This question has appeared a couple of times in Green Card Lottery forums and really, the problem is the question itself. It is a trick question because the answer is both yes and no.
The simplest answer to this question is yes. Anyone can apply for the Green Card Lottery, and the only disqualifying conditions at the lottery stage of the matter are:
- Eligible countries and
- Basic education or work experience requirements.
There is simply no mention of whether or not you can be undocumented and currently living in the United States or elsewhere.
However, the process to getting Permanent Residency through the Green Card Lottery is two-fold. There is first the lottery, which selects about 100,000 applicants as winners every year. Then, out of these, approximately 50,000 are actually given Green Cards, the rest of the lottery winners being disqualified during the Adjustment of Status process.
Being an undocumented immigrant in the United States is one thing that will absolutely disqualify you from being able to apply for a Green Card. Though you can potentially apply for the Green Card Lottery, you cannot get a Green Card as an undocumented resident, so there really is no point.
There is a way around this, but that involves you having to leave the country for a specified period of time. Depending upon how long you have been undocumented this could be anywhere between five and ten years.
Upon completion of this required bar time, you may then apply for the Green Card Lottery confident that you will not be denied Permanent Residency based on previous undocumented status.