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Federal Certification

What is federal certification?

Federal certification is a program of the US Department of Transportation and includes three separate certifications, Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) certification, Airport Concession Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (ACDBE) certification, and Small Business Enterprise (SBE) certification.

DBE – Disadvantaged Business Enterprise – for socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, please click here for more information.
ACDBE – Disadvantaged Business Enterprise for concessionaires located at airports
SBE - Small Business Enterprise – for small businesses. This program is race and gender neutral

Why apply for federal certification?

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) distributes federal funds to finance state and local road and highway projects, as well as public transit, airport, and other transportation projects. Recipients of USDOT funds must set an overall goal for DBE participation and monitor results. Becoming certified allows these entities to identify your firm as a certified business.

How do I know if I qualify for certification?

For all certifications, the business must be:

For all certifications, the business owner(s) must:

  • Own at least 51% of the business and show contribution of capital and expertise.
  • Control the managerial and day-to-day operations.
  • Be a U.S. citizen or permanent U.S. resident.
  • Be economically disadvantaged. “Economically disadvantaged” is generally defined has having a personal net worth less than $2.047 million, not including a person's primary residence or an applicant business. There are other guidelines, please call our office for more information.

For all certifications, except SBE, the eligible owner(s) must:

  • Be a minority or woman. Minority” is defined as Black American, Hispanic American, Native American, Asian-Pacific American, and Subcontinent Asian American. Definitions are listed in federal rule Title 49 C.F.R. 26.67. Other individuals may be found to be socially and economically disadvantaged on a case-by-case basis, please click here for more information.

For more details on eligibility criteria, please click here.

How long will the application process take?

It takes about 90 days to process your certification application, depending on the complexity and completeness of your application. Here’s what you can expect:

  1. Within a week of receiving your online application, we will email you to let you know we have assigned your application to a certification analyst.
  2. An analyst will review your application and documents, and call you in about two weeks with questions and any needed additional information.
  3. After your analyst receives this additional information, it takes about 2 to 4 weeks to analyze your file.
  4. We will contact you to schedule an on-site visit at your business.
  5. Your analyst will conduct the on-site visit and finish processing your application.
  6. Your application then goes through final review, which takes about 1 to 2 weeks.
  7. We will email you a letter once we have made a final decision on your certification.

Application tips

  1. Be responsive to additional information requests. Check your email for correspondence.
  2. Be specific when writing your proposed business description. Procurement officials and prime contractors search our online directory for key words related to the goods and services they want to purchase. You can look at OMWBE’s directory of certified firms for examples.
  3. We recommend you keep a copy of your application packet and supporting documentation for your records.
  4. If in doubt, call us (360) 664-9750. You may also send an email to The most common delays occur because of an incomplete application or response to an additional information request. 

Once certified will I have to renew?

Once your firm is federally certified with OMWBE, you are required to submit an annual update each year.  Firms must submit their annual update applications and supporting documents online prior to their anniversary date, to avoid being decertified.  Annual Updates typically require fewer documents than the original application and OMWBE will email you a courtesy renewal notice prior to your anniversary date. 

Start your Federal Certification