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What is a “rural” targeted employment area (TEA)?

For EB-5 purposes, “rural” means any area not located within a metropolitan statistical area (MSA) or on the borders of a municipality that has a population of 20,000 or more. If both requirements are met, foreign nationals who invest in a rural targeted employment area (TEA) project gain the benefit of a lower minimum investment threshold—only $800,000. (The non-TEA minimum investment amount is $1,050,000). TEA designation does not affect what type of new commercial enterprise (NCE) can be created, nor does it alter the EB-5 program’s employment creation requirement.

To prove that their EB-5 projects are indeed located within a rural TEA, investors must gather data and documentation on the area’s location and population. All population data used to prove the validity of a rural TEA must be derived from the latest 10-year U.S. Census. Since United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is in charge of designating TEAs, the evidence submitted by investors must be clear and extracted from reliable sources.

Foreign nationals planning an EB-5 investment should also note that the project’s area needs to qualify as a TEA when the investment is made or when Form I-526 is submitted to (USCIS). This requirement is important because population data may change over time. If an investor submits Form I-526 but the population statistics change thereafter, USCIS can still designate the area as a rural TEA. However, if the population data changes before the investor submits their I-526 petition, USCIS is unlikely to grant TEA designation. EB-5 investors should take great care to use the most recent and accurate data available to support their TEA designation. Form I-829, which is filed toward the end of an investor’s conditional residency, does not need to prove that the project is in a TEA.

Many investors use geographic and population data taken from the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. It may also be advisable to include third-party documentation to further support the TEA’s validity.