Updated December 1, 2022
Visiting the US on Vacation: The VISA Waiver and Tourist Guide To Guns
Are you visiting the US? Do you want to learn how to shoot a gun in the US 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. Meaning that nonimmigrant aliens lawfully admitted and present in the United States without a visa (e.g., Visa Waiver Program), will not be prohibited from acquiring or possessing 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. Nonimmigrant aliens are generally considered to be tourists, students, business travelers, and workers visiting for a certain period of time4. These aliens are not lawful permanent residents but are rather 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.
The Gun Control Act’s (“GCA”) firearm disabilities regarding nonimmigrant aliens in the United States on a nonimmigrant visa is not changed.
The interpretation of the GCA only applies to those lawfully present in the United States without a nonimmigrant visa (e.g., Visa Waiver Program)4.
This interpretation does not prohibit those here without the nonimmigrant visa from shipping, transporting, receiving, or possessing firearms or ammunition, provided that they meet State of residency requirements and are not otherwise prohibited from shipping, transporting, receiving, or possessing firearms4.
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
Therefore, if the nonimmigrant alien, present in the United States through the Visa Waiver Program, meets the requirements for constitutional carry and is not otherwise prohibited from doing so, they may then carry under that authority while present in the State of Texas.
Exceptions if Visiting on a Visa
Nonimmigrant aliens admitted to the United States under a nonimmigrant visa are not prohibited from purchasing, receiving, or possessing 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 has been so designated by the Department of State;
- 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.
- ATF – 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.
- ATF – 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).