The countdown is underway for changes in a federal program that gives noncitizen investors a chance to live in the United States.

New rules for the federal government’s EB-5 program are going into effect Nov. 21, and commercial real estate investors will likely be trying to seal some deals before the changes occur. Many may consider opportunities in South Florida real estate.

The EB-5 program allows qualified investors outside the United States to take up residence here if they sink enough money into designated commercial properties that create – or in some cases, preserve – 10 or more full-time jobs.

The new rules, which passed on July 24, are amendments to the existing program. Included in the changes are regulations that raise the minimum required investment in the targeted employment areas (TEAs). That minimum will increase from $500,000 to $900,000.

The new rules are not retroactive. Investors who wish to take advantage of the $500,000 amount have until Nov. 20 to file.

Among the other amendments are changes in what qualifies as a TEA. The new rules allow only the Department of Homeland Security – not the individual states – to make that determination. This rule change is a result of concerns that states were confirming too many TEAs in low-employment areas, using gerrymandering tactics to concentrate them in urban centers.

Potential investors are now eyeing the South Florida market, for a variety of reasons. South Florida has geographic and cultural connections with many investors in Latin American countries. Some of these investors also have family ties in that region. They see this as an opportunity to live near loved ones, while investing in a strong real estate market.

However, there is concern that a majority of the South Florida’s current TEA designations may cease to qualify as such under the new rules. That means many investors may be looking in earnest for South Florida real estate before the November change, so they can secure it under the old TEA qualifications at the lower $500,000 minimum.

But even after the new rules take effect, many experts think South Florida will continue to be a draw for Latin American investors. Time will tell whether that turns out to be the case.