Getting a US “Carry Permit”

This article contains information that was accurate when originally published. Changes to legislation may have occurred since then and the information may now be out of date. The article is archived and intended for information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice.

Many Canadians travel to the United States for leisure, to study, and to work. In many cases, those travellers have concerns about their personal safety and are aware that some jurisdictions allow for qualified individuals to carry a firearm for self-protection.

The idea is usually foreign to Canadians, because self-protection “carry” is not common here. When Canadian gun owners do carry a firearm for protecting their life, it is almost always in the context of travel or work in remote areas where dangerous wildlife such as bears are a serious concern and animal attacks can be deadly. It is for this reason that many government officials working in remote areas often have received training on shotguns and carry one with them for bear defense in remote areas.

Another scenario would be hunting, obviously, where a licenced Canadian gun owner or visitor in legal possession of a firearm could carry a loaded non-restricted rifle or shotgun in a place where hunting is permitted, during the appropriate season, while engaged in that activity. The firearm must of course not be concealed, and it is not possible to carry handguns under any circumstances in this scenario.

The legal landscape and culture around firearms in most of the United States is far more focused on the individual, and in many places can be quite permissive, recognizing the real need for citizens to avail themselves of the means of protection against violent crime.

To that end, it is possible for some Canadians travelling south to bring with them their own lawfully owned firearm for what is known as “concealed” carry, or even open carry, for protection purposes.

The State of New Hampshire is among the best known low-cost options for recognition of this privilege. The New Hampshire State Police will issue to any non-resident a “Pistol/Revolver Permit” that identifies the holder and recognizes their right under state law to carry a firearm in that jurisdiction. In fact, the permit is not even a requirement in that state, because it is what is known as a “constitutional carry” state – any qualified person may carry a firearm openly or concealed in NH with minimal exclusions, such as for court houses. The permit serves only to facilitate state-to-state reciprocity.

That’s right. A Canadian can obtain a NH non-resident pistol permit, and that permit will be recognized in a number of other US states, permitting them to carry the firearm under conditions or restrictions imposed by that state.

Generally, Canadian visitors need to import their firearm using the ATF Form 6NIA, which must be applied for and accepted in advance. Once accepted, it is essentially a 1-year permit to temporarily import the listed firearms and ammunition into the US.

But each individual state administers its own firearms laws as well. For NH and neighbouring Vermont, anyone who is not a felon and can lawfully possess a firearm may carry their firearm concealed or openly, subject to certain state restrictions. The list of permit-less carry states has grown immensely, and now numbers around two dozen.

The NH pistol permit is full recognized in 11 US states as of right now (December 2022), and is accepted with restrictions in another handful of states. In some cases, such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Colorado, only NH “residents” permits qualify for reciprocity.

See this resource for further info on NH permits and reciprocity: https://www.usconcealedcarry.com/resources/ccw_reciprocity_map/nh-gun-laws/

How Do I Get One?

The application process is very simple for a New Hampshire non-resident pistol permit. Simply download and complete the form, mail it back to the NH State Police with the US$100 fee, and wait 14 days for the permit to be issued (not including mailing time).

No courses are required. You must supply three references, and you can include Canadian residents among them.

Getting the permit and using it are two separate issues, however. One must carefully research and abide by the rules of each state that one might travel through. For example, in New York, all handguns must be registered, including those owned by persons not resident in that state. The NH carry permit is not recognized, and so a registered handgun may only be transported in accordance with state laws, not carried. Michigan allows only NH residents to carry a handgun concealed. Virginia will recognize the NH permit, but requires a form of US-issued government photo identification with the NH card (because it does not bear the holder’s photo) — a NEXUS card would work for this.

If you choose to go the route of bringing a firearm across the border and carrying it in the US, carefully research the laws, both in Canada and the US, as well as the specific states you plan to visit or transit through. While it is possible to do, there are many nuances and pitfalls. We suggest you consult a US attorney or a recognized concealed carry advocacy organization in the US for further information about the legality and the process.