Targeted Employment Area (TEA) for EB-5 US Visa

What is a Targeted Employment Area (TEA) for EB-5 Visa Investment?

A Targeted Employment Area (TEA) is an area that is either rural or has experienced unemployment of at least 150% of the national average at the time of application and investment. The EB-5 program encourages the establishment of new businesses and projects that will generate employment opportunities for the local population by directing investment towards these TEAs.

What is Targeted Employment Area (TEA) Designation?

A Targeted Employment Area (TEA) designation refers to a special classification assigned to certain geographic areas in the United States, particularly those characterized by a need for economic development and job creation. The designation of Targeted Employment Areas is exclusively under the authority of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a sub-agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

How Does USCIS Evaluate TEAs in the EB-5 Visa Application Process?

The USCIS evaluates whether the investment is situated in a Targeted Employment Area (TEA) as part of the EB-5 visa application process. There is also a review during the I-924 project exemplar process for projects in TEAs seeking preapproval. The applicant or project sponsor must provide sufficient evidence to establish that the EB-5 project is in a rural or high unemployment TEA. These requirements and evidence are as follows.

  • Data on the area’s geography and population from the U.S. Office of Management and Budget
  • Recent unemployment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) office
  • Other statistical documents about local unemployment and population

What are the Qualifications for Rural and High Unemployment Area for TEA?

An area must not be situated on the outskirts of a town or city with 20,000 or more residents, nor can it be located inside a metropolitan statistical area (MSA) to qualify as a rural TEA. A high unemployment area must have a rate of unemployment that is at least 150% higher than the national average for the US to qualify as a high unemployment TEA.

Why Invest in a Rural TEA Project?

  • Reduced Minimum Investment Amount: EB-5 investors in Targeted Employment Areas (TEAs) can invest a lower amount of $800,000 instead of the standard $1,050,000.
  • Priority Processing: Rural TEA projects offer “priority processing” for Form I-526E, which speeds up the immigration process for EB-5 investors. The priority processing is especially beneficial for those outside the United States.
  • Reserved EB-5 Visas: Investors in rural projects get reserved EB-5 visas, allowing them to skip the regular line and avoid delays faced by investors from countries with EB-5 visa backlogs.

When will the TEA for EB-5 Minimum Investment Amount Change?

Future changes concerning the investment amount will be linked to inflation measured by the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U). These adjustments will happen every 5 years, starting in 2024. The minimum investment amount increased to $1,050,000 from $1,000,000 for EB-5 petitions filed on or after March 15, 2022. The investment amount for projects in TEAs increased to $800,000 from $500,000, which now includes investments in infrastructure projects within these areas.

Are there Low-Risk Rural TEA Projects?

Every rural TEA project carries a certain degree of risk. However, investors can mitigate that financial and immigration risk by considering various factors such as the capital structure, industry of the project, and credentials of the developer and regional center.

Capital Structure

EB-5 projects need to have a balanced capital structure that is independent of EB-5 investment in order to be completed. A rural TEA project can be low-risk if it is already under construction, can be completely financed without EB-5 capital, and has acquired a senior construction loan from a major bank.


Rural TEA projects with rapid revenue generation and little reliance on projections are excellent options for EB-5 investors who are aiming for low-risk projects. Single-family home developments are especially suitable as low-risk TEA projects. Projects involving single-family homes can modify the pace of construction in response to market demand and require less money upfront. Revenues from house sales can also be put back into the TEA project.


Investors in EB-5 projects must seek out TEA projects with respectable sponsors and regional centers. The developer and regional center of a project must possess prior experience in organizing successful EB-5 offerings and must have a track record of accomplishment with the similar projects. The regional center must to have a history of adhering to all USCIS regulations, particularly those pertaining to employment creation.

What are Immigrant Visa Set-Asides and Why Do They Benefit TEA Investors the Most?

Immigrant Visa Set-Asides are a new category of reserved visas under the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program created by the United States Congress by virtue of the passage of the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act (RIA) in March 2022. The EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act allocates 32% of EB-5 immigrant visas each fiscal year for qualified investors in specific areas: 20% for Rural Areas, 10% for High Unemployment Areas, and 2% for Infrastructure Projects. Any unused set-aside visas are retained in the same category for an additional fiscal year, and if still unused after the second year, they become available to unreserved EB-5 immigrant visa numbers in the third fiscal year.

The benefits an EB-5 investor gets from investing in TEA projects are the following.

  • Offers the largest supply of set-aside visas at 20%, surpassing high-unemployment TEA and infrastructure categories
  • Enjoys the exclusive benefit of priority processing for Form I-526E

How to Obtain a Set-Aside EB-5 Visa?

  1. An EB-5 investor must first choose a qualifying project in one of the three set-aside categories — rural targeted employment area (TEA), high-unemployment TEA, or public infrastructure — to obtain a set-aside EB-5 visa.
  2. An EB-5 investor must submit Form I-526E to USCIS for approval.
  3. An EB-5 investor must proceed with consular processing if outside the U.S., or file Form I-485 if already within the country after approval. The initial visa, valid for two years, is conditional and can be made permanent by removing conditions through Form I-829.

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