Written by attorney Chad Austin West

How, if at all, May a Nonimmigrant Alien obtain a firearm in Texas?

A nonimmigrant alien may obtain a firearm in Texas under limited circumstances, as long as he/she either: [1] falls within an exception to the general rule that a "prohibited person" (defined below) may not obtain a firearm, or [2] complies with certain federal and state formalities in order to obtain a waiver. Under the federal Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993, all purchasers of firearms in the United States must pass a federal background check unless an exception applies. "Prohibited persons" include persons that pose a potential threat to society such as convicted felons, the mentally unstable, fugitives from justice and others (as set out in section 922(g)(5)(A)); and nonimmigrant aliens (section 922(g)(5)(B)). Various exceptions for prohibited persons are codified in section 922(y)(2) of the U.S. Code. If an exception does not apply, then the prohibited person must petition the Attorney General (AG) and, in Texas, undergo and pass a 60-day screening process. If and when a prohibited person obtains clearance from the AG they must bring that clearance, along with other documentation, to a CHL provider in order to apply for a CHL. Exceptions Section 922(g)(5)(B) criminalizes possession of a firearm by an alien who has been admitted to the United States under a nonimmigrant visa. However, section 922(y)(2) lists four exceptions: [1] if that person is admitted for lawful hunting or sporting purposes or is in possession of a hunting license or permit lawfully issued in the U.S.; [2] an official representative of a foreign government conducting certain business/travel; [3] an official of a foreign government or a distinguished foreign visitor who has been so designated by the Department of State; or [4] a foreign law enforcement officer of a friendly foreign government entering the United States on official law enforcement business. If a nonimmigrant alien can prove by documentation that he fits within an exception, then he/she need not undergo the background check and often lengthy petition process and background check (per state regs--the federal background check, the NCIS, typically can take from a few seconds up to no more than two days.) The easiest method to obtain a firearm, if applicants are qualified, is by obtaining a Texas hunting license. Texas Hunting License Hunting licenses may be obtained by a resident of Texas. A resident is a person who has lived continuously in Texas for more than six months immediately before applying for a license. Proof of residency may be proven by showing any three of the following. Items marked with a * must have been issued at least six months prior to license or permit application. Except for a valid driver's license or a state issued identification card, documentation is not required at time of purchases or while hunting or fishing: o a current Texas homestead property tax statement o the most recent six months of utility bills o the most recent six months of paycheck receipts o the person's most recent tax return from the Internal Revenue Service o a statement from a parole board or probation officer stating that the person has continuously resided in Texas for the six months immediately preceding the application for a license or permit o a valid Texas driver's license* o a current Texas voter registration certificate* o a current vehicle registration* Hunting licenses may be purchased online or at most hunting/fishing stores (including Wal-mart). Visit\_sales/ to find a vendor or purchase online. Purchase of the Firearm After the nonimmigrant alien obtains his Texas hunting license, he may apply purchase the firearm. To do so, he will need to fill out ATF Form 4473, which all licensed dealers (Wal-Mart, Academy Sports, etc.) provide. The applicant will need to bring a copy of his Texas hunting license when applying to purchase the firearm. Firearm Laws in Texas After purchasing the firearm, the new firearm owner will be subject to the same laws that all firearm owners in Texas are subject to. Specifically, the applicant needs to be aware of Texas Penal Code sections 46.01, 46.02, 46.03, 46.05, 46.06, 46.07, 46.10, and 46.13, among others. Texas Concealed Handgun Law It may be worth the applicant's time to apply for a CHL license, as this will allow the applicant more flexibility when traveling with the firearm. In order to comply with the Texas Concealed Handgun Law, Derfler will need to [1] Complete the application located at: [2] Submit the following documentation: (a) Form I-94 (the Arrival-Departure record) (b) a valid hunting license (c) a copy of petitioner's visa (see TXDPS Form CHL-40, This documentation must be mailed to: Regulatory Services Division MSC 0245 Texas Department of Public Safety PO Box 15888 Austin, TX 78761-5888 Once received, the applicant will undergo a background check. This process usually takes about 60 days total, depending on the volume of applicants at the time.

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