Updated December 21, 2022
Visiting the U.S. on Vacation: The VISA Waiver and Tourist Guide To Guns
Are you visiting the U.S.? Do you want to learn how to shoot a gun in the U.S. as a tourist?
Do you have a friend or family member visiting the United States on vacation? Want to give your foreign friend or family member the fun and exciting experience of shooting a gun?
Well, you are in luck. In this brief guide, we will be covering just that.
Aliens, Nonimmigrant Aliens, Visa Waiver, Firearms, the Gun Control Act, and Texas Law
The prohibition on the receipt and possession of firearms and ammunition by aliens in nonimmigrant visa status, under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(5)(b), does not apply to nonimmigrants who enter the United States under the Visa Waiver Program1.
This means nonimmigrant aliens lawfully admitted and present in the United States without a visa (e.g., Visa Waiver Program) may acquire and possess firearms2.
Shoot a Gun as a Tourist Under the Visa Waiver Program
The Visa Waiver Program permits citizens of 40 countries to the United States for business or tourism for stays of up to 90 days without a visa3.
- Nonimmigrant4 aliens generally include:
- Long-term visitors,
- Business travelers, and
- Seasonal workers.
These aliens are not lawful permanent residents but lawfully admitted aliens to the United States4. For an individual to meet the definition of a nonimmigrant alien, they must hold a nonimmigrant visa4. The definition does not include permanent resident aliens, aliens legally admitted to the United States with a visa other than a nonimmigrant visa, or aliens legally admitted to the United States without a visa5.
Gun Rights With a Visa
If a person is present under a Visa, it is a little more complicated to shoot a gun as a tourist. This is because of the Gun Control Act’s (“G.C.A.”) firearm disabilities regarding nonimmigrant aliens.
The interpretation of the G.C.A. only applies to those lawfully present in the United States without a nonimmigrant visa (e.g., Visa Waiver Program)4.
This interpretation permits those here without a nonimmigrant visa to:
- Receive, or
- firearms or ammunition,
However, the nonimmigrant visa holder must meet the state residency requirement and not be prohibited under federal law4.
Texas Constitutional (Permitless) Carry and the Visa Waiver Program
Texas Constitutional Carry, under the Firearms Carry Act of 2021 (House Bill 1927), does not include a residency requirement.
Legal Requirments of Texas Constitutional (Permitless) Carry
Under Texas constitutional carry, the person must be:
- at least 21 years of age or older;
- must not be prohibited from possessing a firearm in a public place under Texas Law;
- must not have been convicted of: a) Assault Causes Bodily Injury; b) Deadly Conduct; c) Terroristic Threat; d) Disorderly Conduct-discharging a firearm; or e) Disorderly Conduct-Displaying a firearm within the previous five (5) years; and
- must not be prohibited from possessing a firearm or ammunition under Federal Law6.
Carrying a gun as a tourist under Texas Constitutional (Permitless) Carry
Constitutional carry may apply to a nonimmigrant alien present in the United States through the Visa Waiver Program. However, they still must meet the requirements for Texas Constitutionally Carry.
Exceptions if Visiting on a Visa
Nonimmigrant aliens admitted to the United States under a nonimmigrant visa may purchase, receive, and possess a firearm if the alien falls within one of the following exceptions:7
- if the person was admitted to the United States for lawful hunting or sporting purposes or is in possession of a hunting license or permit lawfully issued in the United States;
- if the person is an official representative of a foreign government who is accredited to the United States Government or the Government’s mission to an international organization having its headquarters in the United States;
- if the person is an official representative of a foreign government who is en route to or from another country to which that alien is accredited;
- if the person is an official of a foreign government or a distinguished foreign visitor who the Department of State has so designated;
- if the person is a foreign law enforcement officer of a friendly foreign government entering the United States on official law enforcement business; or
- if the person has received a waiver from the prohibition from the Attorney General of the United States.
Have a Legal Question?
The attorneys at Walker & Taylor, PLLC, offer consultations to answer your legal questions. Our consultations are for Texas and related federal law.
Speak to an attorney and get answers to legal questions regarding firearms, self-defense, gun rights, or related criminal or civil law. Give us a call today at (281) 668-9957.
- Virginia A. Seitz, Firearms Disabilities on Nonimmigrant Aliens Under the Gun Control Act.
- A.T.F. – Does the prohibition on the receipt and possession of firearms and ammunition by aliens in nonimmigrant visa status apply to nonimmigrant aliens who lawfully enter the United States without a visa?
- U.S. Dep’t of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs – Visa Waiver Program.
- A.T.F. – QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS – REVISED ATF F4473 (APRIL 2012 EDITION).
- 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(15).
- H.B. 1927, 87th Leg., (Tex. 2021).
- 18 U.S.C. § 922(y).