Appeals and Voluntary Appeal File (VAF)
The NICS is a name check system that queries available records in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), the Interstate Identification Index (III), and the NICS Indices to determine if prospective firearm purchasers are disqualified from receiving or possessing firearms.
If you believe you have been wrongfully denied a firearm transfer or pawn redemption, you may request an appeal. Some individuals may find they are continuously delayed when purchasing or redeeming firearms. Others may successfully appeal a NICS denial but still experience extended delays or erroneous denials on subsequent transactions. The Voluntary Appeal File (VAF) was established to assist in these types of situations by providing a way for an individual to request that NICS maintain information to clarify their identity or past events to prevent future extended delays or erroneous denials on firearm transfers.
A delayed transaction will be purged from the NICS within 88 days from creation. The NICS Section recommends that you wait 30 days from the date initiating the check prior to filing an appeal on a delay to give the NICS Section’s staff time to complete the initial transaction. If your original background check is completed, the Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) will be notified with a final status.
The NICS Section is currently processing Voluntary Appeal File (VAF) cases received in October 2016.
If you would like to challenge your firearm background check online—including a Nuclear Regulatory Commission background check—please visit www.edo.cjis.gov.
Individuals attempting to purchase firearms who experience extended delays or erroneous denials may apply to be considered for entry into the VAF by signing an applicant statement that authorizes the NICS Section to retain information that would otherwise be destroyed upon the approval of the firearm transaction. A fingerprint card is also required when applying for VAF.
A complete NICS check is still required for future purchases and will result in a denial if additional prohibitive information is discovered. The NICS Section is required to destroy any records submitted to the VAF upon written request of the individual.
A VAF application and fingerprint form can be obtained online (below), by emailing a request to firstname.lastname@example.org, or by mailing a request to the FBI, Criminal Justice Information Services Division, NICS Section, NICS Functional Support Team, Module A-1, Post Office Box 4278, Clarksburg, WV 26302-4278.
A "Denied" message from the NICS indicates the subject of a NICS background check has been matched with a similar name and similar descriptive information of a record containing a state or federal prohibition.
A "Delayed" message from the NICS indicates the subject of a NICS background check has been matched with a similar name and similar descriptive information associated with a record containing a potential state or federal firearm prohibition. The NICS Section must obtain additional information before making a final determination of a Proceed or Denied for the firearm transfer. The NICS Section is afforded three business days in which to conduct this research. If the NICS Section is unable to provide either a Proceed or Denied response to the Federal Firearms Licensee within three business days, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 does not prohibit the Federal Firearms Licensee, or FFL, from transferring the firearm; however, the FFL is not required to do so.
A federal prohibition would exist for any person who:
- Has been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year
- Is a fugitive from justice
- Is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance
- Has been adjudicated as a mental defective or committed to a mental institution
- Is an alien illegally or unlawfully in the United States or who has been admitted to the United States under a non-immigrant visa
- Has been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions
- Having been a citizen of the United States, has renounced U.S. citizenship
- Is subject to a court order that restrains the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of such intimate partner
- Has been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence
- Is under indictment for a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year
In addition to federally prohibitive criteria, the NICS must delay or deny firearm transfers based on applicable state law.
A delayed transaction will be purged from the NICS within 88 days from creation. The NICS Section recommends that you wait 30 days from the date initiating the check prior to filing an appeal on a delay to give the NICS Section’s staff time to complete the initial transaction. If your original background check is completed, the Federal Firearm Licensee will be notified with a final status.
Voluntary Appeal File FAQs
What does UPIN stand for?
Unique Personal Identification Number
Can anyone apply for a VAF UPIN?
Yes. The VAF was originally established to permit individuals to request the NICS maintain information about themselves in the VAF to prevent future erroneous denials or extended delays of a firearm transfer.
How do I initiate a VAF request?
A VAF application can be found at https://www.fbi.gov/file-repository/vaf-form-25.pdf/view. You must complete all required fields on the application and include a set of your rolled fingerprints. Failure to submit all required VAF information may result in the rejection of your VAF application.
Can I apply for the VAF the same time I am appealing a NICS deny/delay?
Yes. An appeal can submitted online at https://www.edo.cjis.gov, and a VAF application can be found at https://www.fbi.gov/file-repository/vaf-form-25.pdf/view. A fingerprint card is required when applying for the VAF.
Can I use the same fingerprint card I used on my overturn appeal and submit it with my VAF Application?
Where should I go to get my fingerprint impressions rolled?
Law enforcement agencies such as sheriff’s offices, police departments, etc., or any other authorized fingerprinting agency can roll your fingerprints for you.
Does the VAF accept electronic scanned fingerprint images?
Yes. You must request the fingerprinting agency to print you a copy of your electronic scanned fingerprint images, which must be submitted with your VAF application to the FBI Criminal Justice Information Services Division, National Instant Criminal Background Check System Section, Voluntary Appeal File, Module D-1, Post Office Box 4278, Clarksburg, West Virginia 26302-4278.
Do agencies charge a fingerprinting fee?
Individual agencies have the option to set their own rates for fingerprint processing.
What do I do if my fingerprint card was rejected by the NICS Section?
You should first read the VAF response letter to determine if the fingerprint card was rejected because the fingerprints were insufficient and could not be processed, or if the fingerprint card information or application was incomplete. You will then need to go back to the agency who initially rolled/scanned your fingerprints and ask them to complete the missing information or re-roll your fingerprints again if the fingerprint images were unable to be processed. (Note: The agency rolling the fingerprint impressions must include the following on the fingerprint card: (1) agency name and address, (2) agency’s telephone number, (3) legible signature of the official taking the fingerprints, and (4) Originating Agency Identifier Number, if applicable.)
How do I use the VAF UPIN?
When filling out the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Form 4473, you must place the VAF UPIN in box 9 and also advise the FFL you have a VAF UPIN.
Once I get my UPIN, does that mean I will never be delayed or denied a firearm purchase again?
Entry into the VAF will not automatically result in a proceed response on subsequent firearm purchases. A complete NICS check is still required and will result in a denial or delay if additional prohibitive or potentially prohibitive information is discovered.
What do I do if I lost my VAF UPIN?
You must immediately report a lost VAF UPIN in writing to the FBI Criminal Justice Information Services Division, National Instant Criminal Background Check System Section, Voluntary Appeal File, Module D-1, Post Office Box 4278, Clarksburg, West Virginia 26302-4278, or via email to NICS@fbi.gov. Either option must include your complete name, mailing address, and phone number.
If I forget my VAF UPIN, can the NICS Customer Service provide it to me over the phone?
The UPIN cannot be provided over the telephone. However, you may request your VAF UPIN in writing to the FBI Criminal Justice Information Services Division, National Instant Criminal Background Check System Section, Voluntary Appeal File, Module D-1, Post Office Box 4278, Clarksburg, West Virginia 26302-4278, or via email to NICS@fbi.gov. Either option must include your complete name, mailing address, and phone number.
Is there a way to find out the current status of my VAF application?
The FBI is no longer performing status checks on NICS VAF applications. You will receive notification when your VAF application has been processed. All VAF applications are worked in the order in which they were received.
How can I cancel my VAF application?
You must submit the cancellation of your VAF application in writing. The request must include your complete name and mailing address.
If my mailing address changes, who should I contact?
If your address changes during the time your appeal request is in process, you must request your new address change online at https://forms.fbi.gov/nics-address-change or by mail to the FBI Criminal Justice Information Services Division, National Instant Criminal Background Check System Section, NICS Functional Support Unit, Module D-1, Post Office Box 4278, Clarksburg, West Virginia 26302-4278. Please ensure all submissions contain your name, old address, new address, and NTN or STN.