Long-standing evidence indicates that human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) preferentially integrates into a subset of transcriptionally active genes of the host cell genome. However, the reason why the virus selects only certain genes among all transcriptionally active regions in a target cell remains largely unknown. Here we show that HIV-1 integration occurs in the outer shell of the nucleus in close correspondence with the nuclear pore. This region contains a series of cellular genes, which are preferentially targeted by the virus, and characterized by the presence of active transcription chromatin marks before viral infection. In contrast, the virus strongly disfavours the heterochromatic regions in the nuclear lamin-associated domains and other transcriptionally active regions located centrally in the nucleus. Functional viral integrase and the presence of the cellular Nup153 and LEDGF/p75 integration cofactors are indispensable for the peripheral integration of the virus. Once integrated at the nuclear pore, the HIV-1 DNA makes contact with various nucleoporins; this association takes part in the transcriptional regulation of the viral genome. These results indicate that nuclear topography is an essential determinant of the HIV-1 life cycle.