8a Certification Program Eligibility, Features & Benefits

8(a) Certification


Small business owners in the United States that have suffered from both economic and social disadvantage can avail themselves to the Small Business Administration (SBA) and enter what is called the 8(a) Business Development program. Entrance into the program is obtained through the acquisition of 8(a) Certification. This program is a business development program designed to help small businesses overcome past hardships and challenges the owner(s) have experienced. The owner of the firm must be a U.S. Citizen to apply.

The program is designed to give preference to the 8(a) certified business in working with federal clients by obtaining contracts from Departments or the agencies of those Departments. The total number of 8(a) certified firms has ranged from 6,500 to 10,000 firms in recent years. This business development program can help a small business grow by cutting the government red tape normally associated with federal contracts. This allows these small business entrepreneurs to get their feet wet in federal contracting and use that experience to fast track their firm to success. Small business owners who are finding it difficult to grow their business through traditional organic/commercial methods find the SBA 8(a) Business Development program to be a great resource.

IT, Management Consulting and Construction are the three most common industries for 8(a) Firms ABOUT 8(A) CERTIFICATION PROGRAM

Overcome Past Discrimination 6,500 8(a) Program Participants
Cuts Red Tape
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IT, Management Consulting and Construction are the three most common industries for 8(a) Firms


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Many 8(a) Firms go on to become large federal contractors

  • This small business development program enables minority-owned businesses to obtain business support from the SBA. Under the 8(a) program, small businesses can be introduced by the SBA to contract directly with federal agencies that need qualified 8(a) contractors to meet their congressional budgetary guidelines for spending.

  • The program gives 8(a) firms 9 years of preference in federal contracting to overcome prior years in which they suffered from racial, ethnic, gender, geographical or disability bias.

  • The 8(a) certification and business development program consists of two phases over the 9-year eligibility period. Phase 1: 4-year "Development Stage" followed by a Phase 2: 5 -year "Transitional Stage". During the Transitional Stage, the firm is required to take steps to ensure its survivability once it graduates from the 8(a) program.

SBA Provides Introductions to Agencies 9 Years of Eligibility
Two Program Developmental Stages


At ez8a 8(a) we are dedicated to making our clients businesses successful in the federal marketplace. It can be yours?

Select your industry in the box below and find out the average sales for an 8(a) firm in your industry!


8(a) Average Sales this Industry   GSA Schedule Sales for a firm with an 8(a) in this Industry   Synergy (Generally adding an 8(a) to a GSA Creates More Sales than from the GSA Schedule Alone)   Synergy Ratio
8(a) Industry Grouping Total 8(a) Federal Sales Number of 8(a) Firms Average 8(a) Sales   GSA Schedule Only Sales 8(a) Firms Number of 8(a) Firms w/ GSA Schedule Average 8(a) Sales Directly from the GSA Schedule System   Total Federal Sales 8(a) GSA Contract Holders Number of 8(a) Firms w/ GSA Schedule Average Total 8(a) Federal Sales for firms with a GSA Schedule   GSA Schedule Sales Advantage
Find Out Your Potential 8(a) Sales 8(a) And GSA Are A Great Match
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The average 8(a) firm has over $5 million per year in Federal Sales


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All 8(a) certified minority-owned companies are entitled to receive sole-sourced government contracts up to a maximum of $4 million on a per-contract basis for those dealing in goods and services. For small businesses that are in manufacturing, the firm’s sole-sourced contracts can reach a maximum of $6.5 million on a per-contract basis.

8(a) firms can participate in set-aside contracts whereby the competition for the contract is only other 8(a) contractors. This limits the bidding field to a pool of relatively homogenous contenders with similar sizes and capabilities.

Another benefit for 8(a) firms is that they can learn from, as well as take part in larger projects by partnering with another firm, while still receiving the benefits of an 8(a) certification. These partnerships are mentor protégé or joint venture arrangements. They enable small business firms to increase their skills and experience by taking part in larger contracts in a much lower risk environment.

Sole-source Contracts up to $4 Million Set-aside Contracts 8(a) Only
Joint Venture To Gain Experience

Our 8(a) Qualification tool will help determine your eligibility, to be 99% certain we need a to have a call.


To get approval from the SBA, the small business applicant firm should fully conform to the following eligibility criteria. A firm whose application is denied by the SBA will be barred from reapplying for a period of 90 days. Here are the primary 8(a) program eligibility details:

All business applicants need to verify that at least 51% of the firm is owned by an individual who is a U.S. Citizen and socially and economically disadvantaged.

The small business applicant needs to have documented sales in the public or commercial marketplace over the past 2 years and be successful in doing so.

The business applicant must be classified as a small business according to the guidelines for small businesses associated with the firm’s primary NAICS Code.

The owner of the firm will have to submit a variety of documents and items. These will include their personal and business income records for the last 3 years, all articles of organization/incorporation, all minutes, operating agreement/bylaw, proof of insurance, leases, resumes, background information and any other pertinent documents that need to be disclosed as part of the application process.

U.S. Citizen And Be Socially Disadvantaged Several Years Of Experience
Must Be A Small Business
SBA Requires Many Documents

The SBA can and will ask clarifying questions of applicants throughout the process. It is important that these concerns being addressed by the SBA are responded to in a timely manner or the SBA will have no choice but to deny the application.

The 8(a)-application process is a long and detailed one. Part of the process is completed online through the SBA’s portal, and part of it requires a paper application which typically is 300 -500 pages in length. The applicants must follow a very specific format so that it is congruent with the SBA’s review process. Expectations are that the SBA will complete its review of an 8(a) application in a period of three months from the date in which they receive the application.

SBA Asks Questions Of The Applicant
Applications Are Usually 300+ Pages
SBA Conducts A Review For Completeness
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Recent changes to the 8(a) Social Disadvantage Narrative creates a more complex application but also provides a more level playing field

8(a) Major Changes - Social Disadvantage Narrative
(What You Need to Know!)

Existing 8(a) Firms Actions

All current 8(a) participants received a direct communication from SBA on or about Monday, August 21, 2023, detailing the process for establishing social disadvantage through a social disadvantage narrative.

8(a) participants must submit an individual social disadvantage narrative through the Certify.sba.gov system.

Multiple Disadvantaged Owners - for 8(a) participants who have multiple disadvantaged individuals, each disadvantaged individual is required to submit an individual social disadvantage narrative.

Note: If as part of your original application for admittance into the 8(a) program the qualifying owner submitted a narrative as part of the original application, then this firm will not need to submit a new narrative.

Social Disadvantage Narrative Requirement Certify.sba.gov
Each Qualifying Owner Submits A Narrative
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Caucasian women and SDVOSBs now have more consistent guidelines for proving Social Disadvantage

Social Disadvantage Qualification Letter

Once a current 8(a) participant has submitted an individual social disadvantage narrative and the SBA has verified the individual’s social disadvantage, the program participant will receive a Social Disadvantage Qualification letter which allows for continued participation in the 8(a) program.

Note: 8(a) participants will only need to establish social disadvantage once for their program term, unless there is an ownership or control change for the entity.

Existing 8(a) Firms Failure to Act

Current 8(a) firms that did not submit a social disadvantage narrative and re-establish eligibility were suspended on November 15, 2023. To overcome their suspension, 8(a) firms must submit an individual social disadvantage narrative through the Certify.sba.gov system to re-establish eligibility.

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Qualification Letter
Is Key
Failure To Submit A Narrative Causes A Suspension
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For 8(a) Firms having to update their Social Disadvantage Narrative, this will be a one-time event

All current 8(a) participants that fall under this category received a direct communication from SBA on or about Monday, August 21, 2023, clarifying that the participant has already established social disadvantage and may proceed with federal contract awards. SBA posted the Social Disadvantage Qualification letter to the participant’s documents in the Certify system. This letter affirms continued participation in the 8(a) program.

Impact on Super 8(a)s

The Court’s decision does not impact entity-owned firms, such as firms owned by Indian tribes, Alaska Native Corporations, Native Hawaiian Organizations, or Community Development Corporations. These firms will not need to submit social disadvantage narratives.

Impact on Current 8(a) Contracts

This program change does not impact current contracts and agencies are free to exercise contract options.

Impact on Annual Review

There is no impact on your Annual Review.

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