can an illegal immigrant claim a lottery prize

Can Non-US Residents Play to Win the Lottery?

Are you eligible to win the lottery if you don’t live in the US?

Have you ever wondered who’s eligible to play the lottery in the United States?

Here are some common questions about buying lottery tickets:

  • Can you buy tickets if you aren’t a US resident, but want to win one of those huge lottery jackpots?
  • Can you buy US lottery tickets if you’re a citizen or a resident of a foreign country?
  • Can you cross state lines to buy lottery tickets?
  • 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?

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 even if you’re not a United States citizen, if you don’t live in the state selling the ticket, or even if you don’t 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.

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.

This’s important to keep in mind because many lottery scams 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 scam win notices away.

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.

Many people were horrified to think that a sex offender could receive such an enormous prize. On the article linked above, Toni Tommas commented that it “Almost makes me question the existence of God.”  

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.

Who is eligible to buy US lottery tickets? Can a non-US resident claim a Powerball or MegaMillions lottery? What about illegal immigrants?

Illegal Alien Keeps $2 Million : Lottery Winner May Also Get a Free Trip to Mexico

A young San Jose laborer–who admitted that he is an illegal alien after winning $2 million this week in the state lottery–will get to keep his fortune, but he may have to leave the United States to spend it.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service launched an investigation into the status of Jose Caballero, a 24-year-old furniture deliveryman, after news reports of his windfall reached INS offices Tuesday.

“He’s no different than any other illegal alien,” said Harold Ezell, INS regional commissioner. “He will not get preferential treatment nor get ignored by us because he won all this money. . . . We’re after illegal aliens who are taking the jobs of U.S. citizens.”

Caballero, a bachelor who slipped across the border into the United States a year ago from his hometown of Apatzingan, Mexico, became an instant celebrity Monday when he was one of four people to win the lottery’s top prize during a televised wheel-spinning event in Hollywood.

Until he became a big winner, the young man was thought to be in the country legally. But after the spin, Caballero privately unloaded his bombshell to lottery officials.

“It was one of those gambles he was willing to take,” said lottery deputy director Jamie Bailey, the first person Caballero told of his illegal status. “Never did he expect to be a $2-million winner.”

Lottery officials quickly assured the new winner, however, that the $2-million prize is his to keep.

“They said it was no problem,” Caballero said at a news conference Tuesday in San Jose, with his sister-in-law acting as interpreter. “They said, ‘You paid a dollar for that ticket. You got a winning number.’ ”

Faces Two Choices

Lottery director Mark Michalko explained that his agency is not in the immigration business. “People are able to come in from any place in the world, win the lottery and we pay them,” he said. A $70,000 check, representing the first installment on his winnings, has already been mailed to Caballero, said lottery spokesman Bill Seaton.

According to Ezell, once INS officers determine the facts in Caballero’s case, the young Mexican–who said he wants to use his windfall to open a furniture manufacturing business–will be “given two choices.” He can return to Mexico voluntarily, Ezell said, or face a deportation hearing in front of an immigration judge.

Brother Is Resident Alien

Caballero lives in San Jose with a brother, who is a permanent resident alien, and his sister-in-law, who is a citizen. In addition, the new winner has several cousins who reside here legally. Ezell said that under certain circumstances Caballero’s relatives could act as sponsors for him to stay.

Caballero faced his immigration woes philosophically.

“I am prepared to do whatever I have to do honorably,” he said through an interpreter. “But what I want is to become a citizen.”

Caballero said he is not interested in returning to Mexico even though he could live like a king there. At the current exchange rate, Caballero’s jackpot winnings–$1.4 million after taxes–would amount to about 680 million Mexican pesos.

“I love this country,” he said. “I love San Jose.”

The lottery’s $2-million winners are paid $100,000 a year for 20 years, minus 20% for federal income taxes. The Internal Revenue Service said Caballero will have a 30% bite taken from his check because he is not a U.S. citizen and that 30% will continue to be deducted should Caballero have to return to Mexico.

Caballero said he is concerned that he may have to pay both U.S. and Mexican taxes if he is deported.

Caballero left his parents and eight brothers and sisters in Apatzingan, 200 miles west of Mexico City, to sneak across the border in 1984.

“It was no problem,” he said when asked about crossing into the United States.

Caballero described his family as middle class–his father is a loan officer in a bank and his mother owns a fruit warehouse.

Caballero speaks little English, so his sister-in-law, Blanca Caballero, 22, has been pressed into service to field the barrage of questions coming Caballero’s way since Monday night.

His only English words Tuesday came in reply to a question about when he would like to become an American citizen.

“Right now,” he said.

Meanwhile, Caballero was not the only one who faced legal action after taking part in the lottery’s jackpot spin.

Prosecutors in Sacramento, Riverside and San Luis Obispo counties say they will attach all the winnings of Joseph M. Frontino, 33, a Riverside hospital worker, who won $10,000 in the lottery’s Oct. 28 spin-off.

Frontino owes a total of $11,600 to at least three children involved in Superior Court cases in the three counties, according to Michael Barber of the Sacramento County district attorney’s office.

The state has stopped payment on Frontino’s winnings, and a hearing is scheduled Nov. 14 in Riverside County Superior Court.

A young San Jose laborer–who admitted that he is an illegal alien after winning $2 million this week in the state lottery–will get to keep his fortune, but he may have to leave the United States to spend it. ]]>