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Can only US citizens win Mega Millions?

The Mega Millions lottery is one of the largest lottery games in the United States. It is played in 45 states as well as Washington D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Mega Millions offers some of the biggest lottery prizes in the world, with jackpots starting at $40 million and rolling over if there is no winner. In October 2018, the Mega Millions jackpot reached a record-breaking $1.537 billion before a single ticket purchased in South Carolina matched all six numbers to win the grand prize.

With prizes this enormous up for grabs, people wonder – can only U.S. citizens win Mega Millions prizes? Or can non-U.S. citizens also strike it rich playing Mega Millions? The eligibility rules may surprise you.

Mega Millions Eligibility Basics

In the United States, lotteries are regulated at the state level rather than federally. Each state that participates in the Mega Millions lottery pool has their own legislation and regulations regarding lottery eligibility and ticket sales. However, some key facts apply broadly:

– You must purchase a valid Mega Millions ticket to have a chance to win. Tickets can only be purchased from authorized retailers located in participating Mega Millions jurisdictions.

– There are no citizenship requirements to purchase a Mega Millions ticket. Non-U.S. citizens can buy tickets if they are visiting a participating Mega Millions state.

– However, to claim a Mega Millions prize, you must in almost all cases be a U.S. citizen or permanent legal resident with a Social Security number and valid identification.

So in summary, anyone can purchase a Mega Millions ticket, but collecting prizes is limited to those who meet residency and identification requirements.

Can Undocumented Immigrants Play and Win?

Undocumented immigrants living in the United States cannot legally purchase lottery tickets. Purchasing a lottery ticket counts as gambling, and undocumented immigrants are not eligible to gamble. Some states explicitly prohibit undocumented immigrants from claiming lottery prizes as well. However, requirements vary – in some states, undocumented immigrants can collect on small lottery prizes under certain conditions but not jackpots.

Can Tourists and Visitors Purchase Tickets?

Yes, tourists and other short-term visitors to the U.S. can purchase Mega Millions tickets if they are visiting one of the 46 Mega Millions jurisdictions. Every participating state allows ticket sales to non-residents. So visitors have the same opportunity to play and win as American citizens while they are traveling in the U.S.

However, in order to actually collect on large jackpot prizes, non-residents must meet other eligibility criteria.

Can Non-U.S. Citizens Claim Mega Millions Prizes?

Non-U.S. citizens can potentially win huge Mega Millions prizes. However, whether a foreigner can collect the money depends on the specific rules in the state where the winning ticket was purchased as well as the winner’s immigration status.

Some key things to know:

– In most states, you must be a U.S. lawful permanent resident with a Green Card and a Social Security number to claim a jackpot prize.

– Some states allow temporary foreign visa holders like H-1Bs and student visas to collect prizes if they meet residency requirements.

– Undocumented immigrants are disqualified from claiming prizes in all Mega Millions jurisdictions.

-U.S. citizenship is not required, only permanent residency and a Social Security number.

So if you are just visiting the U.S., you likely cannot claim a jackpot even if you purchase a winning ticket. Let’s look at some examples:

Example 1: Canadian Tourist Wins Mega Millions

John is a Canadian citizen visiting New York City on vacation. While in New York, John purchases a Mega Millions ticket and amazingly matches all five main numbers plus the Mega Ball to hit the $550 million jackpot. Despite having the winning ticket, New York laws prohibit non-resident aliens like John from collecting the full prize money. At most, John might be able to claim a small consolation prize by filing paperwork with the lottery commission.

Example 2: Australian Immigrant Wins Jackpot

Martha is an immigrant from Australia living legally in California with a Green Card and Social Security number. Martha purchases a Mega Millions ticket in Los Angeles that hits the $1 billion jackpot. Because Martha meets California’s residency requirements as a permanent resident, she can claim the full $1 billion in winnings. Her Australian citizenship does not prohibit her from collecting.

Example 3: Saudi Student Wins Mega Millions

Yusuf is a Saudi Arabia citizen studying in Ohio on a student visa. Yusuf buys a Mega Millions ticket in Cleveland that wins $50 million. Even though he only has a temporary U.S. visa, Yusuf may be able to collect his prize under Ohio’s rules for certain non-immigrant visa holders. However, he likely needs to demonstrate residency and eligibility under Ohio state laws.

As these examples show, immigration status plays a major role in whether non-U.S. citizens can claim Mega Millions prizes, even if they legally purchased a winning ticket.

Requirements to Claim Mega Millions Prizes as a Non-U.S. Citizen

In order to collect a Mega Millions jackpot as a foreigner, you must meet the residency requirements of the state where you purchased the winning ticket. Requirements vary slightly by state but generally include:

Permanent U.S. Resident With Green Card and SSN

Nearly all states require winners to have a Green Card, demonstrating you are a lawful permanent resident. You must also have a valid Social Security number. These ensure the state can verify your identity and tax your winnings.

Show Valid Identification

You will need to show valid government-issued photo ID that matches the name on your claim ticket. A passport from your home country is valid for this purpose.

Provide Proof of Residency

To collect a jackpot prize, you must prove you meet the minimum residency period established by the state where you bought the ticket. This is often 180 days, but can range from 60 days up to a full year of demonstrated residency.

Fill Out Tax Forms and Pay Taxes

Jackpot winners must pay both federal and state taxes on their winnings, which can be over 50% of the prize. As a foreigner, you will need an Individual Tax Identification Number and will be subject to a flat 30% withholding rate on your prize.

Agree to Publicity

Most states require winners agree to participate in a press conference and publicity surrounding the win. For non-citizens concerned about their immigration status, this could pose a challenge.

As you can see, the restrictions for non-U.S. citizens to actually collect Mega Millions prizes are significant and complex.

Can You Remain Anonymous if You Win?

For both citizens and non-citizens alike, winning a massive lottery prize like Mega Millions can be life-changing. Many winners prefer to remain anonymous out of concerns for their safety and privacy. However, remaining anonymous while claiming winnings can be difficult.

Rules for winner anonymity also vary by state:

– In some states, you must make your identity public to claim prizes.

– Other states allow you to collect winnings through an anonymous trust or LLC.

– A few states like Maryland, Kansas, and Ohio allow you to remain completely anonymous.

So if you wish to keep your identity secret, you would need to purchase the winning ticket in a state that specifically allows anonymous claims. This adds an additional layer of complexity for non-U.S. citizens hoping to win and collect a prize privately.

Famous Anonymous Lottery Winners

There have been some famous cases of lottery winners being able to successfully remain anonymous:

– A New Hampshire woman won a $559.7 million Powerball jackpot and filed her claim using the name “Good Karma Family 2018 Trust.”

– A South Carolina winner claimed a $1.5 billion Mega Millions prize through a limited liability company.

– Lottery officials announced an Arizona man won a $94 million prize on behalf of a trust, keeping his identity unknown.

For non-citizens concerned about deportation or scrutiny, an anonymous trust may be the safest option to claim a major Mega Millions or Powerball prize, if allowed by state law.

Taxes for Non-U.S. Citizen Jackpot Winners

As mentioned earlier, Mega Millions winners are subject to income tax in the U.S. regardless of their citizenship status. For foreigners who play and win, this entails some special tax rules:

– A flat federal tax withholding of 30% applies to the prize money of non-resident aliens.

– You may need an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) to file if you do not have a Social Security number.

– State taxes typically range from 4-8% depending on where you purchased the winning ticket.

– Your home country may also tax your winnings again when you repatriate money.

On a $500 million Mega Millions prize, over $250 million would be withheld for U.S. taxes. And your home country may levy additional taxes on the money you try to bring into the country. The tax implications must be considered carefully by foreigners hoping to take home a large Mega Millions jackpot.

Sample Tax Bill on $500 Million Mega Millions Win

Tax Amount
Federal Withholding (30%) $150 million
State Tax (8%) $40 million
Total U.S. Tax $190 million
After-Tax Winnings $310 million

As this breakdown shows, over $190 million would be paid in taxes on a $500 million Mega Millions win by a foreigner.

Other Restrictions for Non-U.S. Citizens

Aside from taxes and actually being able to claim your prize, other restrictions apply for foreigners who win Mega Millions in the United States:

Short Time Limit to Collect Winnings

Most states give jackpot winners just 60 or 90 days to come forward and claim their prize. For non-citizens still overseas, this can pose an obstacle to get to the U.S. and file in time. An expired ticket means forfeiting the prize.

Differing Age Requirements

In some states, you must be 21 years old to play the lottery. So younger foreign visitors may be prohibited from purchasing tickets or claiming winnings.

Scams Targeting Winners

Unfortunately, fraudulent scams often target lottery winners. Foreigners unfamiliar with U.S. laws can be more susceptible to these. It is important to work only with reputable financial and legal advisors when claiming a prize.

The bottom line is – foreigners face many limitations to legally purchasing tickets and successfully claiming Mega Millions prizes that U.S. citizens and residents do not. But it is possible with proper planning.

Odds of Winning Mega Millions as a Non-U.S. Citizen

The odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot are approximately 1 in 303 million, whether you are American or not. Actually collecting the money as a foreigner is statistically unlikely. You not only have to overcome the incredibly long odds of winning, but also:

– Be in the U.S. legally.
– Be visiting a state where you can claim as a non-resident.
– Have proper identification.
– Pay a hefty tax bill.

The chances are extremely slim. But dreams of instant riches continue to attract non-citizens to play Mega Millions. For nearly all, however, it remains just a fantasy.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some common questions about whether non-U.S. citizens can win Mega Millions prizes:

Can undocumented immigrants claim prizes?

No, undocumented immigrants are not eligible to purchase tickets or claim winnings in any participating Mega Millions state.

Do you have to be a U.S. citizen to purchase a ticket?

No, there are no citizenship requirements to buy a Mega Millions ticket. Tickets can legally be purchased by any foreign visitor.

Can tourists win money playing Mega Millions?

Yes, tourists can purchase tickets and potentially match winning numbers. However, they are unlikely to be able to claim major jackpot prizes without U.S. residency.

Do you have to be a resident to claim winnings?

In nearly all cases, yes. You must demonstrate U.S. residency through a Green Card or visa to claim large prizes.

Can undocumented immigrants play the lottery?

No, it is illegal for undocumented immigrants to play the lottery in all participating Mega Millions jurisdictions.

What taxes apply to non-U.S. citizens who win Mega Millions?

Non-resident aliens are subject to 30% federal tax withholding on winnings as well as state income taxes. Total taxes can exceed 50% of the prize.


In summary, nothing strictly prohibits non-U.S. citizens from purchasing Mega Millions tickets and potentially winning prizes. However, their ability to actually collect jackpot winnings is limited. Only permanent residents or certain visa holders can successfully claim prizes by meeting identification and residency requirements. And as a foreigner, you can expect to lose up to half your winnings to American taxes. While not impossible, the odds of a tourist or other foreign visitor walking away with hundreds of millions in Mega Millions prize money are extremely slim. Visiting foreigners should play Mega Millions strictly for fun, with no realistic expectations of claiming life-changing winnings. The life-altering jackpots almost exclusively end up going to very lucky American citizens and permanent residents.