I can get you a TEA by 3 o’clock this afternoon, with nail polish.

How long will it take to get my TEA letter?

Determining whether or not a project is located in a targeted employment area (TEA) is often one of the first questions that stakeholders for a potential EB-5 project will ask. So, besides our clients asking us “Is my project in a TEA”, they also often ask us “if it is in a TEA, how long will it take to get the letter?”

If your project qualifies as a “rural” TEA, according to USCIS, then no state involvement is required (or even allowed) by USCIS. So, it will be up to the I-526 application to independently provide the necessary data to prove to USCIS that the project location qualifies as rural. In short, that’s on you.

However, if it doesn’t qualify as a “rural” TEA, you can try to qualify the site based on high unemployment. But in order to do this, we must turn to the states to (hopefully) provide a TEA letter that certifies the site as a TEA.

As states can vary significantly on the labor force data they use, how flexible they are with TEA configurations, and what data and support they require to consider a high unemployment TEA request, they can also differ in how long it takes for them to provide the actual TEA letter, (assuming the project site qualifies at all based on the state’s individual methodologies).

Based on our experiences in analyzing hundreds of sites for TEA-eligibility and obtaining more than 80 state TEA letters for our clients, we’ve found that the majority of states will typically turn a request around within two to three weeks. However, some states require a significant amount of data and support, in which case the process can take months.

The following table provides some further detail on several individual states.

State Details
California If you have to combine census tracts, the state requires that a local support letter first be obtained. The time it takes to obtain this initial support letter can vary.  Most larger cities and counties are familiar with this state requirement and will provide a simple support letter within a couple of weeks. However, it could take more time if they are not familiar with EB-5/TEAs. Once the local support letter is obtained and the request is made to the state, the state will typically provide a letter within a week. Similarly, if your project qualifies without the need for census tract combination (and hence no support letter is required), the state will also typically provide the letter within a week of the request.
New York 7 to 10 business days, but sometimes quicker
Florida 5 to 10 business days, but sometimes quicker
Texas Texas is tricky because local mayors and county judges have been given authority to certify TEAs. Many cities/counties are familiar with TEAs and have a process in place, but some have never heard of the program, much less TEAs. As such, depending on your project location, there could be snags in trying to get the local officials comfortable with TEAs, which could lead to a lengthy TEA letter process. We have worked with many Texas cities/counties, so let us know if you have any questions about a specific project location in Texas.
New Jersey 10 to 15 business days
Illinois Typically within 5 business days

 

The table above covers the states where we receive the most TEA-analysis requests and where there appears to be the most EB-5 projects. However, we have worked with dozens of other states not shown in the table above and are familiar with their processes as well. Please contact us if you have any further questions about a particular state.

In summary, while most states will typically provide a letter within a reasonable amount of time, some states’ processes can make obtaining a TEA letter a lengthy, frustrating process.

For our next blog post, we will be covering “when individual states update their TEA data”, which is another important TEA topic. Related to this upcoming blog post, some states will put a brief “moratorium” on providing TEA letters while they are updating the data (which typically occurs annually) to try to limit outdated TEA letters. So, obtaining a TEA letter could take a bit longer than normal if you are trying to make the request during one of these periods when the state is updating their annual data. More on that topic in our next blog post…