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Foreign companies



Registration and post registration obligations



Who must register?

How to register as a foreign company
Post registration obligations
If your foreign company is registered as a charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC) some of your reporting obligations to ASIC will no longer apply. See here for details.


Who must register



A foreign company wishing to carry on business in Australia must be registered under Part 5B.2 of the Corporations Act 2001 (the Corporations Act).

A foreign company is an incorporated or an unincorporated body that is formed in an external territory of Australia or outside Australia. It may sue and be sued or may hold property in the name of its secretary or other officer. Corporations sole, exempt public authorities, and unincorporated bodies that have their head office or principal place of business in Australia are excluded from the definition of foreign company.

Whether a body is ‘carrying on business’ in Australia will depend on certain legal principles and on the circumstances of the case. Where a body is in any doubt as to whether it may be ‘carrying on business’ in Australia it should seek its own legal advice.

Once registered in Australia, foreign companies are required to lodge copies of financial statements with us and notify us when some company details change.


How to register as a foreign company



Step 1—Ensure the name you wish to register is available


Before you can register your foreign company you must ensure that the proposed name is available. You can complete an Organisations and Business Names search Opens new window on ASIC Connect. You can also use the Identical Names Check search Opens new window to tell you whether your name is identical or similar to an Australian name already registered.

The name is available to a company unless the name is:
We may also refuse to register certain names if they are offensive or suggestive of illegal activity.

The fact that we reserve a name, or register a company does not mean that the body corporate will be exempt from action by another corporation wishing to protect its interest in a similar name. It is entirely your responsibility to be aware of any problems that might arise from names already registered which are similar to, or likely to be confused with, the name you are seeking to register.

You may also need to consider if your proposed name is similar or identical to any registered or pending trademarks. You can search the trademarks database on the IP Australia website (www.ipaustralia.gov.au Opens new window) to find out.


Step 2—Reserve a name (optional)



If you want to make sure that your intended name cannot be taken by another person before you are ready to apply to register your foreign company, you can reserve a name by completing and lodging with us a Form 410 Application for reservation of a name. Make sure you enclose the correct fee with this form. If the application is approved, the name will be reserved for two months.

You may apply to extend the two-month period of reservation by lodging a second Form 410 with the prescribed fee before the initial reservation expires.

Relevant form


Step 3—Complete the relevant application form



To register a foreign company, complete Form 402 Application for registration as a foreign company. The form asks for general details about the corporation and must be completed in full, the form guide offers more help.

If you have decided not to reserve a name (Step 2), we will register the foreign company only if the name is available at the time your application is processed.

Relevant form


Step 4—Assemble accompanying documents



Lodge the following documents with the Form 402 Application for registration as a foreign company.

Current certificate of registration or a document of similar effect that confirms that the company is currently registered
The governing body equivalent to ASIC in the place of incorporation must issue the certificate or document of similar effect. It must be dated no more than 3 months before we receive it.
Certified copy of the company’s constitution
The copy must be duly certified to be a true copy by:
  • the governing authority (ASIC’s equivalent) in the company’s place of incorporation
  • a notary public, or
  • a duly witnessed affidavit by a director or secretary of the foreign company.
    The certified copy of the constitution must be dated no more than 3 months before we receive it.

If the foreign company is not bound by a written constitution and/or is bound by some other means of governance, provide a statement in writing to that effect and include a description of the legislation that governs the administration of the company. The statement must be certified in accordance with the requirements for certification as described above.
Memorandum of appointment of the local agent or power of attorney in favour of the local agent
A Form 418 Memorandum of appointment of local agent may be used for this purpose. This document must be executed by, or on behalf of, the foreign company and state the name and address of the local agent, who is:
  • an individual or an Australian company
  • resident in Australia, and
  • authorised to accept, on behalf of the foreign company, service of process and notices.

If the memorandum of appointment or power of attorney is executed on behalf of the company (i.e. by a third party), lodge a copy of the document authorising the third party to appoint the local agent. Verify the authorising document with a Form 403 Verification of copy of document authorising on behalf of a foreign company, execution of a document appointing a local agent.
Memorandum stating the powers of certain directors
If the list of directors on the application form includes directors who are:
  • resident in Australia, and
  • members of a local board of directors,
lodge a memorandum executed by, or on behalf of, the foreign company stating the powers of those directors.

Translation of documents
If any document is not in English, provide a certified translation of that document into English.

A translation made outside Australia must be certified as a correct translation into English by one of the following persons in the place where the corporation was formed or incorporated:
A translation made inside Australia must be certified as a correct translation into English by a person approved by ASIC such as:
You may also request that we approve some other qualified person to certify a translation for you.

Relevant forms


Step 5—Lodge the form and associated documents with the prescribed fee



The application for registration as a foreign company must be signed by either a director (or equivalent) or secretary of the foreign company, or the duly appointed local agent, or if the local agent is a company, by a director or secretary of the company duly acting as local agent.

The prescribed fee for a form will be listed on the form's guide or in Information Sheet 30 ASIC fees for commonly lodged documents.

Your completed application, with the supporting documents, can be mailed to

We will issue a unique nine digit identifying number known as the Australian Registered Body Number (ARBN) and a Certificate of Registration after we process the application.


Post registration obligations




Display your company name



A registered foreign company must display its name in a conspicuous position and in legible characters outside every office and place of business in Australia that is open and accessible to the public.

It must also display:

Use your ARBN correctly



The name of the company, in legible characters, followed by the expression ‘Australian Registered Body Number’ (or a permitted abbreviation—see below) and the number itself must appear (where the name first appears) on:
In addition, every public document issued, signed or published by, or on behalf of, the company must include in legible characters:
Permitted abbreviations are:

Retain a local agent



A registered foreign company must always have a local agent. A local agent of a registered foreign company:
If a local agent ceases, a new local agent or agents must be appointed. A local agent may be appointed in either of two ways, by:
You must lodge the memorandum or power of attorney appointing your new agent with a completed Form 404 Notification of change to agent of a foreign company.

If the memorandum of appointment or power of attorney is executed by a third party on behalf of the foreign company a copy of the document authorising the third party to do this must also be lodged. You will need to lodge a Form 403 Verification of copy of document authorising on behalf of a foreign company, execution of a document appointing a local agent verifying the authorising document.

A foreign company may have more than one local agent at the same time.

You must tell us of the cessation of a local agent or changes in the name or address of the agent. Notify us within one month after the change occurs using a Form 404.

Relevant forms


Lodge financial statements



Registered foreign companies are required to lodge financial statements with us at least once every calendar year and at intervals of not more than 15 months.

Financial statements comprise:
When a foreign company that holds an Australian financial services (AFS) licence lodges their financial statements they can either:
We may declare some types of registered foreign company to be exempt from these financial reporting requirements: see ASIC Regulatory Guide 58 Reporting requirements—registered foreign companies and Australian companies with foreign company shareholders. An exempt registered foreign company must lodge a Form 406 Annual return of a foreign company instead of Form 405.

Form 405 or Form 406 (whichever is lodged):
Late notification fees only apply if the change in details on either form is lodged outside of the relevant lodging period for the change.

There are lodgement exemptions for New Zealand companies that are not also registered as an AFS licensee where they have already given equivalent notice to the New Zealand Companies Office (NZCO). Refer to Reduced lodgement requirements for New Zealand companies for more information.

The Form 405 or Form 406 can also be lodged online via Standard Business Reporting (SBR) enabled accounting software. For generic information about SBR refer to www.sbr.gov.au;Opens new window for information specific to SBR lodgement with ASIC, refer to www.asic.gov.au/sbr.

Relevant forms


Notify us of other changes



A registered foreign company must notify us when other details change or it ceases to carry on business in Australia, or is wound up or dissolved or deregistered in its place of origin.

There are lodgement exemptions for New Zealand companies where they have already given equivalent notice to the NZCO. Due to differences between Australia and New Zealand regarding the collection of director information, no lodgement exemption is available in respect of new director appointments for New Zealand companies.

Change of name, constitution or powers of local director
Any change in the name, constitution or powers of the local directors of a registered foreign company must be notified by lodging a Form 409 Notification of change to details of a foreign company or a registered Australian body.

A New Zealand company does not need to notify of a change to constitution if this information is provided to NZCO.
A change of name must be notified within 14 days after the change.

A change in constitution or powers of local directors must be notified within one month after the change.
Change of registered office address or opening hours
You must lodge a Form 489 Notification of change of registered office or office hours of a registered body when there are any changes in the registered office address or opening hours in Australia or in the company’s place of origin.

A New Zealand company does not need to notify of a change to its registered office in New Zealand if this information is provided to NZCO.
A change of registered office address in Australia or a change of office hours must be notified within seven days after the change.

A change of registered office address in place of origin must be notified within one month after the change.
Change in directors
When directors are appointed, cease to act or details of existing directors change you must lodge a Form 490 Notification of change to directors of a registered body.

A New Zealand company does not need to notify of a change to director details (name or address) or cessation if this information is provided to NZCO. It must still tell us about the appointment of a new director.
Appointments, cessations or detail changes to directors must be notified within one month after the change.
Ceasing business or winding up
When a registered foreign company ceases business (in Australia or in its place of origin) or enters into winding up proceedings, you must lodge a Form 407 Notification of cessation, winding up or dissolution of a foreign company or registered Australian body.

A New Zealand company does not need to notify if it is being wound up or dissolved in New Zealand if this information is provided to NZCO.
A cessation of carrying on business in Australia must be notified within seven days after ceasing.

Notification must be lodged within 1 month after a foreign company begins winding-up, is dissolved or deregistered in its place of origin.

Relevant forms


Reduced lodgement requirements for New Zealand companies



New Zealand companies that are registered as foreign companies in Australia are exempt (under s601CDA and s601CTA of the Corporations Act) from the requirements to lodge certain basic company information and financial statements with us. Post registration lodgement requirements for New Zealand companies with ASIC have been reduced where we are able to source the identical information or document (that satisfies Corporations Act requirements) from the NZCO. We have established data transfer arrangements with the NZCO that enables electronic transfer and receipt of information and documents for these companies. We record lodgements from the NZCO against the relevant New Zealand company’s ARBN record and, when possible, update the public register accordingly.

The following table outlines changes that a New Zealand company must notify to ASIC and whether our data transfer arrangements with NZCO cover the change.


Type of changePrescribed formChange covered by NZCO-AUST data transfer arrangements
Change of address of registered office in Australia489 Notification of change of registered office or office hours of a registered body
No
Change of office hours of registered office in Australia489 Notification of change of registered office or office hours of a registered body No
Change of address of registered office in place of incorporation489 Notification of change of registered office or office hours of a registered bodyYes
Appointment, cessation, change of name or address of local agent404 Notification of change to agent of a foreign company No
Appointment of director490 Notification of change to directors of a registered body No
Cessation, change of name or address of director490 Notification of change to directors of a registered bodyYes
Change to foreign company's constitution409 Notification of change to details of a foreign company Yes
Change of foreign company's name409 Notification of change to details of a foreign companyNo
Financial statements (profit and loss, balance sheet, cash flow statement and any other document as required by NZCO)405 Statement to verify financial statements of a foreign company Yes (but only if all statements have been given to the NZCO)
Exemption from providing financial statements406 Annual return of a foreign companyNo
Financial statements of a foreign company that holds an Australian financial services licence405 Statement to verify financial statements of a foreign company No
Notice of winding up, dissolution or deregistration of company in place of origin407 Notification of cessation, winding up or dissolution of a foreign company or registered Australian body Yes
Notice of cessation of business of company in Australia 407 Notification of cessation, winding up or dissolution of a foreign company or registered Australian body No


See also




This is Information Sheet 32 (INFO 32). Information sheets provide concise guidance on a specific process or compliance issue or an overview of detailed guidance.

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