying land.

    • finder Customer Care
      MaySeptember 20, 2016Staff

      Hi Mohini,

      Thank you for contacting finder.com.au we are a financial comparison website and general information service we are not mortgage specialists so can only offer general advice.

      To apply for FIRB approval, please visit the FIRB website and follow the online application process. The FIRB usually takes 30 days to grant approval. However, it could take longer depending on your circumstances.

      Cheers,
      May

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