Note: On July 24, 2019 the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced updates to regulations governing the EB-5 immigration visa program in a Federal Register Notice that can be found
here. Each of the EB-5 rule changes described in the Federal Register notice will be effective November 21, 2019. Among the changes announced is the transfer of Targeted Employment Area (TEA) certification authority from states to U.S. DHS. The Illinois Department of Employment Security will continue to certify TEAs until November 20, 2019, using the current EB-5 program regulations and the instructions provided on this page.
However, beginning on November 21, 2019, IDES will no longer certify TEAs or issue TEA certification letters. Please visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services EB-5 program page for more information.
Questions and Answers about the EB-5 Visa Program and Targeted Employment Areas in Illinois
What is the EB-5 Visa program?
The Immigrant Investor Program, also known as "EB-5," was created by Congress in 1990 to stimulate the U.S. economy through job creation and capital investment by foreign investors. Under a pilot immigration program first enacted in 1992 and regularly reauthorized since, certain EB-5 visas also are set aside for investors in Regional Centers designated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) based on proposals for promoting economic growth. There are two types of qualifying investment:
- A general minimum qualifying investment in the United States of $1 million.
- A minimum qualifying investment in a Targeted Employment Area (TEA) in the United States of $500,000.
- More information on the EB-5 Visa Program can be found at the USCIS Web site
What is a Targeted Employment Area?
A Targeted Employment Area or TEA is an area that, at the time of investment, is a rural area or a non-rural area which has experienced unemployment that is at least 150 percent of the national average rate. A rural area is any area outside a metropolitan statistical area (as designated by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget) or outside the boundary of any city or town having a population of 20,000 or more according to the most recent decennial census.
On May 14, 2012, Governor Pat Quinn designated the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) as the agency responsible for identifying and certifying geographic areas or political subdivisions as high unemployment areas in Illinois as defined by 8 CFR 204.6 (e) (i), (e) (ii) and f (2), f(3). The State of Illinois certifies that an area qualifies as a high unemployment area but USCIS makes the final determination that it qualifies as a TEA.
What areas in Illinois qualify as high unemployment areas?
Each March, IDES produces average unemployment rates for the prior calendar year for counties, communities, townships, Chicago Community Areas and Census Tracts to identify non-rural areas that are areas of high unemployment. The current list of Illinois areas that qualify in their entirety as high unemployment areas can be found in the reports shown below under
Eligible High Unemployment Areas. The Census Tract report includes labor force, employed, unemployed and unemployment rates for all metropolitan area Census Tracts and not just those that qualify as high unemployment TEAs. Data for all metro area Census Tracts are provided for those who want to create high unemployment TEAs including multiple, contiguous Census Tracts.
The list of eligible Illinois high unemployment areas was updated on Thursday, March 15, 2018 to reflect 2017 annual average unemployment rates. Also, effective March 15, 2018, the high unemployment TEA trigger rate is 6.6 percent (or 150 percent of the 2017 annual U.S. unemployment rate of 4.4). The next scheduled updates to the high unemployment TEA reports will be in March 2019.
Eligible High Unemployment Areas
Maps of Targeted Employment Area Census Tracts
Unfortunately, we do not have maps showing which Census Tracts qualify as TEAs. However, you can find Census 2010 Tract maps in PDF format for Illinois counties at the Census Bureau Web site
Where can I find the latest metropolitan area delineations for Illinois?
You can find the latest metropolitan area delineations for Illinois, as well as for other states, in this bulletin released by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget on September 14, 2018 at
Where can I find out which Illinois rural or non-metro areas qualify as Targeted Employment Areas?
According to EB-5 program requirements, rural areas are areas that are located outside a metropolitan statistical area and outside a city or town located in a non-metro area with a population of at least 20,000. Rural areas automatically qualify as Targeted Employment Areas. However, states are not allowed to certify rural or non-metro areas as TEAs, according to USCIS. IDES is only permitted to certify high unemployment TEAs located in metro areas.
Here is a map showing current
rural Illinois counties.
There are currently four Illinois communities located in rural counties that have a population of at least 20,000, including Charleston (Coles County) Freeport (Stephenson County), Galesburg (Knox County) and Quincy (Adams County). EB-5 projects located within any of these four communities must be located in a high unemployment TEA.
Are there any geographic boundary requirements for high unemployment areas?
The boundaries of high unemployment areas that extend beyond the project area must be contiguous. The person or organization requesting a certification for a high unemployment area with boundaries that extend beyond the project area must provide a geographic description of the area, such as a list of Census Tract numbers. There is no limit on the number of Census Tracts that can be included in a TEA. However, we ask that you include only as many Census Tracts that are necessary to qualify the combined area as a TEA.
How can I find the Census Tract where my project is located?
You can find the Census Tract number where your TEA project is located with the address search tool available at the U.S. Census Bureau Web site:
After you enter the project street address, city, state, and, if available, Zip Code, a report will be created which includes the Census Tract number for the location. If you're unsuccessful in obtaining a Census Tract number using the address search tool, then you may be able to find it using Census Tract maps at Census Bureau Web site
Do you provide assistance in creating the boundaries for TEAs that include multiple Census Tracts?
We do not assist with the creation of geographic boundaries for TEAs but we do provide instructions for using resources on our Web site as well as the Census Bureau Web site to identify TEAs and create your own combined area TEAs. Please see our
TEA tips document.
Do you accept data from other sources to certify areas as TEAs?
No, we do not accept data from other, third-party sources, such as Impact Data Source, to certify areas as TEAs. Those who submit TEA certification requests to us must use the worksheet reports in the Eligible High Unemployment Areas drop-down menu on this Web page to identify TEAs.
What should be provided to IDES in a high unemployment area certification request?
The request should include:
- The physical address for the project location;
- The name (Mr./Ms.), title, organization and address for the person to whom the certification letter should be addressed (usually an investor or a third-party representative);
- A description of the geography for high unemployment areas that extend beyond the area where the project is located. For example, you can provide a list of numbers for Census Tracts that are included in the high unemployment area; and
- Indication whether the certification letter is for a new project or an existing one which requires a renewal
To whom should the high unemployment certification letter requests be submitted?
Requests should be emailed to Rich Reinhold at
If you encounter an error after sending a message through this link, please copy and paste the e-mail address into your message.
We will normally respond to requests within 5-10 business days. You will be notified by email if we determine that the project does not fall within in a high unemployment area. If we determine that the project is located within a high unemployment area, then you will be sent a signed certification letter in PDF format via email that can be provided to USCIS. USCIS will accept signed copies of certification letters. Also, please note that certification letters provided by IDES are not binding. USCIS can accept or reject any state-issued high unemployment certification.
Do you include expiration dates in your TEA certification letters?
No, we do not include expiration dates in our TEA certification letters. There is no statutory basis for including expiration dates in TEA certification letters, according to USCIS. TEA certifications letters can of course be renewed.
Questions about TEAs can be sent to the email address above. You may also call