NICS Voluntary Appeal File (VAF)

On July 20, 2004, a final rule was enacted by the Department of Justice describing the changes regarding the prompt destruction of records. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, must destroy all of the purchasers identifying information on preceded transactions within a 24-hour period.

Video Transcript


Salesman: Hi, How are you today?


Purchaser: I’m good. How are you?


Salesman: Not too bad. You looking for a gun today?


Purchaser: I am looking for a gun today ... That’s a nice gun.


Salesman: Yes it is.


Purchaser: I would like to purchase it please.


Salesman: OK. Can I see a form of ID?


Purchaser: Yes.


Salesman: Here’s the form. I need your phone number up there. You can’t abbreviate anything but your state and street designation.


Purchaser: OK.


Salesman: Maam, you’ve been delayed today.


Purchaser: OK. You know, every time I go to buy a firearm they delay me.


Salesman: That happens sometimes. What I could do is I could give you the VAF packet and that would help prevent the problem in the future.


Purchaser: OK. Is all the information that I need in here? Like, it will tell me what I need to do?


Salesman: Yep.


Purchaser: OK.


Salesman: We will still have to wait the standard time frame for this one. We’ll get back to you in a few days.


Purchaser: Alright. Thank you.


Salesman: No problem.


Narrator: On July 20, 2004, a final rule was enacted by the Department of Justice describing the changes regarding the prompt destruction of records. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, must destroy all of the purchasers identifying information on preceded transactions within a 24-hour period.

If a firearm purchaser is delayed or denied a firearm and they successfully appeal the decision, NICS cannot retain the record of the overturned appeal or the supporting documentation. So, if the record cannot be updated, the individual could continue to be subject to extended delays or erroneous denials, which could result in the individual having to submit supporting documentation for every subsequent appeal request.

Because of this reason, the Voluntary Appeal File, or VAF, was established. This process permit applicants who have been delayed or denied a firearm because their descriptive data, including name or date of birth, is similar to that of an individual with prohibiting or potentially prohibiting criminal history record, the ability to request that the NICS section retain information about them in the VAF.

The VAF is a separate file to be checked on future attempts to purchase a firearm to help prevent extended delays or erroneous denials.

When you request a VAF packet from NICS you will receive a package containing a NICS letter, the VAF brochure, an applicant fingerprint card, and a self-addressed stamped envelope.

You now have started the VAF process to apply to be considered into the VAF. The NICS letter will provide you with information about the VAF, provide directions on the VAF application process, as well as give additional contact information for questions or to submit additional information.

The brochure contains the application to apply to the VAF, which has mandatory fields that must be completed. You will find on the application fields  like name, sex, race, height, weight, date of birth, and so on.

Located on the other side of the application is an area called the applicant statement. For your application to be processed, you must sign the applicant statement. An original signature is required to authorize the NICS section to retain information in the VAF. This information consists of several things like fingerprint card, court documentation, and other information contained in the individual’s appeal file, if one exists.

The application process also requires that positive proof of identity be provided. A set of rolled fingerprint impressions prepared by a law enforcement agency or other fingerprinting agency must be submitted with your application. A fingerprint card is included for your convenience, but you may use any fingerprint card for this purpose. The fingerprint card must contain the following information: the agency’s name and address and ORI number, if applicable; the agency’s telephone number, and the signature of the official taking the fingerprints must also be included on the fingerprint card. NICS does not charge a fee for processing the fingerprint card. But a fee may be charged by the agency holding the fingerprints.

Please be aware that failure to follow any of the listed requirements may result in the rejection of your VAF application or fingerprint card submission, which will cause delays in the processing of your application. The NICS section will also accept any certified court documentation that may assist in the application process. This can include, but is not limited to, court documentation and pardons. Individuals may also provide a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives relief from disabilities.

This information will be retained in the VAF. If at any time an individual requests to be removed from the VAF, their information will be destroyed upon written request.

All materials must be sent via the United States Postal Service to:

FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check System Section
Attention: Voluntary Appeal File Team
Post Office Box 4278
Clarksburg, West Virginia 26302-9922

You cannot send faxes or electronic communications, as they will not be accepted.

The processing time for the application varies depending on a wide variety of factors and circumstances, such as lengthy records, incomplete charge and disposition information, or the availability of information from local and state law enforcement agencies. This process can be very time consuming, especially if records are old and have not been converted to an automated system.

Additionally the NICS section processes all applications in the order they are received. So because of this, we ask for your patience while further review and analysis are being conducted to determine the proper resolution for your application request.

Upon the conclusion of the research and evaluation, you will be notified by mail and provided additional information regarding the application. if you are determined to be eligible for entry into the VAF, you will be assigned a unique personal identification number. This number is to be placed on the ATF Form 4473 in Box 9 in all future attempts to purchases

Entry in the VAF may not automatically result in a proceed response on firearm purchases. There must be a completed NICS check on every attempt to purchase a firearm and may result in a denial if new prohibitive information is discovered. For future checks, the federal firearms licensee, or FFL, must advise the call center they need to initiate a background check. 

If you are determined not to be eligible for entry in the VAF you will be notified in writing of the reason for your ineligibility and provided with additional information to further your application.

NICS is required to destroy all records submitted by an individual to the VAF upon written request of the individual. Also, if the NICS section discovers disqualifying or potentially disqualifying records on the individual after their entry into the VAF, the NICS section may remove the individual’s information from the VAF. In either case, the individual will be notified by mail that their information has been removed.

If you have any question regarding the VAF, you may contact the NICS section customer service at 1-877-324-6427 (FBI-NICS).

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