TEA Definition: High Unemployment Areas

Under the new regulations published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and went into effective on November 21, 2019, a Targeted Employment Area (TEA) can be either 1) a rural area or 2) a high-unemployment area.

A high-unemployment area may be any of the following areas, if that area is where the new commercial enterprise is principally doing business and the area has experienced an average unemployment rate of at least 150% of the national average unemployment rate:

  • An MSA (metropolitan statistical area);
  • A specific county in an MSA;
  • A county in which a city or town with a population of 20,000 or more is located; or
  • A city or town with a population of 20,000 or more outside of an MSA.

A high-unemployment area may also consist of the census tract or contiguous census tracts in which the new commercial enterprise is principally doing business, which may include any or all directly adjacent census tracts, if the weighted average unemployment for the specified area based on the labor force employment measure for each tract is 150% of the national unemployment average.

It is important to note that, USCIS allows for a high unemployment area to be an area comprised of the project tract(s) and any or all of the directly adjacent tract(s), if the weighted average of the unemployment rate for all included tracts is at least 150% of the national average.

With that, even if one census tract does not independently qualify as a TEA but it “touches” one or more high-unemployment tract(s), it could still meet the new TEA criteria as long as the weighted average unemployment rate of the entire area that consist of both the project tract and the directly adjacent census tract(s) is 150% or higher of the national average.

(Example of the new TEA definition on NPRM)

TEA Mapping Tool: High Unemployment Areas

The mapping below visualizes the areas (tracts, counties, cities/towns, and MSAs) that will independently qualify as a high unemployment area in accordance with the new regulations, using U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) 5-Year estimates (2014-2018) and Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) 1-Year data (2018) with census-share methodology.

Under these two sets of data, the national average unemployment rate is:

  • based on ACS: 5.9% – the threshold to qualify as a high unemployment area is 8.85% (150% of the national average);
  • based on LAUS: 3.9% – the threshold to qualify as a high unemployment area is 5.85%.

However, it is also important to point out two caveats of this mapping tool:

  • The new regulation does not provide one specific set of data for the determination of a TEA. Instead, as it’s noted in the final rule, “the burden is on the petitioner to provide DHS with evidence documenting that the area in which the petitioner has invested is a high unemployment area, and such evidence should be reliable and verifiable.”
    • For example, in addition to the ACS data and the LAUS data on this mapping tool, there could be other “reliable and verifiable” data sets accepted by USCIS.
    • That means, the areas that do not qualify under the ACS or LAUS data sets on this mapping tool could still qualify as a TEA using other “reliable and verifiable” data sources. Read the final rule here.
  • According to the new regulations, a high unemployment area is allowed to be an area comprised of the project tract(s) and any or all of the directly adjacent tract(s), if the weighted average of the unemployment rate for all included tracts is at least 150% of the national average.
    • With that, even if one census tract does not independently qualify as a TEA on the map but it “touches” one or more high-unemployment tract(s), it could still meet the new TEA criteria as long as the weighted average unemployment rate of the entire area that consist of both the project tract and the directly adjacent census tract(s) is 150% or higher of the national average.
    • Although the mapping tool does not yet have the feature to allow combining census tracts, it visualizes all of the independent high-unemployment census tract(s) that “touch” any given location and provides the data you need to perform the calculation.

 This mapping tool:

  • VISUALIZES all the areas (census tracts, counties, cities, and MSAs) that could independently qualify as a high unemployment area using ACS data and LAUS data;
  • TELLS you under which dataset (ACS data and/or LAUS data) the census tract of your selection will meet the required unemployment rate threshold;
  • DEMONSTRATES all the adjacent tracts to your search location, empowering you with the data to calculate the weighted average unemployment rate of an area comprised of the project tract(s) and any or all of the adjacent tract(s);
  • PROVIDES you with pertinent data such as unemployment rate and civilian labor force data for each census tract, county, MSA, and city or town with a population of 20,000 or more*;
Launch the mapping tool

Disclaimer: The updated mapping tool is for education purpose only (i.e. not legal advice). While IIUSA is pleased to provide the TEA mapping tool and help identify potential high-unemployment areas for current or future projects, you should consult with the necessary and qualified EB-5 professionals for an in-depth TEA review and analysis.

Key Statistics

Based on U.S. Census Bureau’s ACS 5-Year estimates (2014-2018) ….

Based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ LAUS 1-Year estimates (2018) with census-share methodology ….

Tips for Using the Mapping Tool

1. Search an Address or a City

You can search any location in the U.S., whether it’s a specific address or the name of a city.

Once you enter the address and select a location at the search bar, the map will take you to the search result and show you whether the selected census tract will qualify as a high unemployment area.

2. Check Both ACS and LAUS Data.

The map is updated with the latest 5-year employment statistics (2014 – 2018) from Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS).

In addition, the latest 1-year unemployment data (2018) from the Bureau of Statistics’ Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) is also added to the map! LAUS data on census tract level is calculated using the census-share methodology with the latest ACS statistics.

Census tracts that would qualify as a high unemployment area under either ACS data or LAUS data are highlighted in red on the map. The new data panel also provides you with the employment statistics from both data sources for your information.

3. View More In-depth Analysis on High Unemployment Area Qualification.

Click any census tract on the map, the new data panel on on the map will tell you whether a selected tract will independently qualify as a high unemployment area (HUA).

Furthermore, if the tract qualifies as a HUA, the data panel also tells you under which dataset (ACS and/or BLS LAUS) the tract’s unemployment rate will meet the required threshold!

4. Census Tract Not Independently Qualify as a High Unemployment Area? Examine Adjacent Tract(s)!

If the selected census tract does not qualify as a high unemployment area by itself, the map show whether there is any high unemployment area (a “red” census tract) directly adjacent to the tract of your selection.

If any combination of your project tract and its adjacent tract(s) has a weighted average unemployment rate that is at least 150% of the national average, your project location could still qualify as a TEA under the new regulations.

Simply use the map to examine adjacent census tracts and retrieve the unemployment rate as well as the civilian labor force statistics to calculate the weighted average unemployment rate of the entire area.

5. Check If a Census Tract is Located within a High-Unemployment County/MSA/City/Town?

The map also visualizes counties, MSAs, cities or towns that will qualify as a high unemployment area in its entirety.

If a census tract itself does not meet the high unemployment rate threshold, the map shows you whether a selected tract is located within a high-unemployment county, MSA, or city/town.

6. Data on all levels: Census Tracts, Counties, MSAs, and Large Cities/Towns

Click any census tract on the map, the new data panel will provide you with all pertinent information for different geographical levels, including:

  • Census tract name and geography (county, city/town, MSA, and state);
  • Census tract qualification as a high unemployment area;
  • Employment rates and labor force statistics not only just for a census tract, but also for the county, MSA, and city/town in which the tract is located.

7. Show Map Legends & Send Us Your Questions.

Confused by the color code and emojis on the map? Just click the “Show Map Legends” button on the upper left side of the map to view the explanation of the color codes and symbols.

In addition, click the “Questions?” button on top of the map to send us your questions or feedback.

Questions on the mapping tool? Please email lee.li@iiusa.org or give us a call at 202-795-9669.