To obtain official TEA designation for their EB-5 projects, investors must apply to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
A targeted employment area (TEA) is an area with high unemployment or a rural area. Since these areas need economic development and would be strengthened by EB-5 investments, the required amount for projects located in TEAs is currently $900,000—significantly lower than the standard $1,800,000. Therefore, it is usually easier to find the required number of investors for EB-5 projects located in TEAs.
High unemployment TEAs must possess unemployment rates that are at least 150% of the current national average. These areas can have populations greater than 20,000 and can be located in or outside metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs).
Rural TEAs, in contrast, are only designated as such if they are not in an MSA or on the borders of a city or town with a population of more than 20,000. Note that the population figures must be according to the most recent 10-year U.S. census.
Regardless of what kind of TEA is in question, investors must submit their applications directly to USCIS. Their application must prove that the area qualifies based on its high unemployment or rural status. For high unemployment TEAs, investors must include current unemployment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For rural TEAs, investors must submit geographic data and population figures from the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. Investors should always include third-party statistical data regarding unemployment and/or the population in the prospective TEA.
Areas that were previously designated as TEAs may no longer qualify as such; each investor must make sure that the area qualifies at the time of investment or at the time of filing the I-526 petition.
If an investor wants to invest the standard amount of $1,800,000 instead of the reduced amount of $900,000, they do not need to obtain TEA designation.