There are many investment decisions that EB5 applicants can make to increase their chances of immigrating successfully. One of the foremost ways that EB5 investors reduce risks is by investing in a commercial enterprise located in targeted employment area (TEA) projects. This allows immigrant investors access to a reduced minimum investment amount of $800,000. TEAs are either high-unemployment or rural areas that can especially benefit from EB-5 investment funding. High-unemployment TEAs must have unemployment at least 150% of the national unemployment average.
To qualify as a rural area, an area must have no more than 20,000 residents; not border a municipality with a population of 20,000 or more; and not be located within a metropolitan statistical area.
The EB-5 program now offers appealing incentives to EB-5 applicants who invest in rural area projects. These incentives were introduced by the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022 (the RIA). Under the RIA, EB-5 investors in rural EB-5 projects can have their immigration applications processed faster through priority processing. In addition, foreign investors from countries with a backlog of EB-5 applications can potentially avoid years of additional wait times by investing in a rural new commercial enterprise.
Besides benefitting EB-5 visa applicants by allowing them to get U.S. Green Cards faster, rural EB-5 projects also inject funding into the areas that need it most, promoting economic growth and job creation. Many rural communities are already benefitting from this economic stimulus provided by foreign investors. As the incentives for rural TEA investment attract more EB-5 applicants—especially from China and India—we expect the volume of EB-5 funding in rural communities to increase and strengthen more local economies. A regional center sponsor who works with rural EB-5 projects will likely experience more investor demand. The regional center project component of the EB-5 program may thus benefit from rural EB5 projects as well.
Both EB-5 investors and real estate developers are encouraged to look into the many benefits of rural TEA projects. This article will answer common questions about this promising EB-5 project category.
Rural TEA Projects Create Jobs and Strengthen Rural Economies
EB-5 investment funding for real estate projects in a rural area provides numerous benefits to these communities. This type of funding is often available at below-market rates, making it a cost-effective solution for real estate developers. Developers currently face high interest rates and often need a cheaper, non-traditional source of funding through EB-5 regional centers and a new commercial enterprise.
One of the primary benefits of EB-5 investment funding in a rural area is the creation of jobs. As a requirement for the program, each EB-5 investment must create at least 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers. This infusion of job creation (both direct, indirect and induced jobs) supports the local economy. It also provides a much-needed boost for communities that may be struggling with unemployment and underemployment compared to the national average unemployment rate. This strengthens the labor force employment measure, and direct jobs establish positive economic indicators. It can also create a lasting employer employee relationship for many workers. Furthermore, EB-5 investment funding stimulates growth in rural areas. New commercial enterprise developments can lead to increased property values, which in turn generate higher tax revenues for the community. This additional income can be used to improve local infrastructure, schools, and public services, further enhancing the overall quality of life for residents.
Rural EB-5 Projects: Your Ticket to a Green Card
Rural TEA investors enjoy several unique advantages that are unprecedented in the EB-5 visa program. We now summarize some of the benefits of investing in a rural TEA project.
Set-Aside EB-5 Visas
EB-5 investors from countries with visa backlogs—namely, China and India—face extended waiting periods for their Green Cards. Investors from backlogged countries often have to wait for several additional years for their Green Cards. The RIA offers a unique solution for EB-5 investors from countries with visa backlogs. Each year, the USCIS now sets aside 32% of the total EB-5 visa quota for three investment categories: rural TEAs (20%), high-unemployment TEAs (10%), and infrastructure projects (2%).
Foreign nationals investing in these projects qualify for set-aside EB-5 visas. As long as the supply of designated EB-5 visas is available, qualifying investors are exempt from additional delays caused by the visa backlogs. These set-aside visas enable investors to “skip the line” over other investors from their country who do not qualify for set-aside visas. Chinese and Indian investors who qualify for set-aside visas will likely immigrate years faster. Although three reserved visa categories exist, rural EB5 projects offer several distinct benefits.
One unique advantage of rural EB5 projects is the lower demand compared to the number of designated visas available. Infrastructure projects are a relatively new and obscure project category. Although the demand is low, only a small number of projects qualify. Conversely, high-unemployment TEA projects are the most prevalent in the EB-5 industry. Due to their popularity, the 10% of visas reserved for this category are likely to be depleted first. Rural projects occupy a favorable position, with a generous supply of designated visas and lower demand for this project category. Investing in rural projects provides advantages for all EB-5 investors, with those living outside the United States benefiting the most. Unlike applicants holding U.S. non-immigrant visas who can immediately adjust their immigrant status after investing, applicants residing abroad often face lengthy waiting periods before they can immigrate. Set-aside visas for rural projects can significantly reduce that waiting time.
The RIA offers “priority processing” for Form I-526E for rural TEA new commercial enterprise investors. With processing times for Form I-526E increasing, priority processing adds significant value to rural projects.
To learn more about the benefits of rural TEA projects, we invite you to watch the following video:
Applying for a Green Card through a Rural TEA project
While obtaining a U.S. Green Card through the EB-5 program is a multi-year process, investing in a rural targeted employment area project can shorten the wait times. We now provide a brief overview of the EB-5 investment process.
- Identify a USCIS-compliant and financially strong EB-5 project (that is, a new commercial enterprise) with a reliable regional center sponsor.
- Invest the minimum investment of $800,000 in the project.
- File Form I-526E for a conditional Green Card.
- Upon I-526E approval, apply for your two-year conditional Green Card and immigrate. (Investors already in the U.S. can simply adjust their immigration status by filing Form I-485 concurrently with Form I-526E.)
- Within the final 90 days of the two-year conditional permanent residency, file Form I-829.
- Upon I-829 approval, receive a permanent U.S. Green Card.
Rural EB5 TEA Projects: Your Questions Answered
For more guidance on how to get a U.S. Green Card through a rural EB5 project, schedule a free consultation with EB5AN. This can help clarify any questions related to investing in a commercial enterprise, regional centers, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, or other aspects of the EB-5 investment process.