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.

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 (2013-2017).

Under this set of data, the national average unemployment rate is 6.6%, so the threshold to qualify as a high unemployment area is 9.9% (150% of the national average).

 

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 on this mapping tool, USCIS also deems unemployment data from Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also qualifies as a “reliable and verifiable” data set. That means, the areas that do not qualify under the ACS data set 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 (tracts, counties, cities, and MSAs) that could independently quality as a high unemployment area using ACS data;
  • provides unemployment and civilian labor force data for each census tract, county, MSA, and city or town with a population of 20,000 or more*;
  • allows you to search any location in the U.S. and check whether the project tract would independently qualify as a high unemployment area; and
  • demonstrates all the tracts that are directly adjacent 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);
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 (2013-2017) ….

Tips for Using the Mapping Tool

Click any area on the map

You can click any area on the map to view whether the census tract of your selection will independently qualify as a high unemployment area.

The data panel at the bottom of the mapping tool also provides you the unemployment rate and civilian labor force statistics of the selected census tract.

In addition, the data panel also display other related indicators for county, MSA, and city/town in which the selected tract is located, checking whether each one of the indicators would meet the corresponding requirements to qualify as a high unemployment area.

Search any U.S. address using the search bar

If you are looking for whether a specific location would qualify as a high unemployment area, enter the address on the search bar.

The mapping tool will take you to the search location, show you all the census tracts that are directly adjacent to the tract in which your search result is located.

Click through the census tract(s). All related data indicator will be displayed on the data panel at the bottom of the mapping tool.

If the project tract does not qualify as a high unemployment area by itself, but there are high unemployment area (census tracts in “red”) touching your project tract, the location could still qualify as a TEA by incorporating those tracts adjacent to your project tract. Simply use the mapping tool to retrieve the unemployment data and the civilian labor force statistics of any adjacent tract(s) and calculate the weighted average unemployment rate of the entire area.

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