EB-5 Investor Visa Program

Congress created the EB-5 Program in 1990 to stimulate the U.S. economy through job creation and capital investment by foreign investors. Today, the EB-5 Program is an effective way to attract FDI to the state. It allows entrepreneurs to apply for permanent residence if they make an 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).   

The EB-5 visa program is administered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and is therefore governed by federal laws and regulations.

The State of California, as implemented by GO-Biz, 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.

To read more about the program, visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

How to Request a Certification or Recertification Letter

Are you looking to submit a request for a certification letter or apply for a recertification? Please follow these steps:

Step One: Identify your project location  
Identify whether your project is in a designated metropolitan statistical area, county, city or census designated place (CDP) using this list: 

California High Unemployment Areas (2018)

If your project address falls within an area on the list, use the TEA Interactive Tool to submit your request. Please note that the TEA Interactive Tool requires the use of Internet Explorer only.

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 TEA Interactive Tool to identify in which census tract your project is located and then continue to Step Three.

Step Three: Identifying qualifying census tracts

A) Single census tract: If the TEA Interactive Tool identifies the census tract in which your project is located as a designated high unemployment census tract, follow the steps in the TEA Interactive 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: GO-Biz also processes applications for Special TEA projects that do not meet the existing pre-calculated certification categories. GO-Biz will certify Special TEA applications under the following criteria:

  1. Projects can receive a 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. See below for a list of California Census Tracts:

2018 California Census Tracts

  1. To request a Special TEA that meets the above criteria, follow the prompts in the TEA Interactive Tool 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.
  2. Before your certification letter request can be processed, we must receive a support letter from the local Economic Development Corporation (EDC) or County or City in which the project is to be located. The support letter must indicate the economic development corporation’s concurrence that the proposed census tracts will reasonably be a source of workforce for the project. Please note that the information provided in the supporting letter must match the information submitted on the TEA Interactive Tool.

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 Economic Development Corporation (EDC) or County or City by emailing the letter to:  EB5info@gobiz.ca.gov. See below for a sample support letter: 

EDC Template Support Letter

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 TEA Interactive Tool will determine whether your project is in a designated TEA or if you need to follow the Special TEA process described in Step Three above. For those projects that meet the appropriate requirements, the state will provide a customized certification letter once all material is received.  If you qualify for a certification letter, please ensure you provide all information requested by the TEA Interactive Tool to receive your certification letter. Certification letters will be sent via email to the email address submitted on the TEA Finder Interactive tool.

Additional Policy Guidelines  

Please read the following policy guidelines applicable to TEA certification: 

  • New unemployment data and State-certified TEAs became effective May 1, 2019, and will remain in effect until April 30, 2020, after which a new certified list will be issued based on 2018 calendar year unemployment data.
  • Designation and certification of TEAs is based on 2018 calendar year unemployment data estimates published by the State of California Employment Development Department (EDD). 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.
  • Once issued, the customized certification letter 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 considered.
  • Requests for recertification must follow the same process as outlined above, including submission through the

EB5 Survey

The International Affairs and Trade unit with GO-Biz conducts surveys of the California’s EB5 regional centers on an annual basis. Participation in the surveys is voluntary and the survey results will be shared as available. See below for the results of prior surveys:


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.

See the following regulations that apply to the EB5 program: