There are a lot of things migrants have to organise when first moving to Australia.
Details like obtaining a driver’s license, setting up a bank account and enrolling your kids in school are just a handful of the tasks that need to be sorted out when relocating overseas – not to mention all the hassle involved in organising your visa! (We can help with that last one, by the way).
However, regardless of whether you’ve moved to Australia on a temporary or permanent residency visa, with so much to organise you can’t really afford to look too far ahead. But once the dust settles and you begin to feel a bit more established, it’s natural for many migrants to start thinking about things that will make you feel a bit more like a local. And nothing says ‘local’ like purchasing your own slice of Aussie terra firma.
But like most things to do with immigration, things can often get a bit complicated when it comes to who is allowed to purchase property, and what some of the conditions are attached for those that can.
Who can buy property anyway?
It might not come as any great shock to learn that permanent residents and Australian citizens are free to purchase property just like any other Australian, but did you know that you don’t even have to be a permanent resident to own property in Australia?
Temporary residents are allowed to own property in Australia as long as they comply with the necessary criteria, as stipulated by the Foreign Investment Review Board (more on that below). Temporary residents are also required to seek approval from the FIRB before purchasing property, unless you are classified as exempt from this requirement. In any case, the FIRB claim that a decision regarding approval should be made within 30 days.
Who is considered a Temporary Resident?
A temporary resident is considered to be anyone residing in Australia on a visa that permits them to live there continuously for MORE than 12 months. This discounts people such as Tourist or Visitor visa-holders, which are only allowed to live in Australia for a maximum of 12 months.
Alternatively, a visa-holder that has lodged an application for permanent residency and has been afforded a bridging visa in the interim is also considered a temporary resident, and is eligible to purchase property in Australia subject to approval from the FIRB.
- Temporary residents can only buy one established (second-hand) dwelling. However there are no restrictions on the number of new dwellings, dwellings built on vacant land or
- The dwelling must be used as your principal place of residence.
- An established dwelling cannot be rented out. However, new dwellings can be rented out.
- An established dwelling bought by a temporary resident must be sold when you leave Australia. You can, however, retain and rent out any new dwellings you have purchased whilst a temporary resident in Australia.
What if my partner is a different class of resident to me?
This is where it gets a little more complicated. If you’re an Australian visa-holder wishing to purchase property with an Australian citizen, or your partner is a different class of residency to you, you may or may not be required to seek approval from the FIRB prior to purchasing property.
In any case, you would be best advised to consult the Frequently Asked Questions section of the FIRB website. On this page, a number of scenarios involving couples purchasing property in Australia are addressed.
If you’d like to seek further clarification regarding your personal circumstances, you can also contact the Foreign Investment Review Board here.
Getting a mortgage as a migrant
Like visa policy, policy relating to finance options for migrants can change suddenly and without warning. Migrants can also occasionally be required to have a larger deposit than usual, due to difficulties in securing mortgage insurance (required when borrowing over 80% of the property value).
However, Brenton Farrar from Australian Mortgage Brokers says that whilst some Australian mortgage insurance providers won’t cover migrants due to their inability to verify long-term employment or savings/loans history, increasingly financial institutions are becoming more flexible in their borrowing capacity, depending on their level of exposure in the person’s country of origin.
He says lenders such as Bank of China, HSBC, NAB and Westpac are all examples of banks that have shown an increased willingness to increase borrowing capacity to migrants in recent times.
Mr Farrar also says using a mortgage broker is a prudent measure for migrants looking to purchase property in Australia, as they are able to help ensure they get the best rate possible.
“Mortgages and finance options can be complicated at the best of times, but for migrants things can get especially complicated when it comes to negotiating and dealing with lenders,” he said.
“A mortgage broker such as those at AMB can help migrants secure the best deal possible on their mortgage, and can often also help with difficulties such as translation and other common pitfalls, such as a lack of work history in Australia or verifiable documents.”