Firearm-Related Challenge (Appeal) and Voluntary Appeal File (VAF)
The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) is a name check system that uses databases to determine if a person may legally receive or possess a firearm.
When someone tries to buy a firearm, the seller—known as a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL)—contacts the NICS. The prospective buyer fills out the required form, and the FFL sends that information to the NICS. The NICS staff performs a background check on the buyer to verify eligibility.
Prospective firearms buyers who receive a “Denied” status on their background checks may have a state or federal firearm prohibition. The denied individual may choose to pursue a challenge and/or apply to the Voluntary Appeal File.
A “Delayed” message means the NICS team needs to do additional research to verify the person's background. NICS staff work closely with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies and courts to verify eligibility. In some cases, this can be a time-consuming process.
If NICS staff cannot make a determination within three business days of a background check, the FFL may transfer the firearm, unless prohibited by state law (per the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993.)
If you believe you have been wrongfully denied a firearm, you can request a firearm-related challenge (appeal). You may only challenge a denied firearm transaction, not a delayed one.
This process will provide you:
- the reason your background check was denied, and
- the opportunity to challenge your denied background check online – including a Nuclear Regulatory Commission background check.
The FBI does not accept challenges or provide reasons for delays or denials on state-issued firearms permits. Those questions should be directed to the state agency. The NICS Participation Map explains whether your state, or the FBI, conducts firearms buyers’ background checks.
How to File a Firearm-Related Challenge
To challenge your firearm denial, visit https://www.edo.cjis.gov.
To submit a challenge through the mail, send a request to:
FBI CJIS Division
Attn: Criminal History Analysis Team 1
1000 Custer Hollow Road
Clarksburg, WV 26306
When submitting a challenge via mail, include your NICS Transaction Number (NTN) or State Transaction Number (STN). Failure to include these numbers will delay processing.
Help with Your Firearm-Related Challenge
If you need help or have questions on firearm-related challenges, call (304) 625-5590 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. (This contact information is for help with firearm-related challenges only, not the Voluntary Appeal File.)
Voluntary Appeal File (VAF)
Anyone may apply for the VAF, but it is designed for firearm purchasers who believe they are legally allowed to buy firearms, but they have been denied more than once or frequently experience delays in their transactions. Purchasers sometimes find themselves experiencing delays or denials in firearms purchases because of a past misdemeanor charge or because an ineligible person has a similar name.
When you apply for the VAF, NICS personnel will research your case and assign you a Unique Personal Identification Number (UPIN) if you have no firearms prohibitions. For future firearms transactions, you will provide your UPIN for your background check. You will still have to undergo a complete background check to buy a firearm, but the UPIN will help to confirm your identity.
The VAF process can take several months.
You may also apply for the VAF at the same time you submit a firearm-related challenge.
The NICS Section is currently processing Voluntary Appeal File (VAF) cases received in April 2020.
How to Apply for the VAF
Apply Online - You can apply to the VAF online via eVAF. During the application process, you will receive an email with an encrypted link and pin to access your application. You must log in to the application at least every 90 days for it to remain active.
Paper Applications - A VAF application and fingerprint form can also be obtained online (below).
- Voluntary Appeal File Application
- Archivo de Apelación Voluntaria (Español)
- Standard Fingerprint Form
- Attorney Release Form
- Types of Documents Based on Prohibitor
Mail - You can also mail a request to:
FBI CJIS Division
NICS Functional Support Unit, Module D-1
P.O. Box 4278
Clarksburg, WV 26302-4278
Help with VAF/UPINs
For help with VAF and UPINs, including forgotten UPINs, contact email@example.com or via mail at the address above.
Always include your complete name, mailing address, and phone number when contacting NICS for help. Lost UPINs should be reported immediately.
You can change your mailing address online or at the above mailing address. Include your full name, old address, new address, and your NICS Transaction Number (NTN) or State Transaction Number (STN). (Whether you receive an NTN or an STN depends on your state.) If you wish to cancel your VAF application, you must submit your cancellation in writing.