Activities Hobbies Can Non-US Residents Play to Win the Lottery? Are you eligible to win the lottery if you don't live in the US? Share PINTEREST Email Print Scott Olson/Getty Images Hobbies Contests Lotteries Basics Tips and Tricks Dream Vacations Win Money Win Electronics Home and Garden Win Vehicles Jewelry and Clothing Types of Contests Creative Contests Scams Couponing Freebies Frugal Living Fine Arts & Crafts Astrology Card Games & Gambling Cars & Motorcycles Playing Music Learn More By Sandra Grauschopf Sandra Grauschopf Facebook Twitter Writer University of Maryland Sandra Grauschopf has been working in the contests industry since 2002. She is a passionate sweeper, with tens of thousands of dollars worth of prize wins to her name, and she has been sharing advice about how to be a winner for over a decade. Learn about our Editorial Process Updated on 12/31/21 Have you ever wondered who's eligible to play the lottery in the United States? Maybe you're from outside the United States and wondering if you can buy a ticket to a record-breaking lottery drawing through the internet. Or perhaps you're visiting from another country and wondering whether citizens of countries other than the U.S. are allowed to enter. What if you don't have legal permission to be in the United States? Will you be able to claim the prize money if you win? You might also want to buy lottery tickets in a state other than the one you live in. Is that allowed? Finally, do you have to pass any kind of background check before claiming your prize? Here's everything you need to know about who can and can't play the lottery in the United States. Who Can Play Mega Millions, Powerball, and Other US Lotteries? You can buy US lottery tickets, win the Powerball and the Mega Millions lotteries, and collect your jackpot no matter what your US residence status is. While there is an age restriction (you have to be at least 18 to play), adults can buy tickets in any state which offers the lottery regardless of whether you're a United States citizen, live in the state selling the ticket, or live in the country at all. Of course, since non-US residents are eligible to buy the tickets, they're also eligible to claim the prize money should they win. However, be aware that where you live will affect what happens when you win. For example, different states have different rules about whether lottery winners can remain anonymous, how long they have to claim their prizes, and more. Countries outside of the United States have different laws about how lottery prizes are taxed and how much money must be withheld from your winnings. If you do win, be sure to consult with a tax professional for more information. If you're trying to enter a lottery other than the Powerball or Mega-Millions games, check the rules before you enter for eligibility information. Can you Buy US Lottery Tickets from Outside of the United States? While non-US residents can enter and win the lottery, there's a caveat: You have to actually be in the country to legally buy US lottery tickets. It's illegal to buy lottery tickets over the internet or by mail — with some rare exceptions, such as a lottery app run by a company that sends an employee to physically buy tickets for its customers. In fact, you have to physically be present in the state where you buy the ticket. You don't have to live in that state, but you do have to travel to it to buy your tickets. This holds true for Americans buying lottery tickets abroad, as well. This is important to keep in mind because many lottery scams try to trick people into believing that they've won lotteries from foreign countries. You can only win a foreign lottery if you bought a ticket while you were in that country. If you didn't, you can throw those win notices away, they're scams. There are also scam websites that will take your money and promise to buy lottery tickets for you. Approach these sites with caution and be sure to check the company out carefully before handing over any money. Doing an internet search for the company's name together with the word "scam" is a good first step. Can an Undocumented Alien Win a US Lottery? Because there are no residency restrictions about who can enter US lotteries, illegal immigrants can buy tickets and can claim their winnings. However, claiming the lottery winnings might make an illegal immigrant feel vulnerable to deportation. For example, in 2011 Jose Antonio Cua-Toc won a $750,000 lottery and was afraid to claim it because he didn't have a legal residency status. When he asked his boss to claim it for him, the boss took the money for himself. However, winning the lottery might smooth the road to a green card. If you're an undocumented immigrant and you have a winning lottery ticket, you should consult a legal professional before claiming your prize. Can Felons Win Lottery Jackpots in the United States? Rules vary from state to state, but in most cases, felons can legally buy lottery tickets and win jackpots. In December of 2014, a story broke about Timothy Poole, a sex offender who won over $2 million in the Florida Super Millions scratch-off lottery. Poole was convicted in 1999 of sexually battering a nine-year-old boy who was a friend of his family. Poole pleaded innocent but took a plea bargain, which included over a year in jail and registration as a sex offender. The Florida lottery doesn't have any restrictions regarding the criminal background of the entrants, which means that Poole received a lump sum of $2,219,807.90. While some people think it's wrong that murderers and sex offenders can win millions from the state, others find it would be unfair to prevent someone from playing the lottery after they've paid for their crime and served their time. There is a bright side to a felon winning a lottery jackpot, however; It might give the victims a way to be compensated for damages or restitution in a civil trial. It's hard for a felon to claim he or she can't pay when they have publicly won a lottery jackpot.