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Non-Immigrant Visas and Firearms

Immigration, Visas and Firearms.

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American immigration laws are complex and always changing.  The following information comes from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).  Please consult with your immigration attorney AND a firearms attorney before attempting to purchase any firearms.  The following is answers to some of the most common questions.

Who is a non-immigrant alien?

Generally, “non-immigrant aliens” are tourists, students, business travelers, and temporary workers who enter the U.S. for fixed periods of time; they are lawfully admitted aliens who are not lawful permanent residents. In order to meet the definition of a non-immigrant alien, the individual MUST hold a non-immigrant visa. The definition does NOT include permanent resident aliens, aliens legally admitted to the U.S. with a visa other than a non-immigrant visa, or aliens legally admitted to the U.S. without a visa.

How does the reinterpretation of the Gun Control Act's firearms disabilities for certain non-immigrant aliens impact non-immigrant aliens?

There is no change with respect to non-immigrant aliens who were admitted under a non-immigrant visa. The interpretation of the Gun Control Act affects aliens who are lawfully in the United States without a non-immigrant visa. Non-immigrant aliens lawfully admitted to the United States without a visa (e.g. Visa Waiver Program), will not be prohibited from shipping, transporting, receiving, or possessing firearms or ammunition, provided that they meet State of residency requirements and are not otherwise prohibited from shipping, transporting, receiving, or possessing firearms.

May a non-immigrant alien who has been admitted to the United States under a non-immigrant alien visa purchase or possess a firearm in the U.S.?

An alien admitted to the United States under a non-immigrant visa is not prohibited from purchasing, receiving, or possessing a firearm if the alien falls within one of the following exceptions: (1) is in possession of a hunting license or permit lawfully issued by the Federal Government, a State, or local government, or an Indian tribe federally recognized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which is valid and unexpired; (2) was admitted to the United States for lawful hunting or sporting purposes; (3) has received a waiver from the prohibition from the Attorney General of the United States; (4) is an official representative of a foreign government who is accredited to the United States Government or the Government's mission to an international organization having its headquarters in the United States; (5) is en route to or from another country to which that alien is accredited; (6) is an official of a foreign government or a distinguished foreign visitor who has been so designated by the Department of State; or (7) is a foreign law enforcement officer of a friendly foreign government entering the United States on official law enforcement business. In addition, a non-immigrant alien legally in the United States with or without a non-immigrant visa may lawfully acquire a firearm only if he/she meets State of residence requirements as required by the Federal government. 

If I'm a non-immigrant alien legally in the United States with a non-immigrant visa, what documentation must I provide to the Federal firearms licensee (FFL) prior to acquiring a firearm?

It is unlawful for a FFL to sell or deliver any firearm to any non-licensee who the licensee knows or has reasonable cause to believe does not reside in the State in which the licensee's place of business is located. Exceptions are provided for over-the-counter transfers of a rifle or shotgun to out-of-State residents if the transfers fully comply with the State laws of the buyer and seller, and for loans and rentals of a firearm for temporary use for lawful sporting purposes. To acquire a firearm, you must demonstrate the intention of making a home in a particular State. The intention of making a home in a State must be demonstrated to a Federal firearms licensee by presenting valid government issued identification documents indicating an address in the state in which the licensee's place of business is located. Such documents include, but are not limited to, driver's licenses, voter registration, tax records, or vehicle registration. For more information, see ATF Ruling 2001-5 available at: http://atf.gov/regulations-rulings/rulings/atfrulings/atf-ruling-2001-5.html. In addition, you must also demonstrate that you fall within one of the exceptions outlined in 18 U.S.C. 922(y)(2). (Refer to Question #3 above).

I'm a non-immigrant alien lawfully present in the United States without a visa. May I purchase or possess a firearm in the United States?

A non-immigrant alien who is lawfully admitted to the United States without a visa (e.g. Visa Waiver Program), may acquire or possess a firearm in the United States, provided that he or she is not prohibited from shipping, transporting, receiving, or possessing firearms or ammunition in the U.S. In addition, a non-immigrant alien legally in the United States with or without a non-immigrant visa may lawfully acquire a firearm only if he/she meets State of residence requirements as required by the Federal government. For more information, These requirements are irrespective of the licensed status of the individual from whom the alien is purchasing the firearm. An unlicensed individual is prohibited from selling a firearm to an out-of-State resident. A Federal firearms licensee (FFL) is prohibited, with few exceptions, from transferring a firearm to an out-of-State resident.

What is the Visa Waiver Program?

The Visa Waiver Program enables nationals from participating countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. Participating countries can be found at the Department of State website available at: http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/without/without_1990.html.

Does a non-immigrant alien lawfully present in the United States with or without a visa have to comply with the 90 day residency requirement?

No. The 90 day residency requirement is no longer in effect. However, a non-immigrant alien who is lawfully present in the United States must comply with State of residence requirements as required by the Federal government. 

I Answered Item 10.a on the ATF Form 4473. Do I have to answer 10.b. as well?

Yes. You must select at least one race in item 10.b. regardless of ethnicity designation selected in item 10.a. Both items must be answered. Ethnicity and race are further defined below:

Ethnicity – This refers to a person's heritage. Persons of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race, are considered Hispanic or Latino. Any other ethnicity that does not fall within those indicated, please select the closest representation.

  • Race – More than one response may be selected. o American Indian or Alaska Native - A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America), and who maintains a tribal affiliation or community attachment.
  • Asian - A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam.
  • Black or African American - A person having origins in any of the Black racial groups of Africa.
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander - A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands.
  • White - A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.

Bearing arms is your right, protecting your family is your responsibility.

In order to truly protect those you love, you must know all your rights, responsibilities and obligations as a gun owner. We have nearly 20 years dealing with firearms matters and the answer to nearly every question you may have is right here.

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