A TEA (Targeted Employee Area) letter can be extremely important for an EB-5 Visa application. Getting one of these letters can decrease the total amount that an investor needs to contribute for a successful EB-5 project by 50%
What is a TEA Letter and Why is it Important?
A TEA letter provides proof to the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) that the intended site of an investor’s EB-5 project has been designated a targeted employment area.
USCIS defines a targeted employment area as either an area with a population under 20,000 people, or an area with higher than average unemployment.
If qualifying as a rural area, the TEA has to have less than 20,000 people according to a recent census and be outside of any nearby metropolitan statistical area.
If the TEA exists due to unemployment, it has to have at least 150% of the national average unemployment rate.
Dealing with Census Tracts for Eligibility
In order to establish TEA eligibility for an EB-5 project, you first have to identify the census tract where the EB-5 project will be located. This requires having the exact address and consulting a TEA map containing the most recent census data to figure out whether a location is eligible and qualifies as a TEA. An interactive map can be found at the EB5 Affiliate Network’s website.
After that, you'll contact the relevant state agency with the project address and request a TEA letter.
Why Assessing Local Tracts Can Make a Difference
What if your particular tract does not qualify as a TEA on either population or unemployment rate?
You could consider an alternative location for the EB-5 project or in other cases, contiguous census tracts may be considered together in calculating TEA eligibility, helping you achieve the TEA designation.
In order to qualify for TEA eligibility, the business’ headquarters needs to fall within the census tract that qualifies as a TEA. That doesn't mean that employees of the business can't do work outside the TEA area, it just means that the central business address will need to be in that particular census tract that has qualified as the TEA for the EB-5 project.