Search Site
Eligibility to Hold a Liquor License or Permit- Citizenship

The Alcoholic Beverage Control Law states that a person who is neither a citizen of the United States or lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence may not traffic in alcoholic beverages.

The United States is a party to numerous treaties with other nations that allow citizens of the those nations to engage in commerce and trade in the United States. Pursuant to the “Supremacy Clause” found in Article Six of the United States Constitution, these treaties supersede state law to the extent that the state law is inconsistent with the provisions of the treaties.

The New York State Attorney General has issued a number of opinions stating that subdivision 3 of section 126 of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law could not prevent a citizen of a nation with a reciprocal trade agreement with the United States from obtaining a license to traffic in alcoholic beverages. Accordingly, for many years the Authority maintained a list of “reciprocal trade countries” for purposes of determining whether a citizen of another country was eligible for a license.

However, over time it became apparent that the “reciprocal trade countries” list did not accurately set forth the nations that had such treaties with the United States. Therefore, the SLA simply decided that the following individuals are deemed to qualify for a license under subdivision 3 of section 126 of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law:

– A citizen of the United States;
– An alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States;
– Foreign nationals from reciprocal treaty countries set forth in a list maintained by the U.S Department of State. That list may be found at
– Foreign nationals from any other country who can satisfy the Authority that his/her country has a treaty with the United States that permits citizens of both countries to engage in trade with and/or work in each other’s country on a reciprocal basis.

Please note that a citizen of another nation that qualifies for a license pursuant to the foregoing list is not required to be physically present in the United States to obtain a license. However, if such an individual intends to work at the licensed premises, it will be necessary for the person to demonstrate that he/she has the appropriate visa to enter and work in the United States. Please also note that a citizen of another nation, as with all applicants, must also meet all other requirements to be eligible to hold the license being sought.

This blog post is not intended to consist of legal advice and you should always consult with a lawyer before acting on anything you find on the Internet. If you have questions or comments about this post, about the topic, or if you need legal assistance, you should feel free to give us a call or send us an email. Let us know how a New York City liquor license lawyer can assist you.

Contact us

Please let us know how we can assist you.

Quick Contact Form

Our Office
  • Brooklyn Office
    1 Dock 72 Way
    7th Floor
    Brooklyn, New York 11205
    Phone: 718-855-7076
    Fax: 718-355-8785