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What is 8(a)

Program benefits

To help provide a level playing field for small businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantaged people or entities, the government limits competition for certain contracts to businesses that participate in the 8(a) Business Development program.

Disadvantaged businesses in the 8(a) program can:

  1. Compete for set-aside and sole-source contracts in the program

  2. Get a Business Opportunity Specialist to help navigate federal contracting

  3. Form joint ventures with established businesses through the SBA’s mentor-protégé program

  4. Receive management and technical assistance, including business training, counseling, marketing assistance, and high-level executive development

You can compete for contract awards under multiple socio-economic programs, as they apply.

8(a) program qualifications

To qualify for the 8(a) program, follow this eligibility checklist:

  1. Be a small business

  2. Not already have participated in the 8(a) program

  3. Be at least 51 percent owned and controlled by U.S. citizens who are economically and socially disadvantaged

  4. Be owned by someone whose personal net worth is $250,000 or less

  5. Be owned by someone whose average adjusted gross income for three years is $250,000 or less

  6. Be owned by someone with $4 million or less in assets

  7. Have the owner manage day-to-day operations and also make long-term decisions

  8. Have all its principals demonstrate good character

  9. Show potential for success and be able to perform successfully on contracts

The federal government fully defines who qualifies for the 8(a) program — including what counts as being economically and socially disadvantaged — in Title 13 Part 124 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). You can also get a preliminary assessment of whether you qualify at the SBA’s Certify website.

Get certified as an 8(a) small business

Before you can participate in the 8(a) business development program, you must be certified.

To get certified as an 8(a) business, simply use the website. You’ll need to have a profile at before you can use the certification website. The information you’ll need to provide will vary based on your business structure and whether you’re already participating in other SBA programs.

After you successfully complete your certification process through, you should update your business profile at to show contracting officers that your business is in the 8(a) program.

You’ll receive a letter in the mail informing you if your application was approved or not. If you’re accepted into the program, your profile in the Dynamic Small Business Search will show your approval date and exit date for the program.

Your certification will last for a maximum of nine years. You’ll need to complete annual reviews to maintain your good standing in the program. Need Help getting started? Schedule an appointment with a small business counselor

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