Targeted Employment Areas (TEAs)

Targeted employment area (TEA) is an EB-5 designation created by Congress to encourage EB-5 investment in areas of need. There are two kinds of TEAS, 'High Unemployment' and 'Rural'.

TEA investment amounts

Investments that are made into a targeted employment area only require a $800,000 investment rather than the standard $1,050,000 investment. TEAs are designated as either high-unemployment TEAs and rural TEAs. Infrastructure projects are not officially given TEA status but share similar characteristics with TEAs.

High unemployment TEAs

To qualify as a high-unemployment TEA, an area must have at least 150% of the national U.S. average unemployment rate. 

High-unemployment TEAs can now only include the census tract of the investment project and directly adjacent census tracts. This new definition, created by the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022 (RIA), is stricter than the one allowed by the previous regulations.

Contrary to the prior regulations, when individual states held such authority, now only the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services can make TEA designations. High-unemployment designation is valid for two years and can be renewed in two-year increments.

The RIA has established an annual set-aside of 10% of all EB-5 visas for investments made in high-unemployment TEAs. These set-asides offer post-RIA investors a potentially immediately available visa upon I-526E or I-526 approval, even if they are from a backlogged country.

Rural TEAs

To qualify as a rural TEA, an area must be outside a metropolitan statistical area (defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget as having at least one urbanized area a population of 50,000 or more), and outside the outer boundary of a city or town with a population of 20,000 or more (based on the most recent decennial census).

The RIA has established an annual set-aside of 20% of all EB-5 visas for investments made in high-unemployment TEAs. These set-asides offer post-RIA investors a potentially immediately available visa upon I-526E or I-526 approval, even if they are from a backlogged country. 

Additionally, rural visas offer priority processing, which has yet to be defined by USCIS but is expected by many immigration lawyers to be around one year.

Infrastructure projects

The EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022 delineates between “targeted employment areas” and “infrastructure” projects; however, infrastructure projects are treated similarly to TEA projects as they have the same investment amount of $800,000 and also have a visa set-aside (2% of the EB-5 total.).

Data that is acceptable to prove TEA status

EB-5 regulations do not strictly limit the types of data that can be used but it does specifically say that two types are acceptable: BLS data (Bureau of Labor Statistics) and ACS data (American Community Survey). 

Often either methodology will produce the same determination, but this is not always the case. A popular methodology, census share, combines both sets of data to arrive at a designation answer. 

Best practices for TEA determination

As high-unemployment qualification is the result of ever-shifting data, it is recommended that investors and their team use the latest data available, and should consult with an economist or a professional who is experienced with TEA designation.

Adjustments to EB-5 investment amounts

Every five years beginning on January 1, 2027, the minimum TEA amount shall increase to reflect the cumulative annual percentage change of the Unadjusted Consumer Price Index; the new investment amount shall be rounded down to the nearest $50,000. 

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