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Can foreigners participate in Mega Millions?

Mega Millions is one of the two major multi-state lottery games in the United States, along with Powerball. It is offered in 45 states, as well as Washington D.C. and the U.S Virgin Islands. Mega Millions draws take place every Tuesday and Friday evening, offering millions in prize money to lucky winners.

Many foreigners visiting or living in the United States are intrigued by Mega Millions and wonder if they are eligible to play. The short answer is yes, foreigners can purchase Mega Millions tickets and claim prizes, but there are some restrictions and requirements to be aware of.

This article will provide a comprehensive overview of Mega Millions lottery rules for foreigners. We will cover topics such as:

  • Who is eligible to play Mega Millions?
  • Restrictions based on immigration status
  • Requirements for claiming prizes as a foreigner
  • Taxes on lottery winnings for non-U.S. citizens
  • Options for foreigners who win the Mega Millions jackpot

Understanding the lottery rules for foreigners will allow you to play Mega Millions properly and claim any potential prizes you may win.

Who Can Play Mega Millions?

In most states, the basic eligibility rules for Mega Millions are:

  • You must be 18 years or older to purchase tickets
  • You must be in a participating Mega Millions state when buying tickets
  • You do not need to be a U.S. citizen or resident to play

So foreigners such as tourists, temporary visa holders, and immigrant residents are welcome to play Mega Millions if they are in one of the 45 participating states or jurisdictions. The two key requirements are being located in an eligible jurisdiction when you buy tickets, and being of legal age to play the lottery.

It is illegal to purchase lottery tickets by mail across state lines or international borders. Tickets must be bought from an authorized lottery retailer in person when you are physically present in that state. Winning tickets must also be claimed in the state where they were purchased.

States Where Foreigners Can Play

The 45 states plus jurisdictions currently participating in Mega Millions are:

California Delaware Florida Georgia Idaho
Illinois Indiana Iowa Kansas Kentucky
Louisiana Maine Maryland Massachusetts Michigan
Minnesota Missouri Montana Nebraska New Hampshire
New Jersey New Mexico New York North Carolina North Dakota
Ohio Oklahoma Oregon Pennsylvania Rhode Island
South Carolina South Dakota Tennessee Texas U.S. Virgin Islands
Vermont Virginia Washington Washington D.C. West Virginia
Wisconsin Wyoming

So if you are located in any of these participating states or territories as a tourist, foreign student, temporary worker, or resident immigrant, you can legally purchase Mega Millions tickets. Just be sure you are physically in the state when you buy your ticket.

Restrictions Based on Immigration Status

While Mega Millions tickets can be purchased by most foreigners within the U.S., there are some restrictions based on immigration status to be aware of.

Tourists and Visa Holders

Tourists and temporary visa holders such as students, temporary workers, and cultural exchange visitors are welcome to purchase lottery tickets in participating states. There are no restrictions on these categories playing Mega Millions.

If you win a major Mega Millions prize as a foreign tourist or visa holder, there is no issue with claiming your prize. The lottery has no restrictions based on immigration status. However, there may be tax implications (more details below).

Undocumented Immigrants

Undocumented immigrants are technically eligible to play Mega Millions if they are located in a participating state. However, to claim any high-tier lottery prizes, you need to provide a Social Security number and fill out a W-9 form for tax purposes.

Undocumented immigrants do not have SSNs, so they face difficulties claiming lottery prizes. Smaller prizes of $600 or less can be claimed without submitting tax forms in most states, but high tier prizes are very challenging to claim.

Consult an immigration attorney before attempting to claim any large lottery prize as an undocumented immigrant. There are rare cases where big winners have chosen to self-identify and work with the state lottery commission to claim prizes, but you take on significant legal risks.

Non-Immigrant Visa Holders

Those in the U.S. on non-immigrant visas like H-1B, F-1 or J-1 student visas can purchase tickets and claim prizes. Keep in mind that gambling winnings may be subject to taxes.

If you win a prize exceeding $5,000 as the holder of a non-immigrant work visa like H-1B, consult an immigration attorney. Large gambling winnings can sometimes impact your visa status or eligibility for permanent residency if the lottery winnings become a major source of your income.

But small or medium sized prizes are generally fine to claim and should not impact your visa.

Green Card Holders

U.S. lawful permanent residents with green cards have no restrictions playing Mega Millions. Green card holders can freely claim Mega Millions prizes of any amount without impacting their immigration status or eligibility for U.S. citizenship.

Claiming Prizes as a Foreigner

To claim a Mega Millions lottery prize as a foreigner, you generally need to:

  • Present a valid ticket in the state it was purchased
  • Provide photo ID and proof of age
  • Fill out a claim form
  • For prizes over $600, submit a W-9 tax form

You must claim your actual ticket, not just provide ticket numbers. Prizes must be claimed in the jurisdiction the ticket was bought in.

The required ID and tax forms for non-residents and immigrants varies by state. Check with the lottery commission website for the exact claiming requirements.

You may need to provide a combination of:

  • Passport
  • U.S. driver’s license or state ID
  • Green card or U.S. visa
  • Social Security number
  • Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN)

Most states require a Social Security number to claim prizes over $600. Only a couple states allow an ITIN instead.

If you win a jackpot exceeding hundreds of millions or even $1 billion, consult a tax attorney to handle the claiming process. You do not need to be a U.S. citizen to claim, but the taxes are complex.

While Mega Millions does not prohibit foreigners playing and winning, be sure you understand the claiming requirements including taxes so you receive your full prize.

Taxes on Lottery Winnings for Foreigners

One important consideration for foreigners playing Mega Millions is the taxes levied on lottery winnings. U.S. citizens and residents have up to 30% of prizes over $600 withheld for federal taxes. The top rate foreigners pay can be over 37% depending on your country of citizenship.

Here are some key points on taxes for foreign lottery winners:

  • Prizes up to $600 are generally not taxed
  • 30% federal tax is withheld on winnings over $600 for U.S. citizens and residents
  • Tax rate for foreigners is 30% federal plus up to 37% more depending on tax treaty with your home country
  • Some state taxes may also apply to lottery winnings
  • Tax treaties with certain countries like Canada and the U.K. reduce the rates
  • Consult a tax professional to minimize taxes on multimillion dollar jackpot wins

So a foreign tourist winning a few hundred dollars on Mega Millions likely pays no tax. But a foreigner hitting a massive $500 million jackpot could pay over 67% in taxes, costing tens of millions depending on their home country.

The specific tax rates and rules for foreigners claiming lottery prizes are complex. But you need to be aware taxes will substantially reduce any Mega Millions winnings before you receive your net prize amount.

Sample Tax Rates for Foreigners

To illustrate how Mega Millions taxes can impact foreigners, here are sample federal tax rates for various countries:

Country Tax Rate on Lottery Winnings
Canada 30%
United Kingdom 30%
Mexico 30%
China 37%
India 37%
France 37%

So a $1 billion jackpot would be reduced by over $370 million in taxes for a winner from China or India, compared to $300 million for Canadian or British citizens per federal rates.

Any Mega Millions prizes should be claimed with guidance from a tax professional to ensure you pay only what is required by law, and keep more of your winnings.

Options for Foreign Jackpot Winners

Very few people actually win a massive Mega Millions jackpot, but it has happened to foreigners visiting the U.S. In 2016, a French exchange student won a $30 million jackpot while shopping in California.

Here are some key options to consider if you win a jackpot as a foreigner:

Claim the Prize in Cash

You can claim your full jackpot amount in a one-time cash lump sum (less taxes). This is the choice most winners make to quickly have access to their fortune.

Just keep in mind cash claims are subject to the highest tax rates. Consulting a tax attorney and financial advisor can help minimize taxes and manage your newfound wealth.

Claim Annuity Payments

Rather than a lump sum, Mega Millions jackpots can be claimed as a 30-year annuity with annual installments. This reduces your tax burden each year.

Annuities offer more protection from overspending and bad investments. But you need to consider whether to keep the money invested in the U.S. or move it abroad.

Set Up a Trust

Wealth management experts advise lottery winners to set up a trust to avoid publicity and securely manage your money. A trust also helps reduce estate taxes when passing on your wealth.

This is especially important for foreigners with assets and heirs in their home country. Consult an experienced estate planning attorney when claiming a jackpot.

Move Assets Offshore

As a foreign national, investing your lottery assets overseas is an option. This reduces your U.S. tax obligations.

However, you must carefully follow IRS rules on reporting overseas assets and income to avoid penalties. Work with a tax attorney experienced with foreign investors.

Immigrate to the U.S.

Foreign jackpot winners sometimes decide to immigrate to the United States. Moving to America provides more stability and security for managing lottery wealth long-term.

Permanent residents also enjoy lower tax rates on future U.S. gambling winnings and other income. Consult an immigration attorney on the best visa strategy based on your situation.

Return to Home Country

Many smaller prize winners prefer to return to their home country to enjoy the winnings tax-free or with lower foreign taxes. Just be sure to work out tax liabilities before leaving.

You may need to maintain ties to the U.S. to handle any annuity payments and required ongoing reporting to the IRS.


Mega Millions lottery tickets can be purchased by non-U.S citizens and foreigners located within participating states. While most can play and claim prizes freely, there are restrictions for undocumented immigrants. Taxes represent a major reduction in winnings claimed by foreigners with rates often exceeding 30%.

If you are lucky enough to win a huge Mega Millions jackpot as a foreigner, be sure to immediately consult tax and legal experts to make the most of your prize while following all laws and regulations. Careful planning will help you maximize your lottery winnings and make any immigration, investment or estate decisions from a position of strength rather than confusion.

With smart strategic planning guided by experienced advisors, even foreigners can enjoy and benefit from a Mega Millions lottery fortune for years to come.