Importing Firearms and Ammunition – A Brief Overview of ATF Requirements

Posted by Orchid Advisors on 11/25/19 4:06 PM

orchidEngaging in international commerce in firearms, ammunition, components, and accessories may seem like a daunting task.  Between all the domestic laws, international laws, embargoes and other trade restrictions, it may appear to many to not be worth the hassle.  However, with the proper planning and attention to detail sourcing goods or parts from overseas can be a very simple way to increase the variety of goods your company offers.

The first step in the process should be to determine if whether the item you desire to import is a controlled item requiring a permit, or whether it is not controlled and therefore no permit is required.  Clearly the determination for fully assembled firearms and ammunition is easy; they are controlled and an import permit from ATF is required.  But what about the pieces and parts that make up firearms?  Well, that is where things get complicated.  While “parts” and “components” require an import permit, “accessories” do not.  How does one determine what is a “part,” “component,” or “accessory”?  Well, unfortunately, the regulations do not provide a definition and there is little guidance available.  If you are unsure, you should contact a professional or the ATF directly. 

Next you must decide the source of your goods.  Goods are not freely importable from any country you choose.  The US Government has identified certain countries as not being eligible to export certain goods to the United States for a variety of reasons (in the case of firearms and ammunition, primarily for national security reasons).  Making things more complex, certain countries can export certain goods to the US, but may not export certain other goods to the US.  These determinations have been made in various fashions (e.g., legislation, executive order, etc.) so it is important to check all potential sources of restriction. 

If you have determined your part or component requires a permit and you can import from your desired source, your next step is to obtain an import permit.  You will apply to the ATF for import approval on a Form 6.  The best way to file for your import permit is via ATF’s eForms systems.  It will substantially speed up the review and approval process. 

Once your goods arrive and clear Customs (a whole separate process for which it suggested you hire a Customs Broker) you will receive them.  Once you receive your goods, you are obligated to confirm that the goods received were authorized under the permit, identify the quantity – and serial numbers if the imported goods are firearms – and use this information to complete a Form 6A to submit to ATF within 15 days of release of the goods from Customs custody.  Again, the Form 6A is should be completed and submitted to ATF via the eForms system. 

The import paperwork must be retained as part of the FFL’s permanent records.  It is advisable to keep all Forms 6A in a file corresponding to its Form 6 in chronological fashion.  Additional commercial paperwork can – and often should – be kept with the applicable Form 6A.  In this manner any discrepancies discovered later on can be reconciled. 

Orchid Advisors provides GCA and ITAR compliance services to manufacturing, importing, distribution and retail FFLs. The firm offers FFL and Export licensing, importing assistance, record inspections, e4473 / NFA eForms, Electronic Bound Book software and delivers the largest online ATF and ITAR compliance training platform available.  Together with its partners, Orchid delivers the only integrated firearm compliance, technology and legal solution.  If you would like to speak with Orchid Advisors about your import needs, contact us today.

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