Presuming one is resident in the US on a visa like H1B or L1, what kind of paperwork do they need to own a firearm? Presume residency in a gun-friendly state like Washington or Alaska if it matters.

  • It will matter, as regulation is generally (other than machine guns, say, or nuclear weapons) a matter of state law, not federal. – DavidSupportsMonica Apr 20 '19 at 2:59
  • It depends on the state. Some, you go to a gun fair, and buy what you want, no questions asked. Others have more requirements, but a drivers license should get you far. – Aganju Apr 20 '19 at 3:36
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    @David there are federal regulations on foreigners owning a gun – JonathanReez Apr 20 '19 at 4:11
  • @JonathanReez Thanks for that, I wasn't aware of it. But then aren't you in a position to answer your own question? What do the federal regulations require? – DavidSupportsMonica Apr 20 '19 at 14:22
  • @David they talk about a "hunting license" but I couldn't find exactly what kind of a license is required. I've also heard rumors that gun ranges and gun stores will often refuse to serve you even if you have one. Basically I'm looking for practical advice from someone who owns guns on a non-immigrant visa. – JonathanReez Apr 20 '19 at 16:23

Whether federal law allows non-immigrant alien to possess a gun depends on whether they fall into one of a number of exceptions, such as having a valid hunting license or permit:

An alien admitted to the United States under a nonimmigrant visa is prohibited from shipping, transporting, receiving, or possessing a firearm or ammunition unless the alien falls within one of the exceptions provided in 18 U.S.C. 922(y)(2)...

May a nonimmigrant alien who has been admitted to the United States under a nonimmigrant visa possess a firearm or ammunition in the United States?

Even if they do fall into one of the federal law exceptions, they also need to check state law, which may have its own restrictions on non-immigrant aliens and permit requirements. A state can be gun friendly but alien unfriendly, so it is a matter of checking the regulations for each state in question.

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  • What are those exceptions? Is it easy to become eligible in practice? I can restrict the question to Washington state if that helps. – JonathanReez Apr 20 '19 at 7:40
  • @JonathanReez The ones listed in the link I posted are: "a valid hunting license or permit, admitted for lawful hunting or sporting purposes, certain official representatives of a foreign government, or a foreign law enforcement officer of a friendly foreign government entering the United States on official law enforcement business". Of those, the most probable seems to be the one I mentioned in the answer, a valid hunting license. – Patricia Shanahan Apr 20 '19 at 7:45
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    @JonathanReez there are at least fifty different sets of requirements for obtaining a hunting license. – phoog Apr 20 '19 at 13:41
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    @JonathanReez Given the range of situations and state and local laws, I will be pleasantly surprised if you succeed in writing a useful canonical answer. Gun laws in the US that affect US citizens are constrained by the second amendment to the US constitution. Gun laws that only affect alien visitors are not. – Patricia Shanahan Apr 20 '19 at 16:08
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    @JonathanReez How do you know federal law is the biggest hurdle here? – Patricia Shanahan Apr 20 '19 at 16:56

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