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Can someone on an E-2 visa purchase a firearm for hunting?

By February 1, 2024E-2 Visa
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Given the popularity of hunting, it is not surprising that many people who are in the U.S. on an E-2 visa or another nonimmigrant status desire to purchase a firearm. But can someone in a nonimmigrant status, such as E-2 status, purchase or possess a firearm in the United States?

What the Law Says

In general, U.S. law prohibits anyone in the country in a nonimmigrant status (E-2, H-1B, F-1, etc.) from purchasing or possessing a firearm. However, the law provides an exception to this general prohibition if the nonimmigrant has a valid and unexpired hunting license or permit that was lawfully issued within the United States.

What the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Says

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is a law enforcement agency within the U.S. Department of Justice that, among other things, regulates the sale and possession of firearms and issues Federal Firearms Licenses (FFL) to sellers of firearms.

One of the ways that the ATF performs this regulatory role is by gathering information about the buying and selling of firearms on the Form 4473, “Firearms Transaction Record.” The instructions that appear on the Form 4473 echo the federal statute described previously, stating:

An alien admitted to the United States under a nonimmigrant visa is not prohibited from purchasing, receiving, or possessing a firearm if the alien: (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.

The Residency Requirement

In addition to holding a valid and unexpired hunting license, someone in E-2 or another nonimmigrant status who wishes to purchase a firearm for hunting must also meet the state residency requirement. To do this, they must prove that they reside in the state where they are purchasing the firearm.

Specifically, a Federal Firearms Licensee is prohibited from selling a firearm to a person who does not reside in the state where the licensee’s business is located.

Note that the 90-day residency requirement is no longer in effect. This requirement previously required the individual to continuously live in the state for at least 90 days before purchasing the firearm. That requirement was eliminated after being challenged on the basis that it does not apply equally to U.S. citizens. Now, the residency requirement that applies to those in E-2 or another nonimmigrant status is the same that applies to U.S. citizens who intend to purchase a firearm.

What does it mean to “reside” in a state?

The Federal Regulations explain that a person “resides” in a state if they are in a state that they intend to make their home. This can be a tricky requirement for nonimmigrants to meet, since nonimmigrants are generally forbidden from intending to make the United States their home (see our earlier post on dual intent here).

Fortunately, the Federal Regulations at 27 C.F.R. section 478.11 explicitly state that a nonimmigrant can “reside” in a state for the purpose of satisfying the residency requirement and purchasing or possessing a firearm. That provision provides an example that reads:

A, an alien, travels to the United States to work for three years in State X. A rents a home in State X, moves his personal possessions into the home, and his family resides with him in the home. A intends to reside in State X during the 3-year period of his employment. A is a resident of State X.

How can someone in E-2 or another nonimmigrant status prove that they reside in a state?

In general, someone in E-2 or another nonimmigrant status can prove that they meet the residency requirement by providing a valid, government-issued photo ID that shows their name, photograph, and date of birth. It is probably a good idea to provide additional government-issued supporting documentation showing their address in the state, such as tax documents.

Be aware of applicable state laws.

This blog post focuses on federal law. Someone who plans to purchase or possess a firearm should ensure that they are also familiar with any applicable state laws, by hiring a local attorney if necessary.

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