Federal Certification Programs

Certification programs qualify businesses to receive additional consideration for government contract awards. The programs are directed toward minority, social, and economic groups as well as lower-income geographic areas. There are two ways to certify: 1) self-certification and 2) official Small Business Administration (SBA) certification.

When registering or updating a System for Award Management (SAM) business registration, a business owner can fill in the correct boxes to self-certify as a veteran-owned, woman-owned, or a minority-owned business. The official certification programs involve a much more rigorous application process and provide program benefits. Self-certifying is also discussed on our FAQ page.

A brief overview of the certification programs and links to additional information are listed below.

  • Veteran-Owned Business or Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Business Certifications
  • HUBZone Program
  • 8(a) Business Development Program
  • Woman-Owned Small Business

Veteran-Owned Business or a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Business Certifications

The Veteran Administration provides a Veteran-Owned or Serviced-Disabled Veteran-Owned Business Certificate if you are pursuing a contract with the Veterans Administration to provide  product or service. For all other government agency contracts, a business owner needs to simply self-certify as veteran-owned in the System for Award Management (SAM) business registration.

For the Veterans Administration, the qualifications for becoming a veteran-owned or service-disabled veteran-owned business are very specific. You must own at least 51 percent of the company applying for certification and be in control of management and day-to-day operations within the business. To prove that you are a veteran, you will need to have a Department of Defense Form 214 (DD 214).

If you intend to apply for service-disabled status, you will also need a letter from the United States Department of Veteran Affairs stating that you are, indeed, service-disabled. Contact the VA’s benefits office if you have lost or misplaced this disability status letter. The first step of getting certified through the VA is registering with. Additional information can be found at the VetBiz Resource Center.

Veteran-Owned Pre-Enrollment Checklist
  • Is the business registered in the System for Award Management?
  • Is the business planning to do contracts directly with the Veterans Administration?
  • Do you have your Department of Defense Form 214?
  • If you are a Service-Disabled veteran, do you have a disability status letter?

HUBZone Program

The Historically Underutilized Business Zones (HUBZone) program helps small businesses in urban and rural communities gain preferential access to federal procurement opportunities.

To qualify for the program, the business must be located in an area designated a HUBZone. Although the Anchorage area has only a few pockets (Spenard, Rogers Park, and Ship Creek), large portions of Alaska are designated as HUBZones.

The program’s benefits for HUBZone-certified companies include competitive and sole source contracting and a 10% price evaluation preference in full and open contract competitions, as well as subcontracting opportunities. The federal government has a goal of awarding 3% of all dollars for federal prime contracts to HUBZone-certified small business concerns.

Businesses applying for HUBZone certification must demonstrate they are in an economically disadvantaged area. For more indepth information, go to HUBZone Certification.

HUBZone Pre-Enrollment Checklist
  • Is the business in a HUBzone Map area?
  • Is the business a small business or a qualified business? It is important to review the HUBZone Qualifications.
  • Is the principal office be located in a qualified HUBZone area or allowed to be an exception?
  • Do 35% of the businesses employees reside in the HUBZone area?

8(a) Business Development Program

The SBA’s 8(a) Program, named for a section of the Small Business Act, is a business development program created to help small disadvantaged businesses compete in the American economy and access the federal procurement market. By being able to obtain sole-source contracting as well as mentor-protegee assistance, 8(a) businesses are eligible for special status. The 8(a) Program is designed to assist established businesses reach their next level of potential growth. The SBA has an in-depth overview of the 8(a) program.

8(a) Pre-Enrollment Checklist
  • Is the business established and majority-owned (51%) by individuals?
  • Has the business been established for two or more years?
  • Is the individual or individuals who control the business American citizens, by birth or naturalization?
  • Are the majority-owned (51% or more) and controlled/managed by sociallyand economically disadvantaged individuals? Keep in mind there are separate eligibility requirements for businesses owned by American Indians, Native Alaskans, Native Hawaiians or Certified Development Companies.
  • Can the individual(s) controlling and managing the firm on a full-time basis meet the SBA requirement for disadvantage, by proving both social disadvantage and economic disadvantage?

The 8(a) Suitability Tool provides additional self-guided assistance to potential applicants.

Woman-Owned Small Business

The Small Business Administration has a certificate program designed to assist women who own businesses in industries with underrepresentation of women-owned businesses. In contrast to the self-certification checkbox in the System for Award Management (SAM) registration, the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) or the Economically Disadvantaged Woman Owned Small Business (EDWOSB) is a formal certification process requiring document submissions and approval by the Small Business Administration.

Some government contracts qualify to be set-aside in order for socially and economically disadvantaged groups to benefit and meet government participation goals. Obtaining a WOSB or a EDWOSB certificate allows women-owned businesses to take advantage of these opportunities for women-owned businesses. Both WOSB and EDWOSB businesses are eligible for government contract set-asides and sole-source contracts in industries with businesses underrepresented by women.

There are two different routes women-owned small businesses can take in order to begin the certification process. The first is fill out and upload any necessary document using the WOSB/EDWOSB Portal and work directly with the Small Business Administration. The second route is to use one of the four SBA-approved Third Party Certifiers and pay for their services to obtain the WOSB or EDWOSB Certification. To learn more, visit WOSB/EDWOSB.

WOSB/EDWOSB Pre-Enrollment Checklist
  • Is the business 51% owned or controlled by one or more women?
  • Is the business primarily managed by one or more women?
  • Does the business have a DUNS number and is it registered in SAM?
  • Is the business owner a U.S. citizen?
  • Is the business a small business?

Please note the WOSB/EDWOSB is in the middle of program changes. For updates for the registration process, it is best to review the latest updates on sba.gov.