The EB-5 program allows investors from all over the world to get a Green Card by investing in a Commercial Business in the United States and creation or preservation of 10 permanent full-time jobs for qualified U.S. workers. Foreigners can invest in either pre-approved Regional Centers or in Commercial businesses. The amount of investment will depend on the location of the project: The normal minimum for investment is $1,050,000, however, if the investment is made in a Targeted Employment Area (TEA), then the minimum investment is $800,000.

Targeted Employment Area (TEA)

What is TEA?

The abbreviation TEA stands for Targeted Employment Area. The United States government classifies a TEA as either a rural area or an area that has experienced high unemployment (defined as at least 150% of the national average unemployment rate). 

The government has set a reduced investment requirement in TEAs, as it is interested in attracting funds for the development of infrastructure and the improvement of the labor market in these regions.

Benefits of investing in TEA:

• Reduced investment – from $800,000

• Priority of EB-5 Visas: 20% reserved for projects in rural areas; 10% reserved for projects in areas with high unemployment; 2% reserved for infrastructure projects.

Besides, the U.S. government plans to carry out an expedited review of petitions from TEA project investors. With the adoption of the new rules of the EB-5 program in March 2022, a new maximum time limit of 120 days has been enshrined in U.S. law for the review of petitions in the Targeted Employment Areas. This will be the goal after all existing petitions have been reviewed.

However it is hard to predict when promised by law processing time would be real. 

As of September 2022, processing times for I-526 petitions are approximately 58 months, and U.S. Customs and immigration Services have a backlog of approximately 13000  pending petitions. 

Which territories are qualified as TEAs?

The latest definition of a Targeted Employment Area (TEA) was enshrined in the new law of March, 2022. At the time of filing a petition, the project area must meet one of two requirements:

Rural area

This category includes localities with up to 20,000 inhabitants and territories bordering them. Such a locality must not be a suburb of a larger city.

Areas with high unemployment

The project must be located either within an area with an unemployment rate greater than 150% of the national average rate, or in a neighboring census tract which is close to it. The weighted average unemployment rate for both census tracts must be at least 150% of the national average rate.

Economists are guided by the unemployment rate containing in official reports (ACS) and LAUS, recognized by the Immigration Service.

Evidence of TEA status

Under the EB-5 program, there is a requirement for evidence of a qualifying TEA for the territory where the project will be implemented with a reduced investment of $800,000. Evidence of a project’s TEA eligibility is collected by economists and legally established by the United States Department of Homeland Security. The opportunity to accept investors with a reduced investment amount of $800,000 remains for two years after the submission of the project business plan via form I956F, or for two years after the transfer of investments within your own business, even if the territory where the project will be implemented has ceased to meet TEA requirements.

Regional Centers most often offer projects to investors on the TEA territory. The convenience of working with regional centers also lies in the fact that they collect all the necessary documentary evidence of TEA eligibility. However, if you choose to invest through your own business, you will have to deal with it yourself, engaging competent economists and lawyers.

The IIUSA portal publishes a list of areas designated as TEAs. When filing a petition for an EB-5 Visa, the investor or representatives of the Regional Center must collect evidence that the project is being implemented in TEA in order to qualify for the reduced investment minimums.