U.S. Federal Contracting for Foreign Firms


Just because you’re not a U.S.-based business, it does not mean you can’t find work with the American federal government. Actually, there are plenty of opportunities to work with Uncle Sam all around the world. So if you’re a business that’s based out of the U.S. and you’re looking for a reliable stream of revenue, then this is the blog post for you.

Here, we’re going to go over the four major factors you need to know as a foreign firm contracting with the U.S. government. This blog post will cover:

  • Small Business Status
  • Finding Opportunities
  • Buy American
  • Getting Properly Registered

Let’s get to it.

Small Business Status

Long story short, the U.S. government loves working with small businesses. So much so, that out of their over $500 billion dollars per year budget, they seek to spend 23% of it on small businesses. This can be done either directly through small business-exclusive prime contracts or indirectly through subcontracting.

However, depending on who you ask, people have very broad ideas on who counts and who doesn’t count as a small business. Luckily, the U.S. federal government has its own definitions established. Being considered as a small business will depend on your company’s industry (NAICS code) along with either your employee headcount or annual revenue.

To find out if your business would be considered small by American standards, determine your NAICS code with this guide and then use this tool provided by the SBA.

Secondly, as a foreign owned business, you will need to pass through two requirements to officially have a small business status:

  1. You must have a physical location in the U.S.A.
  2. You must contribute to the U.S. economy.

That’s pretty much it. So if you meet your industry standards and the requirements for foreign-owned firms, you can be certified as a small business. In turn, this will grant you access to exclusive opportunities in the federal marketplace.

Finding Opportunities

The short answer toward finding opportunities with the U.S. federal government is to use FedBizOpps aka FBO.gov. It’s through this portal where government agencies will post opportunities valued at over $25,000 USD. For a full tutorial on FedBizOpps, check out this guide for contractors.

The next thing you’re going to want to evaluate is your capabilities. Mainly, you’re going to need to assess your overall range of operations as well as what you offer.

In total, the United States of America has about 294 embassies and consulates around the world. On top of this, the U.S. military has bases and installations in 36 countries. So the chances that the United States government is conducting some sort of business in your country is pretty high.

What you should also know, is that the U.S. federal government buys practically everything imaginable. So the chances that they will procure something in your industry is pretty likely. Plus, it’s not too uncommon for people to work outside of their regular industry in U.S. federal contracting. The American government only cares if you can get the job done.

So basically:

  • Do research to find American embassies, consulates, or military installations near you.
  • Find opportunities via FBO.
  • Be flexible with what you offer.

Now, if you’re looking to compete on bids for contracts in the U.S.A., it’s going to be slightly more competitive. Why? The United States has several policies in place that instills a preference for buying from American businesses.

Don’t let this deter you.

Navigating Buy American

As a foreign company looking to do business with the United States federal government, you’ve probably heard about the Buy American Act. It’s not just one law or policy, but rather, an umbrella term.

So what is it that you need to know?

To give you a short summary, Buy American does give American businesses the edge for the majority of U.S. federal contracts. For a product to fall into the categories of Buy American it has to:

  1. Be made in the United States.
  2. Over 50% of the cost must be from domestic components.

Then, as for construction materials, both unmanufactured and manufactured materials have to have been mined or produced in the United States.

This may seem a bit standoffish for a foreign firm, but don’t let it deter you from federal contracting. There are exceptions to Buy American that you can get around. 

Here are the exceptions to the act:

  • Information Technology
  • Overall Cost Below $10,000 USD
  • Non-availability in the U.S.
  • Use outside of the U.S.

So although Buy American may sound intimidating, it’s not. As you will see, there are plenty of business opportunities available with the U.S. federal government for firms based outside of the U.S.

Getting Properly Registered

Whether you’re an American firm or foreign firm, you need to get registered in the System for Award Management aka SAM. As a foreign firm, however, you need to know of the extra requirement for your buisness to get registered in SAM. To do so, you will need to get a DUNS number and then an NCAGE number.

To get your DUNS number, you will need to simply visit this page in order to request one. Basically, DUNS stands for:

  • Data
  • Universal
  • Numbering
  • System

It’s a 9 digit number that serves as a unique identifier for each and every location of your business. What you should also know is that in the near future, the U.S. government plans on replacing the requirement for DUNS numbers with something called a SAMMI number.

Now that you have a DUNS number, you can finally get your NCAGE number. NCAGE stands for:

  • NATO
  • Commercial
  • And
  • Governmental
  • Entity

To get an NCAGE number, simply visit this page and follow the directions. What you should know about getting an NCAGE number and registering in the SAM is that there is plenty of room for errors to be made. Such mistakes or inaccuracies can delay your entrance into the U.S. federal marketplace.

What you can do instead is just hire a third-party firm such as U.S. Federal Contractor Registration to take care of this process. Stop dealing with the cumbersome paperwork and focus on running your business. If you’re a foreign firm and you’re looking to work with the U.S. government, get a hold of the experts that can get you started and thriving.

Start the Registration Process Today

Filed under: Government Contracting First StepsTagged with: , , ,

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