What is a Target Employment Area

Getting an EB-5 project a targeted employment area (TEA) designation can be incredibly important for EB-5 investors. The required EB-5 investment amount is lowered from $1 million to $500,000 dollars if the EB-5 project is conducted in a targeted employment area. In order to be designated as a TEA, the EB-5 project must be located in either a rural area or in a location that has high unemployment. Targeted employment area designation is requested within the EB-5 investor’s I-526 petition. If you invest in a regional center, they will let you know if their projects are located in a TEA.

What is a TEA rural area?

There is a specific set of criteria that an EB-5 project location must meet to qualify as a TEA rural area. Rural areas must not be within a metropolitan statistical area as labeled by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. A rural area must also not be on the outskirts of a town or city that has a population of 20,000 residents or more as determined through the U.S. Census. If the project location is a rural area at the time of the EB-5 investment, then it may be designated as a TEA.

What is a TEA high unemployment area?

An EB-5 project location must experience an unemployment rate of at least 150 percent of the U.S. national average to receive TEA designation due to high unemployment. High unemployment areas must also be in a county or metropolitan statistical location that has a population of 20,000 residents or more. An EB-5 project can receive TEA designation if the principal location of the project is located in a high unemployment area at the time the EB-5 investment is made.

How to get TEA Designation

Targeted employment area designation is adjudicated as part of the I-526 application. The EB-5 visa applicant must provide sufficient evidence that their project is located within a rural or high unemployment area by submitting a TEA designation letter to USCIS. There are several forms of evidence that can be used to prove that the EB-5 investment will be administered within a TEA. Some tips for acquiring sufficient TEA designation evidence includes:

  • Contacting the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic’s Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) office to obtain published technical bulletins
  • Getting a letter from state government body to provide rural area or high unemployment area evidence
  • Providing other statistical documentation

If the EB-5 investment meets the $1 million threshold, there is no need for state involvement in the TEA designation process. If, however, the investment is made at the $500,000 state involvement may be necessary, though it is not essential. TEA designation can be pursued in one of two ways:

  1. TEA designation through USCIS Designation by USCIS requires the applicant to submit evidence (examples given above) that the location of the new commercial enterprise in which the applicant is investing has an average unemployment rate of 150 percent of the national average.
  2. TEA designation by the state government The applicant can submit a letter from an authorized state government body stating that the location of the new commercial enterprise has been designated a high unemployment area.

Designated TEAs

Some states provide a certified list of targeted employment areas that have already been identified (listed below), but certifications are still issued on an individual basis.