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Guidance for U.S. Persons Traveling Outside the U.S. with Firearms and/or Ammunition

The export regulations for firearms and ammunition are split between the Department of State Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) and the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS). The DDTC regulates firearms and ammunition that are considered Defense Articles, which are governed by the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) and International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). Items under DDTC regulatory control are listed on the United States Munitions List (USML). The BIS regulates firearms and ammunition that are considered Dual-Use Items, governed by the Export Control Reform Act (ECRA) and Export Administration Regulations (EAR). Items under DDTC regulatory control are listed on the Commerce Control List (CCL). Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilitates the registration of firearms and ammunition intended for temporary exportation via CBP Form 4457, Certificate of Registration for Personal Effects Taken Abroad. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is responsible for the investigation of both the AECA and ECRA violations, as well as other provisions of law related to exports and smuggling goods from the United States. Both CBP and HSI have enforcement authorities concerning export violations and work cooperatively to identify and interdict commodities illicitly exported from the United States. Each of these agencies have a role pertaining to the exportation of firearms and ammunition.

Frequently Asked Questions

What government agencies regulate the export of firearms and ammunition from the U.S.?

The Department of State Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) has licensing and regulatory jurisdiction over the export of all defense articles defined on the U.S. Munitions List (USML). The Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) has licensing and regulatory jurisdiction over the exports of items defined on the Commerce Control List (CCL).

The U.S. customs authorities, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), have primary responsibility for the enforcement of all U.S. export control laws and regulations including those governing the temporary or permanent export of firearms, ammunition, parts, or accessories from the United States. HSI and CBP work together to identify, interdict, investigate, and prosecute any criminal violations of these U.S. export laws and regulations as well as violations involving U.S. sanctions and embargoes and/or illicit smuggling activities.

What is required when traveling internationally with firearms and/or ammunition for personal use in recreational activities?

Sportsmen traveling internationally with firearms and/or ammunition need to comply with the Arms Export Control Act (AECA), International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), Export Control Reform Act (ECRA), Export Administration Regulations (EAR), and customs laws and regulations. Typically, most commonly owned firearms, ammunition, firearm parts, firearm accessories, and related items are listed on the Commerce Control List (CCL) and are subject to the ECRA and EAR. Exceptions to this general rule are for machineguns, silencers, armor piercing, or incendiary ammunition, and most firearms and ammunition of greater than .50 caliber, which are listed on the U.S. Munitions List (USML) and subject to the AECA and ITAR. However, some sporting firearms and ammunition of greater than .50 caliber are still listed on the CCL and subject to the EAR.

In general, most sportsmen seeking to export equipment for hunting purposes will primarily be subject to the requirements of the ECRA and the EAR, and will export items listed on the CCL; however, sportsmen should be aware that certain equipment may be listed on the USML, and that equipment will be subject to licensing requirements under the AECA and ITAR. Sportsmen should also be aware that optics, illuminators, and designators are subject to export controls and will also be listed on either the USML or CCL and subject to the AECA and ITAR or the ECRA and EAR, respectively. While most items sportsmen commonly seek to export for sporting and recreational purposes do require export licenses, often license exceptions under the EAR or ITAR will apply.

Contacting the DDTC, BIS, HSI, or CBP may be valuable if additional information or clarification is needed.

Do the export regulations only apply to individuals traveling on commercial airlines?

No. Export regulations apply to any removal of these items from the territorial boundaries of the United States regardless of transportation mode or method. This includes, but is not limited to, commercial and private air travel, pedestrian and motor vehicle land border crossings, international passenger and commercial rail lines, private, commercial, and merchant watercraft, and international mail and courier parcels.

Where can I find additional information about the importation and exportation of firearms?

Updated: 07/31/2023