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Additional Information Before You Apply

Contact an SBA local office or resource partner for free one-on-one assistance in preparing your application package for SBA’s 8(a) Business Development program.

Whether applying online or via hard copy, you must mail supporting documents to SBA, otherwise SBA will consider your application package to be incomplete. 

A complete application package for the 8(a) Business Development program includes completed SBA application forms and your supporting documents. Here are the basic steps to completing your application: 

  1. Complete the 8(a) Business Development program application form either online or by hard copy (signed copy with original signature(s) must be mailed to SBA)
  2. Complete additional SBA forms (in related forms below) either online or hard copy (signed copy with original signature(s)  must be mailed to SBA) 
  3. Mail supporting documents to SBA

After SBA receives the supporting documents, SBA will first screen the application package for completeness.  Within 15 days, SBA will tell you whether your application package is complete or incomplete. "Complete" means your application is ready to be processed. It does not mean you are approved for the program. 

Free Advice

There are numerous independent firms that charge fees to assist small businesses in completing the 8(a) application and in gathering the necessary supporting documentation. However, none of these firms are working on behalf of the SBA. 

In addition, despite their claims, these firms cannot guarantee that your 8(a) application package will be approved.  The SBA has not contracted with or authorized any firm, to act as an intermediary or to provide small businesses with assistance in preparing an 8(a) application package. Do not pay thousands of dollars to a “consultant” when an SBA partner could have walked you though the application process and SBA requirements for free.

To assist you in preparing your application package for certification in the 8(a) Business Development Program, SBA provides free one-on-one counseling through our SBA District Offices and resource partners including Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers and SCORE offices. Find an SBA District Office or resource partner near you.

Reach out to SBA or its resource partners before you apply. This will save your small business time, money, and frustration, eliminating the need to pay high prices for a “consultant” or anyone else to complete the application for you.

More Tips on Completing Your 8(a) Application 

  • Be honest and upfront in the application process

Any false, misleading or fraudulent statements provided to SBA under your application or ongoing participation may trigger criminal penalties or civil damages.   False, misleading or fraudulent statements also place your company at risk for de-certification or total government-wide debarment from all opportunities to do business with the federal government. 

It is important to complete your forms accurately, truthfully, and with a full understanding of both the requirements and the legal ramifications. This is true for applicants that SBA never certifies/approves; and for firms that SBA approved into the program for the nine year duration.  

When SBA becomes aware of any false, misleading or fraudulent statements, the agency takes action, which could include referring the matter to the United States Attorney for potential prosecution.

  • Double (and triple) check your application 

Original signatures required: If the instructions require a signature on multiple documents, sign all of those documents. Some documents require an original signature (what SBA calls a “wet signature”). If an original signature is required, sign it. Use blue ink to sign it so it does not look like a copy. 

Submissions will be verified:  For federal tax returns, SBA will ask the IRS for transcripts. For corporate documents (articles, certificate of good standing, etc.), SBA will check with your state's secretary to ensure the documents are active and valid.

Copies need to be clear: If the instructions ask for a copy, make sure those copies are legible, readable, and verifiable. For instance, official documents you receive from the state, county or city must have a seal or stamp. This includes articles of incorporation, occupancy licenses, and permits.

  • Be prepared for more questions

Most times, and most cases, SBA staff will return a list of questions to you.  The supporting documents you submit must do just that – support the application and responses you provided to SBA. 

If the supporting documents do not match your responses or somehow conflict with the responses, SBA will likely return a list of questions to you (and possibly the entire application package).   

  • Be patient

SBA has a mandatory deadline to render a decision within 90 days but that is only after SBA has a complete application package.   After you submit the documents to the SBA, expect a response letting you know if the application is complete or incomplete (also called "screening"). SBA has a mandatory deadline to complete screening of an application, and let you know the status, within 15 days after SBA receives it. 

SBA will not review or begin processing an application with missing documents or responses, unsigned documents, illegible documents, or inconsistent documents or responses. You will have an opportunity to submit missing documents or responses and sign required documents after SBA finishes the screening process.  Applications that are substantially incomplete – or remain incomplete after repeated SBA requests - will be returned to you unprocessed and not reviewed. You will need to start the process again.

  • Remember the goal

The purpose of the program is for you and your firm to graduate from the 8(a) Business Development program once the nine-year certification ends.   SBA’s goal is that each participant firm not only gain one-on-one SBA management and technical assistance, but that each firm fulfills all the targets, goals, and objectives defined in the business plan.

The application process is rigorous so that SBA chooses the right firms for the program. If your firm can never succeed on its own without 8(a) assistance, including federal contracts, then it might not be beneficial to firm’s bottom line to apply and remain in the program for nine years unless the firm shows its potential to succeed during the application process. 

After approval, the first requirement will be submitting an 8(a) business plan for SBA approval. Additionally, SBA will assign your firm to an SBA District Office nearest the firm. Within that SBA District Office, a Business Opportunity Specialist will be assigned to your firm providing one-on-one servicing to your firm in obtaining SBA training, management assistance, and help with government contracts. 

Each year after approval, you will continue to submit supporting documents to SBA to determine: 

  1. Whether the firm still meets the eligibility and compliance requirements
  2. Evaluate the firm’s progress towards meeting the targets, objectives, and goals in your business plan 

The 8(a) Business Development program is a developmental tool where after completing the nine-year term in the program, the ultimate goal is the survival and growth of your business in the private sector without the assistance SBA provided under the program. 

Once you become a participant in the program, access to federal contracts is only one vehicle for obtaining business development assistance, but if no federal agency actually buys the service or product your company sells – or no longer does, it will be impossible to obtain federal contracts.

As the firm remains in the program over nine years, SBA monitors your progress, from developmental to transitional phase, and also monitors your reliance on federal contracts, including 8(a) sole source contracts. 

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