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EB-5 Investor Visa Program

UPDATED POLICY: The state of California has changed its policy and will now provide customized Targeted Employment Area (TEA) certifications for projects that qualify under the new state guidelines. Eligible TEAs include metropolitan statistical area, counties, cities, or individual census tracts with qualifying high unemployment that are not in already designated metropolitan statistical areas, counties, or cities. (See below: “Certified List of Targeted Employment Area (TEA) in California.”)

Program Summary

Under federal law, 10,000 immigrant visas per year are available to qualified individuals seeking permanent resident status on the basis of their engagement in a new commercial enterprise. This visa program is popularly called the EB-5 visa program.

Permanent resident status based on EB-5 eligibility might be available to investors who have invested – or are actively in the process of investing – at least $1,000,000 into a new commercial enterprise that they have established. A new commercial enterprise includes: the creation of an original business, the purchase of an existing business and restructuring or reorganizing the business to the extent that a new commercial enterprise results, or expanding upon an existing business. An applicant seeking status as an immigrant investor must demonstrate that his/her investment will benefit the United States economy and create full-time employment for no fewer than ten qualified individuals, or maintain the number of existing employees in a “troubled business”.

If the investment in a new commercial enterprise is made in a Targeted Employment Area (TEA), the required investment is decreased to the $500,000 investment level. A TEA is either a “high unemployment area” in an urban setting (being part of a metropolitan statistical area) that has experienced an unemployment rate of at least 150 percent of the national average rate or a “rural area”.

Applicants to the EB-5 visa program must demonstrate that they meet all requirements of the program prior to filing with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). If it is determined that the investment criteria is met and properly documented, an investor may be granted conditional permanent residence status for a period of two years. At the end of the conditional period a permanent green card may be issued. An investor may apply for U.S. citizenship five years after the initial grant of conditional permanent residence.

EB-5 Visa Program is a Federal Government Program

The EB-5 visa program is administered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and is therefore governed by federal laws and regulations. It is not a program administered by a state agency, and is therefore not governed by California State law.

For more detailed information about the EB-5 visa program, its laws and administration please visit

State Involvement in the EB-5 Visa Program

There is no state involvement needed if the investment in the new commercial enterprise meets or exceeds the $1,000,000 investment level. Such investment may be made in any location in the United States and without respect to high unemployment in the area. If the investment in the new commercial enterprise is made at the $500,000 investment level, state involvement may be necessary in designating the area of the enterprise as a TEA. However, state designation is not essential. Pursuant to the EB-5 federal regulations, there are two ways for a visa applicant to show that the area in which the new commercial enterprise is going to principally do business is a high unemployment area.

A) Designation of TEA by USCIS- Designation or acknowledgement of a TEA by the USCIS could be achieved by the visa applicant submitting “evidence” that the metropolitan statistical area, the specific county within a metropolitan statistical area, or the county in which a city or town with a population of 20,000 or more is located, in which the new commercial enterprise is principally doing business has experienced an average unemployment rate of 150% of the national average rate. This process is available pursuant to 8 CFR §204.6(j)(6)(ii)(A).

B) Designation of TEA by state government- A letter from an authorized body of the government of the state in which the new commercial enterprise is located which certifies that the geographic or political subdivision of the metropolitan statistical area or of the city or town with a population of 20,000 or more in which the enterprise is principally doing business has been designated a high unemployment area. This process is available pursuant to 8 CFR §204.6(j)(6)(ii)(B).

Certified List of Targeted Employment Area (TEA) in California

In order to aid investors who would like to apply for an EB-5 visa with the $500,000 per investment level in a new commercial enterprise in California, the State will post the list of the designated areas but the certifications will be issued on an individual basis.

Identifying Qualified TEAs

Step One: Qualifying Cities, Counties or MSAs

Identify whether your project is in a designated metropolitan statistical area, county, or city using the list below. If your project is in one of the following metropolitan statistical areas, counties, or cities then a certification could be issued – step four. If not, continue to step two.

List of Designated Metropolitan Statistical Areas, Counties or Cities

Step Two: Find Your Census Tract

If your project does not fall into a metropolitan statistical area, county, or city that is on the designated list posted under Step One, identify which census tract your project is located using the database below then continue to step three.

Note: From the U.S. Census webpage, use the “Geographies” tab on the right hand toolbar and search using “Address.” Once you have searched, use the “Census Tract” number.

  • Additionally, the employment data is gathered using 2000 census tracts not 2010. Make sure to find your corresponding census tract using the year 2000 on the drop down. The state Employment Development Department is in the process of verifying the 2010 Census Tracts.

Database of Census Tract Numbers

Step Three: Qualifying Census Tracts

Identify whether your project is in a designated high unemployment census tract using the list below.

  • Note: “Census Tract 13” will be shown as 0001300.

List of All Census Tracts

If your project is NOT in a qualifying metropolitan statistical area, county, city, or individual census tract designated as a TEA by the State of California, your project does NOT qualify for certification from the state. However, you can still apply to U.S. Immigration Services without the state certification and provide evidence on your own showing that the new enterprise is in a high unemployment area.

Step Four: Certification Letter

If your project is located in a designated TEA then the state will provide a customized certification letter to prove that.

Please send the following information to: (Sub: “Certification Application”)

Name of individual investor or entity

Name of new business or project

Address of new business or project
City, County and Zip Code
Census Tract Number
Description of the project, including job creation if applicable (500 words or less)
Mailing address for sending the certificate

Additional Policy Guidelines

Please, read the following policy guidelines applicable to this TEA certification:

  • This designation and certification of TEAs is based on the 2011 calendar year unemployment data estimates published by the state. California selected to use the most recent calendar year period labor force and unemployment estimates for TEA certifications. There will be no other method used and the state is not going to certify TEAs on the most recent 12-month basis.
  • This designation and certification of TEAs in California is effective from May 1, 2012 through April 30, 2013, when a new certified list will be issued based on calendar year 2012 unemployment data.
  • This designation and certification of TEAs is an exhaustive list of TEAs by the State of California. There will be no other areas or subareas designated and certified as TEAs.
  • Investors who received special area designations in previous years may request a renewed certificate if it is for the same investment project, it covers the same subarea, and the then current unemployment data provides a high unemployment rate for the aggregated area. Such requests will be handled on a case-by-case basis and renewed certificates might be issued at the discretion of the state.


Q. What if my project is not in a designated metropolitan statistical area, county, city or individual census tract but is nearby or adjacent to one? Can I still get a TEA designation?

A. You can still apply to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for a designation, but the State of California will not issue you a certification.

Q. Can I link multiple counties, cities or census tracts together to create an area of high unemployment and receive a certification from the state?

A. No, only projects that are located directly in a designated metropolitan statistical areas, counties, cities, or census tracts having high unemployment rates are eligible. Aggregating counties, cities, or census tracts are not in line with the state guidelines of the program as the intent of the state is to support projects in areas of high unemployment.

Program contact information

If this section did not answer all of your questions, please contact: