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Buying a gun as non resident alien in California

Most people would think that buying a gun is only limited to US citizens but many states that’s not the case. Non citizens have more requirements than citizens but it’s still possible to buy a gun legally in California even for us non resident aliens. It’s going to be harder to find a dealer that knows exactly what is required from a non resident alien so to save you from the trouble I’ve faced I though I’d share what I’ve learned in the past year from my own experience of buying a gun.

The first thing is to know if you are a non resident alien. That’s pretty simple really if you don’t have a green card and you are here with a long term (more than 3 months) visa then you are a non resident alien. You could have a H1 visa for work or you could be a student with F1 visa. If you have a green card then you are treated pretty much the same as citizens.

The second thing you need to know is what type of gun you are buying, whether it’s going to be a long gun such as rifle or shotgun or a handgun. Handgun has some additional requirements not just non resident aliens but citizens as well. Generally to buy any gun as a non resident alien you’ll need to get a hunter’s safety certificate which you can get by taking a hunter’s safety class and passing the exam. This allows you to buy a hunting license which is a requirement for non resident aliens even if you are not going to hunt. Just buy the license without any tags and you’re good to go. Then you need a California Driver’s license or ID. That’s to provide proof that you are California resident. They’ll also need to take a copy of your visa and I-94. Your alian registration number is your I-94 number. Then the last common requirement is that you’ve had to been in the country continuously for 90 days from the beginning of D.R.O.S. and you can’t leave the country even for a quick visit until you’ve taken posession of your gun.

Summary for long gun (rifle or shotgun) requirements:

  • Hunting license
  • California DL or ID
  • Copy of Visa and I-94
  • Must have been in country continuously last 90 days

Now if you are buying a handgun then you need to complete Handgun Safety Certification in addition to the requiremetns for long gun. That is pretty simple if you have any common sense and have handled firearms before. You just read a booklet and take the test at any firearms dealer. Now if you haven’t handled a handgun before you should take a class on it or at least go to shooting range that allows you to rent a gun and try out different handguns to find what you like. Remember that many shooting ranges won’t allow you to rent a gun by yourself especially if you haven’t handled one before. The Target Range in Van Nuys is a really friendly place and they have good selection of standard and premium handguns. They also provide training and will let you rent by yourself if you’ve shot before. When buying a handgun you’ll also need additional proof of residency and for that you can use utility bill from past 3 months or a apartment lease agreement. They will also accept DMV car registration but they won’t accept bank statements.

Summary of handgun requirements:

  • Hunting license
  • California DL or ID
  • Copy of Visa and I-94
  • Handgun Safety Certificate
  • Additional proof of residency such as utility bill or car registration
  • Must have been in country continuously last 90 days

I’ve verified all of these requirements directly from California Department of Justice Bureau of Firearms but laws change and some requirements even changed this year so recheck them when you are thinking of buying a gun. If you are not in California make sure it’s even legal for you to poses firearms in your state.

Remember that firearm safety starts with you. Shooting is a fun hobby if you treat guns with respect and handle them safely.