EB-5 Investor Visa Program

California is the #1 destination in the United States for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) projects and the EB-5 Program is one of California’s most effective ways to attract FDI into the state. In 1990, Congress created the EB-5 Program to stimulate the U.S. economy through job creation and capital investment by foreign investors.  

Under this program, entrepreneurs (and their spouses and unmarried children under 21) are eligible to apply for a green card (permanent residence) if they make the necessary investment of at least $1,000,000 into a new commercial enterprise or $500,000 in a new commercial enterprise within a Targeted Employment Area (TEA). 

While the EB-5 visa program is administered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and is therefore governed by federal laws and regulations, GO-Biz provides customized TEA certifications for projects that qualify under the $500,000 special TEA requirements.

Given the importance of the EB-5 Program for the economy of California, GO-Biz has implemented an annual survey of Regional Centers to gather information and share results for the 2015 platform. This is to provide foreign investors with a complete list of California EB-5 Regional Centers and their respective activities, measure the amount of investments via the EB-5 program as part of California total FDI, and track the number of jobs created via the EB-5 Program.

Note: New unemployment data and State-certified TEAs become effective May 1, 2019, and will remain in effect until April 30, 2020. All TEA designations and certifications will be based on GO-Biz selected data and methodologies only, no other data or methodologies will be accepted for the purposes of TEA designations and certifications.

Effective October 2, 2014, the process for determining qualifying TEA census tracts outside of the State’s designated high unemployment census tracts or, to determine and apply for special TEAs and/or, for requesting a Certification Letter will be automated through a new interactive database tool. Please refer to Step Two and Step Three for specific instructions in the “Identifying Qualified TEAs” section below.

Use the GO-Biz TEA Interactive Tool (requires Internet Explorer)



The State of California provides customized Targeted Employment Area (TEA) certifications for projects that qualify. Eligible TEAs include metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs), counties, cities and census designated places (CDPs). They also include rural areas and individual census tracts with qualifying high unemployment that are not in already-designated metropolitan statistical areas, counties, cities or CDPs. (See below: “Certified List of Targeted Employment Area (TEA) in California.”) 


If you are applying for a re-certification for a project that was approved prior to May 1, 2012, please submit your original letter and a complete list of census tracts with updated unemployment figures for 2013, demonstrating that the aggregate unemployment rate of those census tracts is still above the threshold based on the updated 2013 data.  (See below for 2013 unemployment data). 

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. 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 (USCIS) 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. 

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, CDPs, or MSAs  
Identify whether your project is in a designated metropolitan statistical area, county, city or CDP using the list below. 

If your project address falls within an area on the above list, use the TEA Interactive Tool provided in the link below to submit your request.

Step Two: Find Your Census Tract

If your project does not fall into a TEA that is on the designated list posted under Step One, use the above TEA Interactive Tool to identify which census tract your project is located in, and then continue to Step Three.

Step Three: Qualifying Census Tract

A) Single Census Tract: If the interactive database tool identifies the Census Tract in which your project is located as a designated high unemployment census tract then follow the interactive database tool to request a Certification Letter from the State. 

  • Note: Census Tract numbers may include preceding and trailing zeros, e.g. “Census Tract 13” will be shown as 0001300.

B) Special TEA: Commencing May 1, 2013, GO-Biz will allow applications for a Special TEA for projects that do not meet the existing standard, pre-calculated certification categories. GO-Biz will certify Special TEA applications under the following criteria:

  1. Projects can receive an EB5 Special TEA certification if they are located within an area of twelve or fewer contiguous Census Tracts with a total average unemployment rate of 150% the national average.
  2. Requests for a special TEA should include a table listing of each census tract with its corresponding unemployment rate and a map showing the project address.
  3. A supporting letter from the local Economic Development Corporation (EDC) or County or City in which the project is to be located must be provided. The letter must indicate the economic development corporation’s concurrence that the proposed census tract will reasonably be a source of workforce for the project. 
  4. To request a Special TEA that meets the above criteria, follow the prompts in the interactive database tool provided in the link below to determine whether there is an area of twelve or fewer contiguous Census Tracts within your project location that would qualify as a Special TEA.  If so, then the interactive database tool will allow you to request a Certification Letter.

Please note that in order to complete your request for a Special TEA Certification Letter, you will still need to submit the required support letter from either the local EDC, county, or city by emailing each separately to:  EB5info@gobiz.ca.gov 

IMPORTANT: If your project is NOT in a qualifying MSA, county, city, CDP, individual or contiguous census tracts 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 USCIS 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 

The interactive database tool will determine whether your project is located in a designated TEA.  If so, the State will provide a customized Certification Letter to prove that.  If you do qualify for a Certification Letter, please ensure that you provide all the information requested by the interactive database tool in order to receive a Certification Letter.

If you qualify for a Certification Letter, the letter will be sent to you via email.

Additional Policy Guidelines  

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

  • This designation and certification of TEAs is based on the 2018 calendar year unemployment data estimates published by the State of California EDD. GO-Biz has determined to use the most recent calendar year period labor force and unemployment data estimates for TEA certifications. There will be no other method used and the state is not going to certify TEAs unless in the most recent 12-month period. 
  • This designation of TEAs in California is effective from May 1, 2019, through April 30, 2020, after which a new certified list will be issued based on the 2018 calendar year unemployment data. 
  • Once issued, the customized certification is valid for one year from the date of approval. 
  • 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 sub-area, 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.

EB-5 Survey

Survey of USCIS Certified EB5 Regional Centers in California

State of California Government Code Section 13996.41 (a) states that the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) shall develop and implement an International Trade and Investment Program that does all of the following: (1) Attracts employment-producing direct foreign investment to the state. (2) Provides support for California businesses in accessing international markets, including assistance to increase California exports. (3) Engages in other international trade or foreign investment activities assigned by the Governor.

Section 204.6(i) of Title 8, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) governing alien entrepreneur immigrant visa petitions under the USCIS administered EB-5 visa program authorizes the state government of any state of the United States to designate a particular geographic or political subdivision located within a metropolitan statistical area (MSA) or within a city or town having a population of 20,000 or more within such state as a high unemployment area if the area experienced an unemployment rate of at least 150 percent of the national average.

The designation and certification of high unemployment areas in the State of California has been delegated to the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz). Such certification is based on official estimated unemployment data provided by the Employment Development Department of this state.

Within GO-Biz, the International Affairs and Business Development unit is charged with implementing the State of California’s EB5 foreign investor program.  This program not only administers TEA designation letters, but promotes the EB5 visa program to foreign investors and manages the EB5 regional center information on behalf of the State of California.  To properly keep information up to date, the unit must survey the California located EB5 regional centers on an annual basis. 

Commencing Aug. 1, 2013, GO-Biz will: 

  1. Administer a survey to EB5 regional centers located within California.
  2. The survey will be conducted once a year during the month of August for the year 2013 and then during the month of December of each following year. 
  3. On October 15, 2013, GO-Biz will post non-sensitive* information on its website. From the 2nd year forward the information will be posted on the website during the month of January. 
  4. The survey results, along with any other contact or pertinent information, will be updated on the website on a quarterly basis.

EB-5 Survey