I work for the local government of a small rural county and have heard that TEA state certified areas have better chances of boosting employment rates and also boosting other economic areas. Is TEA “certificate” something that a local government can apply for? Who decides whether one certain area is qualified as a TEA or not? Where do I get a list of qualified TEAs?
The USCIS used to allow individual states to determine TEA designations. However, the USCIS now makes this determination when adjudicating the Form I-526. You can include a TEA opinion letter explaining to the USCIS why the area qualifies as a TEA.
Anyone can apply for a TEA letter from the designated state authority. Usually, TEA letters are requested by regional centers and direct EB-5 investors, or their attorneys, prior to making the investment and prior to an investor filing an I-526 petition. A TEA letter might not be of any direct benefit to a local government entity, other than to attract potential EB-5 investors and/or developers to invest in or start a project in your area.
At the state level, TEAs are usually designated by either the state''s department of economic development (or planning) or department of labor. Contact any of these state agencies. Also, those agencies keep the records and statistical information regarding employment /labor/economic growth. Some of these state agencies may not have a ready-made TEA map for virtually each local government area throughout the state until they are consulted, but they have EB-5 analysis units with dedicated staff who can produce the TEA information upon request. Advisably, consult the economic development of your state.
Census Bureau reports.
In general, a targeted employment area is a high unemployment area or a rural area as defined by detailed rules in the applicable federal regulations. I would be happy to provide you with legal advice concerning how your rural county could utilize the EB-5 program to raise capital from foreign national investors for business projects in your county.
Each State chooses an agency (usually the State Labor Department/Agency) and gives it authority to designate TEAs based on 1) Census tracts 2) using the unemployment data of the area, etc.
By statute the governor of each state would make a determination as to whether or not the designated area meets the qualifications for a Target Economic Area (TEA). However, the governor is also authorized to delegate that authority to local officials, be it the mayor or chief county official. Depending upon your state you would have to determine whether or not the governor has made such a determination by contacting the office of the governor and if so, obtaining a letter signed by the appropriate governor making the determination in question. It may well be that your top county official has the authority to make a TEA designation. You would get a list of qualified TEAs only if one has been compiled for your particular state by the appropriate official; for example, a city under the auspices of the economic development arm of the city may make such determination on a citywide basis. On the other hand, in the vast majority of counties and cities there will not be any pre-determinations.
If your county is not in a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) as defined by the U.S. Census, and each city or town within the county has a population of fewer than 20,000 people, then it might qualify as a "rural" area as defined by EB-5 law. A state government, nor USCIS, is responsible for making such a "rural" TEA determination as it qualifies as a matter of law. TEA determinations are currently made by each state's governor office (as they prescribe) and then provided to USCIS with each investor's initial petition (Form I-526). There are specific rules for how to determine what falls under the "rural" requirements for EB-5 purposes. Consult an experienced EB-5 lawyer for further guidance.
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