A Targeted Employment Area (TEA) is a region of the United States for which the threshold for investment for an investor to be eligible for the EB-5 visa is $500,000 (as opposed to the usual $1,000,000 threshold for the US as a whole). There are two kinds of TEAs: high unemployment areas (defined as areas having unemployment more than 150% the national average calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics) and rural areas (defined as areas outside a Metropolitan Statistical Area).
There are two kinds of TEAs recognized by the USCIS: rural areas and high unemployment areas. An area can be designated as a TEA if, at the time of application, it is a rural area. This is defined as an area that is not within either a metropolitan statistical area (MSA) (as designated by the Office of Management and Budget) or the outer boundary of any city or town having a population of 20,000 or more. An area can be designated as a TEA based on high unemployment if it has experienced unemployment of at least 150% of the national average rate as determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
There is no centralized list of targeted employment areas, but stage agencies in various states maintain their own lists or criteria for identifying TEAs, as well as information on local unemployment rates that can be cited in applications. Various US states facilitate the process by allowing people to apply for certification for particular areas being designated as TEAs. USCIS defers to state determinations but periodically reviews the criteria used by states to confirm that they comply with its guidelines.
In addition, there are privately collected information sources on unemployment by census tract that can help investors identify TEAs. Immigration restriction website VDARE has been critical of expansive definitions of TEAs and the efforts made by state and municipal bodies to have their areas designated as TEAs.