The iconic Scottish landmark will be put forward to Unesco for consideration as a World Heritage Site, with a decision expected in 2015.
If successful, the rail bridge would be the sixth World Heritage Site in Scotland.
Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said it would be a “tremendous accolade” for Scotland, and a chance to celebrate the country’s “incredible engineering ingenuity and pedigree”.
“The Forth Bridge is a Scottish icon that is recognised the world over,” she said.
“We are extremely excited that we have the opportunity to make the case for the bridge being inscribed as Scotland’s sixth World Heritage Site.”
The crossing was included on a shortlist of 11 possible UK World Heritage Sites submitted by the UK government to Unesco – the body which awards the honour – earlier this year.
An independent expert group has now recommended that the Forth Bridge bid should go forward, as well as Gorham’s Cave Complex in Gibraltar.
The bid will now be prepared by the Forth Bridges Forum, which includes representatives from Historic Scotland, bridge owners Network Rail, Transport Scotland, the Forth Estuary Transport Authority, Fife Council and City of Edinburgh Council.
There were two other Scottish sites on the shortlist – the Flow Country and Mousa, Old Scatness and Jarlshof: the Zenith of Iron Age Shetland. They could still have a chance to make a formal bid for World Heritage Status at a later date.
David Simpson, route managing director for Network Rail Scotland, said: “The Forth Bridge is one of the most recognisable bridges anywhere in the world.
“The bridge has become a source of pride and a symbol of Scotland’s resilience and ingenuity, but we must never lose sight of the fact that it is, first and foremost, a working structure which still carries over 200 trains a day.
“This nomination should be regarded as a further tribute to the thousands of men who have contributed to building, maintaining and restoring the structure over the last 130 years.”
The Forth Bridge is the world’s first large-scale steel cantilever bridge.
Work on the bridge started in 1882 and was formally completed on 4 March, 1890, by HRH Edward Prince of Wales.
The bridge used 54,000 tonnes of steel and an estimated 6,500,000 rivets. Its total cost was £3,200,000, which is equivalent to around £235 million today.
Scottish Secretary Michael Moore hailed the structure as “an iconic symbol of Scotland which is instantly recognised the world over”.
He said: “It was nominated for Unesco World Heritage Status by the UK government last year and the fact it has topped the list and can now take its bid forward is good news for Scotland.”
There are five existing World Heritage Sites in Scotland:
St Kilda: an archipelago of Hebridean islands. Home to many seabird species, the Soay and the Boreray, as well as the St Kilda Field Mouse and St Kilda Wren.
Edinburgh Old and New Towns: including the medieval Royal Mile, which runs from Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, and the 18th century New Town.
The Heart of Neolithic Orkney: includes Maeshowe, the Ring of Brodgar, Skara Brae and Standing Stones of Stenness.
New Lanark: a restored 18th century industrial cotton mill village in South Lanarkshire constructed by Robert Owen as an experiment in utopian socialism.
The Antonine Wall: the remains of a 37-mile long defensive line between the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Clyde.