An explanation of how the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) can help exporters find financial assistance. This article is part of "A Basic Guide to Exporting", provided by the U.S. Commercial Service, to assist companies in exporting.
Last Published: 11/25/2016
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is another government agency that provides financial assistance to U.S. exporters. Through its partnership with national, regional, and community lenders, SBA provides loan guarantees for export working capital and acquisition of plant and equipment, as well as capital for enabling small businesses to commence or expand export activity.

SBA’s Export Working Capital Program (EWCP) will provide a 90% guarantee to lenders on loans up to $5.0 million. These loans provide working capital to fund the export transaction cycle from purchase order to collections. They can also support standby letters of credit used as bid or performance bonds. The loans can be set up to support individual transactions, multiple transactions, or as asset-based, revolving lines of credit. Interest rates are negotiated between the borrower and the lender and may be fixed or variable.

SBA and Ex-Im Bank have the same application for their working capital programs, however there are four main differences: 1) SBA can only finance small businesses; 2) SBA loans can only go as high as $5 million; 3) SBA can support military sales, unlike the Ex-Im Bank; and 4) SBA does not have a U.S. content requirement, unlike the Ex-Im Bank, and can provide financing as long as the exported items are shipped from the U.S. Turnaround is usually in 10 days or less.

SBA offers many different types of assistance. If after reading this you’re not sure what your company might be eligible to receive, contact one of SBA’s Export Finance Managers based in 21 U.S. Export Assistance Center locations.
Under its International Trade Loan Program, SBA can guarantee loans up to $5 millionfor permanent working capital, facilities and/or equipment (including land and buildings;  renovation, improvement, or expansion of existing facilities; and purchase or reconditioning of machinery, equipment, and fixtures). Applicants must either:
  • Certify that loan proceeds will enable them to expand existing export markets or develop new ones, or
  • Show that they have been adversely affected by import competition and need to retool or modernize operations;
The loan will improve the borrower’s competitive position.
Export Express is a program that expedites multipurpose loans for small business exporters. The U.S. Small Business Administration delegates the authority to authorized lenders to unilaterally approve these SBA-guaranteed loans. The lenders can use their own forms and credit underwriting standards for similarly sized loans. SBA only checks eligibility, typically provides approvals within 36 hours of submission. Export Express loans have a cap of $500,000. Loans of up to $350,000 receive a 90 percent SBA guarantee, and loans over that amount receive a 75 percent SBA guarantee. To be eligible, a business must have been in operation for at least 1 year and must show that it will increase export sales, or begin exporting, as a result of the loan. SBA’s other eligibility requirements also apply. Eligible use of proceeds includes financing of export development activities, transaction-specific financing for export orders, revolving export lines of credit, fixed-asset loans, and financing of standby letters of credit used as bid and performance bonds.

The EWCP, the International Trade Loan Program, and Export Express all require the participation of an eligible commercial lender. Most bankers are familiar with SBA’s guarantee programs, but you should ask to speak to the SBA division of the lender you approach. Each of these programs also may finance “in-direct” exporters, viz. firms that provide products or components to an official Exporter of Record (such as Boeing).
In addition to these export-oriented programs, SBA offers a variety of other loan programs that may meet specific needs of small businesses For information on SBA’s programs, please contact the nearest U.S. Export Assistance Center or SBA District Office. or call 800-U-ASK-SBA (800-827-5722), or visit

Small Business Administration