Guide to buying property in Sri Lanka for foreigners and expats - 2023
What are the rules and regulations for expats and foreigners buying and renting property in Sri Lanka ?
Foreigners can buy apartments / condominiums from ground level up, however lands cannot be purchased on freehold and can only be leased up to 99 years. A condominium is defined as a group of residences with shared facilities. The condominiums can be purchased provided that, the entire value shall be paid upfront through an inward foreign remittance prior to the execution of the relevant deed of transfer.
Any private company with minority (Upto 49%) foreign ownership can buy or lease property in Sri Lanka.
Under the current legislations, a foreigner can get in to the property market using the following options:
a) By leasing the property
b) By inheriting
c) By a gift from parents
d) Part of a private company with a local shareholding of 50% or above
e) As a part of a locally listed public company
f) Buy an apartment / condominium (any floor)
g) By obtaining Dual Citizenship
How to set up a Private Limited Company in Sri Lanka
Foreigners may establish private companies in Sri Lanka, subject to various restrictions and rules. The following are the usual steps for a foreigner to establish a private business in Sri Lanka to purchase land:
Get all required permits and approvals: Before beginning the process of forming a private business in Sri Lanka, it is critical to secure the appropriate permissions and approvals from the relevant authorities. Obtaining a business visa, registering with the Department of Registrar of Companies, and receiving clearance from the Board of Investment (BOI) if the investment exceeds a particular level are all examples of such steps.
Choose a company structure: There are various business formats available, including sole proprietorship, partnership, and private limited company. Because it provides limited liability protection, a private limited company is the most prefered structure for foreign investors.
Register the company: After deciding on a business structure, the firm must be registered with the Department of Registrar of Companies.
Create a bank account: After the company has been registered, a bank account in Sri Lanka in the company's name must be opened. This is required for the purchase of land.
Get the appropriate land permits: Foreigners are prohibited in Sri Lanka from holding certain types of land, such as agricultural property. As a result, it is critical to check that the land being purchased is eligible for foreign ownership. The company must also secure the essential permits from the appropriate authorities.
Acquire the property: The corporation can proceed with the land purchase once all of the relevant permissions and approvals have been received.
It is vital to note that forming a private corporation and purchasing land in Sri Lanka can be complicated and time-consuming. Foreigners should seek the help of a local attorney or business consultant who is knowledgeable about the regulations and can guide them through the procedure.
At LankaPropertyWeb, we provide a valuable Buyer and Seller Assistance service to help anyone who is interested.
For more information on how to set up a business in Sri Lanka, refer to our comprehensive guide here .
Foreigners cannot buy land as sale of land to foreigners has been prohibited from the 2013 budget. Land can only be leased out for a max of 99 years. Foreigners or companies (with more than 50% foreign ownership) no longer need to pay the 15% land tax from 1st Jan 2016 (LAND (RESTRICTIONS ON ALIENATION) (AMENDMENT) - issued 2nd Sept 2016)
VAT on apartment sales
The VAT tax on apartment sales has been abolished, effective 1st Dec 2019. A 15% VAT tax was affective from 1st April 2019 to 31st Oct 2019 and a 6% rate from 1st Nov 2019 to 30th Nov 2019. Buyers no longer need to pay VAT tax on the purchase of an apartment / condominium.
Taxes for Property
There is a 1% Stamp Duty for leasing land up to 99 years.
If buying a property, there will be a 3% Stamp Duty on first LKR 100,000 and 4% thereafter. A lawyer will typically charge 2-3% for preparing the documents.
Taxes for landlords
Anyone leasing out a property to a foreigner or local will need to pay a 1% stamp duty when the rent is collected.
VAT is payable at 8% if the lease is to a VAT Registered person, other than on residential premises. Further, the sale of land & buildings other than residential premises will also be liable to VAT at 8% on the value.
Capital Gains Tax (CGT)
The Capital Gains Tax of 10% on the gains (profits), will become effective from 1st April 2018. It will be a flat 10% rate irrespective of the period of ownership. The tax will be applicable to both foreigners and locals. For any assets owned/bought prior to April 1st 2018, then the value of that asset will be calculated as at 30th September 2017. Any gains of less than Rs. 50,000 will not be subjected to CGT and if the property being sold has been your principle place of residence for 2 of the last 3 years, then CGT will not be applicable. If you renounce residency in your country and become a resident in Sri Lanka, then CGT will need to be paid on the investment property in your former country. You can find out more on Capital Gains Tax from here.
A residency visa cannot be obtained by simply buying a property. However, Foreigners who invest over USD 250,000 will be allowed residence visa in Sri Lanka under the Resident Guest Scheme Visa programme. A 5-years visa can be obtained by investing USD 300,000 or above and a 10-year visa for any investments over USD 500,000. Anyone over 55 years old can obtain a 2-year renewable visa under the My Dream Home Visa Programme by depositing only USD 15,000.
The Golden Paradise Visa Program is a long-term residency programme intended for investors who want to enjoy Sri Lanka while contributing to its booming economy. This programme provides investors and their families with long-term benefits.
The following are the eligibility requirements for the Golden Paradise Visa Program.
1)Establish a Golden Paradise Foreign Currency Account (GPFCA) and deposit at least USD 200,000 in a local bank regulated by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (Investor may withdraw up to 50% of the minimum investment amount after one year from the date of visa issue).
2)Documents proving the deposit confirm the payment transfer
3)Police clearance report obtained within 6 months by the country of residence
4)A medical report from a licenced local hospital stating that all candidates are free of Malaria, Filariasis, Tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS.
5)A copy of the passport's Bio Info Page
6)Marriage Certificate, Police Clearance reports, and birth certificates of dependents obtained from the spouse's place of domicile.
7)A completed application for a residence visa
8)A completed Personal Particular Form
Under the Golden Paradise Visa Scheme, visa holders can invest in a government-approved investment, obtain lands and buildings under lease, purchase condominium projects in the country as well as purchase Sri Lanka Development bonds.
The validity period of this visa is 10 years and a visa fee of USD 2000 is payable for 10 years. The visa can be renewed after 10 years and our Buyer and Seller Assistance program can help you with the process.
Can foreigners obtain a mortgage/loan?
Foreigners cannot still obtain a mortgage from local banks, however dual citizens and non-resident Sri Lankans are able to. Please Contact us if you would like to get any assistance with applying for a mortgage.
Moving money in and out of the country
If a foreign resident wants to purchase a property, then the money will need to be channeled in to the country via a special SIA (Securities Investment Account) - which are now called Inward Investment Accounts (IIAs), held at a local bank. Once the property has been sold, the money can be taken out (plus any gains) via the same account in the currency that the money was deposited in. If you currently own a property where the money hasn't been brought via a SIA account (eg. inherited, bought while a citizen of Sri Lanka), then there's an annual limit of $20,000 when taking the money out of the country. You could still take the money out at once, if the source of the money can be proven to the bank and Central Bank (this whole process will take a few months to complete).
The government will allow $45,000 to be brought in to the country without declaring the source (Budget 2017)
The budgets of 2017 & 2018 have proposed that foreigners be allowed to borrow money from local banks for the purchase of condominiums (up to 40%).
Can You Buy Land in Sri Lanka as a Foreigner?
The Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and Development Corporation Act, No. 15 of 1968 and Land (Restrictions on Alienation) Act No. 38 of 2014 make provisions to stipulate restrictions on the transfer of title of any land situated in Sri Lanka.
The Land (Restrictions on Alienation) Act 2018 has made it illegal to transfer the ownership of any land located in Sri Lanka, starting from 1st January 2013, if the person or entity receiving the ownership is:
1) a non-citizen,
2) a company registered in Sri Lanka that has 50% or more of its shares owned by foreign entities, or
3) a foreign company.
Starting from 1st April 2018, it is now allowed for public companies that have more than 50% of their shares owned by foreign entities to purchase immovable real estate properties.
If you would like more details or assistance with your requirements, please visit our Buyer and Seller Assistance page
Update 30/11/2019 - Gazette notification 2151/52 - removal of VAT taxes on apartments from 1st Dec 2019
Update 31/10/2019 - Gazette 2147/59 - Reduction of VAT rate from 15% to 6%
Update 16/08/2018 - Amendment to the Value Added Tax Act, No.14 of 2002, (Amendment Act No. 25 of 2018) - removal of VAT exemption from apartments from 1st April 2019
Update 22/05/2018 - Amendment to the Land (Restrictions on Alienation) Act, No. 38 of 2014 - remove restrictions from ground-level up for foreigners (Bill no. 250) and the 49% foreign shareholding restriction for listed companies
Update 09/12/2017 - 3rd reading of the 2018 Budget (Committee Stage) passed in Parliament
Update 09/11/2017 - Budget 2018 proposes the implementation of the proposals from the 2017 Budget
Update 07/09/2017 - Inland Revenue Bill Passed
Update 10/11/2016 - Budget 2017 proposes Capital Gains Tax, removing restrictions of foreigners buying property (freehold right restrictions) and ability for foreigners to get loans/mortgages from domestic banks for property purchases.
Update 02/09/2016 - The 15% tax on land lease for foreigners was removed from 1st Jan 2016 via the LAND (RESTRICTIONS ON ALIENATION) (AMENDMENT) gazette
Update 31/10/2014 - Land (Restrictions and Alienation) Act published. Read it from here
Update 03/08/2014 - New legislation is being drafted to strictly enforce rules pertaining to the 2013 ban on foreigners owning land. There will be a tax of 15 per cent on the value of the lease. With new laws you are also not allowed to circumvent this ban by purchasing the land through a majority Sri Lankan nominee owned company. It's assumed that this law will not apply to foreign-owned companies of more than 10 years (TBC). More>>
Update 03/11/13 - the Investment Promotion Ministry is to submit a cabinet paper to reduce the land transfer tax to below 10 per cent to facilitate foreigners seeking to lease land.
Update 17/02/13 - Sri Lankan expats holding foreign citizenship can now buy land in Sri Lanka. More>
Last update: Aug 2018
- LAND (RESTRICTIONS ON ALIENATION) ACT, No. 38 OF 2014
- LAND (RESTRICTIONS ON ALIENATION) (AMENDMENT) issued 02/09/2016 removing the 15% land tax for foreigners
- 100% land sale tax for foreigners to be scrapped
- Tax for foreigners when buying land in Sri Lanka
- Rules pertaining to sale or lease of land to foreigners
- Sri Lanka Investment Climate Statement 2011
- Chambers Colombo
- Gazette No 1386/18 dated March 30, 2005
- Stamp Duty - Gazette No 1439/3 dated April 3, 2006
- Stamp Duty guide from Inland Revenue
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