What Happens When a Foreigner Wins the Lottery in the United States

Everybody dreams about winning the lottery, Superbowl, jackpot or whatever is the name of the highest winning prize. It is a dream come true, as you would never have to worry about money again, you will not have to work for the rest of your life, and you can pursue a hobby or lifestyle that always made you happy. Of course, it’s not as ideal as it sounds, as many people who actually won the lottery also feel exposed and threatened, so it’s reasonable if one would want to stay anonymous.  

However, the topic might be more complex than we think. There are no restrictions to who can purchase a lottery ticket, scratch card or install a lottery app, which means almost everybody can play. This poses a question what happens when a foreigner wins a lottery?  

Can you buy tickets outside of U.S

Apart from state-specific and age restrictions, there is nothing preventing you from participating in the lottery in a certain state. That being said, you have to be in the country in order to legally buy tickets, and it is illegal to buy them online or mail them unless there is an official app. It is important to know this because many scammers will try to send those spam emails, stating you have won a lottery in a different country. In other words, even if you are strongly tempted to take that leap of faith, just don’t, since it is impossible.  

Can you buy a ticket as a tourist or an illegal immigrant? 

As stated, if you are physically present in a particular state, you are eligible to participate in the lottery and buy a ticket. The better question is – what happens if you win and don’t have U.S residency? Luckily, there is nothing preventing you from claiming your winning prize, because you were eligible to participate. However, if you are an illegal immigrant claiming funds will make you vulnerable to deportation, so it is in a way a bittersweet victory. It is also possible though that the newly acquired fortune might make it easier for you to get a green card, so probably the best course of action would be to get a legal counsel on what you should do. 

Jose Antonio Cua-Toc won around 750 thousand USD on a lottery in 2011, but due to the lack of legal US residency was hesitant to go and claim these funds. So, he asked his boss to do it in his stead. Unfortunately for Jose, his boss just took the money and there was nothing he could do.  

In most of the states, felons are allowed to buy tickets and participate in a lottery, which is double-edged sword really. If someone was convicted because he could not afford good defense lawyers and is, in fact, innocent, then winning a lottery might be a fortunate twist of fate and a ticket out. However, a justly incarcerated convict can also win, and even get out if he hires a highly competent lawyer.