FIRB Approval for residential properties: what you need to know 

Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) approval is a permit issued by the Australian Tax Office (ATO) that allows foreigners to have property investments or buy a home in Australia.

For the purpose of this article, we will be focusing on residential property investments.

Am I Required to Apply for FIRB Approval? 

Before a contract is signed, foreign individuals or corporations are required to apply for FIRB Approval when purchasing property in Australia.   

If you are an Australian citizen or permanent resident, or a New Zealand citizen, you do not need to apply for FIRB approval.  

FIRB Approval Exemption 

FIRB Approval is not required if: 

  • you are purchasing the property with an Australian citizen or permanent resident, or New Zealand citizen, as joint tenants and you are in a spousal relationship. This exemption does not apply between friends or other family members 
  • the property developer holds a FIRB exemption certificate for the new property that you would like to invest in  

Limitations for foreign individuals holding temporary visa 

If you are an individual who: 
a.  holds a temporary visa which permits you to remain in Australia for a continuous period of more than 12 months (e.g. 188 visa, 457 visa, spousal visa, etc.), or 
b.  if you are staying in Australia, and have applied for permanent residency, and have a bridging visa while the application is finalised,  
You are allowed to buy: 

  • an established property as your principal place of residence in Australia
  • new properties without being subject to any conditions
  • vacant residential land, but construction must be completed within 4 years from the approval date

Limitations for other foreign entities  

If you are either: 

  • An individual who does not ordinarily reside in Australia
  • An individual who holds a visa that permits you to remain in Australia for less than 12 months period (e.g. visitor visa), or 
  • A corporation/trust which there are foreign individuals or corporations hold an aggregate substantial interest in the entity  

You are allowed to buy vacant residential land or new properties with other FIRB conditions. You are not allowed to buy established residential properties

Where and How to Get FIRB Approval?  

There are two ways you can apply for FIRB Approval:  

  • Create an application directly via the Australia Tax Office (ATO) website; or  
  • With the help of a conveyancer/solicitor

The ATO charges FIRB application fees to all foreign investors and temporary visa holders, and the application fee is calculated based on the property value (contract price). 

NB: Since this article’s publication the FIRB fees have been revised. Please see our recent article discussing the fee changes.  

Property ValueFee payable 
< $75,000 $2,000 
$75,000 - $1,000,000 $6,350 
$1,000,001 - $2,000,000 $12,700 
$2,000,001 - $3,000,000 $25,400 
$3,000,001 -$4,000,000 $38,100 
$4,000,001 - $5,000,000 $50,800 
$5,000,001 - $6,000,000 $63,500 
$6,000,001 - $7,000,000 $76,200 
$7,000,001 - $8,000,000 $88,900 
$8,000,001 - $9,000,000 $101,600 
$9,000,001 - $10,000,000 $114,300 

The FIRB Application fee tiers increase every $1 million of the contract price. It can rise up to a maximum of $503,000 for the acquisition of property interest of more than $40 million.  

Visit the FIRB for more details on application fees for all types of real estate and business investments. 

Choose W Legal Group to help with your application 

At W Legal Group, we have assisted our clients to apply for FIRB approval with successful returns. If you would like to apply for FIRB approval, call us to make an appointment. We are more than happy to discuss further with you. 

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