U.S. Small Business Administration

  • 8(a) Business Development Certification 


  • Certification Designation: 8(a)
  • Race Conscious: No 
  • Gender Conscious: No
  • Re-Certification: Annual
  • Graduation: Nine (9) Years, $100 Million in contracts or five (5) times the value of the firm's primary NAICS code
  • Approval Timeline: 90-180 Days
  • Cost: Free
  • Website: www.sba.gov/8a

Overview (Download PDF)

      In order to help small, disadvantaged businesses compete in the marketplace, the SBA created the 8(a) Business Development Program. The 8(a) Business Development Program is a business assistance program for small disadvantaged businesses. The 8(a) Program offers a broad scope of assistance to firms that are owned and controlled at least 51% by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. The 8(a) Program is an essential instrument for helping socially and economically disadvantaged entrepreneurs gain access to the economic mainstream of American society. The program helps thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs to gain a foothold in government contracting.  Participation in the program is divided into two phases over nine years: a four-year developmental stage and a five-year transition stage.
      Benefits of 8(a) certification include:
    • Participants can receive sole-source contracts, up to a ceiling of $4 million for goods and services and $6.5 million for manufacturing. While we help 8(a) firms build their competitive and institutional know-how, we also encourage you to participate in competitive acquisitions; and
    • 8(a) firms are also able to form joint ventures and teams to bid on contracts. This enhances the ability of 8(a) firms to perform larger prime contracts and overcome the effects of contract bundling, the combining of two or more contracts together into one large contract. Also, see the Mentor-Protégé Program for more information on allowing starting 8(a) companies to learn the ropes from other experienced 8(a) businesses.


      Generally, to be approved into the 8(a) Business Development program and become certified the business must meet these eligibility requirements:
    • The business must be majority-owned (51 percent or more) by an individual(s).
    • The individual(s) must be an American citizen, by birth or naturalization.
    • The business must be majority-owned (51 percent or more) and controlled/managed by socially and economically disadvantaged individual(s).
    • The individual(s) controlling and managing the firm on a full-time basis must meet the SBA requirement for disadvantage, by proving both social disadvantage andeconomic disadvantage.
    • The business must be a small business.
    • The business must demonstrate potential for success.
    • The principals must show good character.
    • Separate eligibility requirements exist for a business that is owned by American Indians, Native Alaskans, Native Hawaiians or Certified Development Companies.

    Certification Process

    • FIRST! Complete 8(a) certification training at www.sba.gov or through the Louisiana District Office. 

    • STEP 1. Verify eligibility compliance
    • STEP 2. Gather what you need (supporting documentation)
    • STEP 3. Review user guide & sample 8(a) application 
    • STEP 4. Ask questions
    • STEP 5. Register in the System for Award Management (SAM) 
    • STEP 6. Register in SBA’s General Login System (GLS)
    • STEP 7. Complete and submit the online 8(a) program application

    A comprehensive certification process is included in the PDF Overview above.

    The 8(a) Certification Application

    Agency contact information is included in the PDF Overview above.