High-unemployment TEAs must be located in a metropolitan statistical area (MSA) delineated by the Office of Management and Budget or in a municipality with a population greater than 20,000. Additionally, they must possess an unemployment rate 150% higher than the national average. EB-5 investors typically use data from the American Community Survey (ACS), Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS), or a combination of both sources. ACS statistics are updated every five years, and the BLS releases its data monthly. Still, many investors choose to use the BLS’s annual estimates, which are usually released in April. As mentioned previously, TEA designation will last only as long as the data remains current. The BLS’s annual statistics will remain valid for a year and are thus safer to use than the monthly data.
Rural TEAs cannot be located within a MSA nor in the borders of a city or town with a population greater than 20,000. Moreover, rural TEAs must have a population of less than 20,000 residents. The population statistics from the most recent 10-year U.S. Census must be used to prove a rural TEA’s validity.
Potential EB-5 investors must also keep in mind that their project’s TEA must qualify as such when the investment is made or when Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Investor, is filed. If a change in the area’s statistics takes place after Form I-526 is filed, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) can still designate the TEA. However, if there is a change in the area’s data before Form I-526 is filed, USCIS is unlikely to approve the TEA. EB-5 investors should be sure to use the most recent and durable data to justify their TEA designations.