Getting through ATF paperwork for approvals before ATF eForms were launched, transfers or permits may feel like an endless rabbit hole unless you are an expert or have some knowledge of the process. Especially the first-time applicants had a lot of questions while going through the red tapes of the agency.
ATF eForms FAQs can be helpful to get you through the ATF approval process
Frequently asked questions about ATF eForms electronic submission
Yes. In order to use ATF eForms, you will need to create an account. On the ATF eForm website, you will have the option of how you want to register. If you register as a trust or corporation, you can certify and submit your eForm remotely. As per the ATF, if you register as an individual applicant, you must certify in person at the dealer.
During the eFiling process, you will need to send your fingerprints as well. You can send them via FD-258 fingerprint card or live scan your fingerprints to create a digital file. There are third-party fingerprinting service providers who can assist with the eForm submission process, in which an electronic fingerprint file is included with your application. Without an electronic version of your fingerprints, you will need to mail paper fingerprint cards. Your expected processing wait time starts when the fingerprints are received by the ATF. By submitting electronic fingerprints, it will happen immediately and the wait time is also reduced significantly.
You will need ATF Form 4 for buying a suppressor/silencer. ATF Form 4/eForm 4 is the form that is used for approval of transfer of the NFA items such as suppressors, short-barreled rifles and shotguns, explosive ordnance, and “Any Other Weapon” (AOW), such as disguised or improvised firearms.
Silencers/suppressors are legal in 42 of the 50 states, and it is legal to hunt within 40 states. Theoretically, you should carry your tax stamp along with your silencer/suppressor but what people generally do is keep the original one safe at their place and carry its photocopy or a photo in their smartphone. In most cases, it will be enough to prove that you are authorized to have the silencer/suppressor in your possession.
According to the ATF, a separate tax stamp is required for each NFA item. So, if you want to purchase multiple suppressors, you will need to pay for $200 tax stamp for each suppressor. This rule is not limited to suppressors but extends to all NFA items. For each NFA item, you will need a separate tax stamp.
Yes, suppressors are enlisted in the definition of NFA items as of March 2022.
Silencer shops are one of the leading firearm dealers in the United States and they offer a variety of firearms, NFA items, and firearm-related services. However, Silence shops are yet to come up with eForm 1 submission service as of March 2022.
Yes, they support paper form-based submissions as well as eForms.
- Either the person you are sharing your silencer with should be from the same state or it should be legal to own a silencer if the person is from some other state.
- The person should not be prohibited to use NFA items.
- Your silencer should be registered as an NFA trust and the person you are sharing with should be enlisted as a “responsible person”. If the person is not enlisted as a responsible person in your NFA trust, he/she can be enlisted by submitting the required paperwork. If the silencer is registered as an individual item, it cannot be shared with anyone else.
Nothing is official yet but there is a good chance that suppressors can be removed from the NFA items category. One argument favoring its removal from the NFA items category is suppressors should be more easily available without going through the red tapes as they are primarily used as hearing protection equipment.
In fact, a bill – The Hearing Protection Act has been introduced in the U.S. Congress. According to the U.S. Congress website – “This bill removes silencers from the definition of firearms for purposes of the National Firearms Act. It also treats persons acquiring or possessing a firearm silencer as meeting any registration and licensing requirements of such Act.”
This act intends to revise the definitions of suppressors/silencers under the federal criminal code as well as to make them more accessible and affordable by including them in the 10% excise tax category.
You would need ATF Form 4 (Application for Tax Paid Transfer and Registration of a Firearm) in order to purchase a suppressor. However, if you are looking to make (manufacture) the item, you would need Form 1 (Application to Make and Register a Firearm).
Yes. All Silencer Shop Gun Trusts can be used with eForms including Single Shot Trusts, Single Shot NFA Gun Trusts, Single Shot Unlimited, and NFA Gun Trusts.
Making suppressors for personal or commercial purposes can land you in a lot of trouble if you are not legally allowed to do so. It is a Federal felony to be in possession of an NFA item if you do not do it legally, let alone make them.
Making suppressor without proper paperwork and permit will be considered a Federal felony with a minimum sentence of 27 months in prison and a potential fine of $10,000. In order to avoid this, you need to properly fill and submit ATF Form 1 (Application to Make and Register a Firearm) and get approval to legally manufacture a suppressor or any NFA item.
Yes, ATF Form 4 (Application for Tax Paid Transfer and Registration of a Firearm) is now available on the ATF eForm online system to eFile.
Silencer shops or dealers can assist you with submissions of eForm 4.
After the introduction of the new eForm system in December 2021, faster processing and shorter wait times are one of the goals ATF looks to achieve with the new system. However, it is in a transition phase and as of now (March 2022) processing ATF form 4 for getting a suppressor is still taking 8 to 12 months.
When your Form 4 is approved, your dealer hears back from the ATF and the ATF will mail the approved Tax Stamp to your dealer. During this time, you can expect a call from the dealer to collect your NFA item.
ATF Form 4 is an “Application for Tax Paid Transfer and Registration of Firearm”, i.e. it is used for requesting approval for transferring an NFA item to an individual. It is filed by a qualified federal firearms licensee to transfer to an individual or other entity (non-licensee). On the other hand, ATF Form 1 is applicable for an individual or a legal entity to be able to make and register their own firearm or to convert it again into a short barrel rifle or short barrel shotgun.
ATF eForm 3 is used for applying for tax-exempt transfer of firearms and registration to special (Occupational) taxpayers (National Firearms Act). It is filed by a qualified federal firearms licensee to transfer to another qualified federal firearms licensee. The form is used for inter-dealer transfer among FFLs.
For example, if an FFL wants in Florida wants to transfer an NFA firearm to another FFL located in Texas, ATF eForm 3/Form 3 can be used for the purpose. The transfer process from one FFL to another FFL is tax-free, i.e. there is no tax involved in the process.
ATF 4473 is the Form that needs to be filled out when someone intends to purchase a firearm from an FFL (Federal Firearms License) dealer. This form is filled once you have received your approval such as ATF Form 4 or “Application for Tax Paid Transfer and Registration of Firearm”. ATF Form 4473 needs to be filled out before you can complete the transfer to your customer.
ATF 4473 Form is the only acceptable documentation of the transfer of a firearm to a customer based on the regulations set forth by the ATF. Therefore, it is imperative that this legal document be completed accurately. ATF 4473 Form is a six-page document that requires the customer and the FFL dealer/clerk to complete different sections provided in it, carefully document the identity of the customer and the firearm to be transferred.
Yes, ATF Form 4473 can be filled electronically, i.e. you can fill it directly on the Form 4473 PDF. However, this form is not available on the ATF eForm system for eFiling.
Pending ATF approval is a status for your ATF application in which you have submitted your application but approval is yet to take place. For example, in the case of ATF Form 4, as long as approval is pending, your NFA item will be with the dealer and cannot be released until approved.
According to the ATF “Licensees shall retain each ATF Form 4473 for a period of not less than 20 years after the date of sale or disposition. Where a licensee has initiated a National Instant Background Check System (NICS) check for a proposed firearms transaction, but the sale, delivery, or transfer of the firearm is not made, the licensee shall record any transaction number on Form 4473, and retain the Form 4473 for a period of not less than 5 years after the date of the NICS inquiry.”
ATF Form 1 application may take from 60 to up to 5 months to process, depending on how you are going to apply. With a manual submission with a paper form, expect the wait time to be as long as 5 months, while with electronic submission (eFiling) the wait time reduces to 10 days. You do have some variability in that just because of the FBI background check system.
To have your suppressor approved, you will need to fill and submit ATF Form 4. Before the newly launched eForm system, eForm 4 processing time used to be about six to nine months and in some cases taking even 12 months. However, this is expected to reduce significantly with the new system. ATF wants to have a form for transfer times down to 90 days by the end of 2023, and eventually, they want to have transfer times down to 30 days.
As of now, we are yet to experience a significant difference in Form 4 approval wait times and they still range from 6 to 12 months.
You can check your ATF approval status by calling ATF or an NFA branch. ATF can be reached directly at 304-616-4500. You would be asked about the basic information such as your name or the name of the legal entity used in the form (such as a trust or corporation), the name of the entity transferring the item, and the serial number of your NFA item. With the information, ATF can fetch the status of your Form 2, i.e. at what stage in the system it currently is, and provide you an approximate time by which it should be processed.
ATF maintains a registry of firearms manufactured, registered, and distributed into commerce. This registry keeps updating as per their internal procedures and compliances, so some records may stay indefinitely with the ATF while some might be deleted (when they turn irrelevant) after keeping for some years as per the agency’s internal procedures.
ATF requires FFLs to retain records for a certain period of time. It requires ATF Form 4473 to be retained for a period of not less than 20 years after the date of sale or disposition.
There can be cases in which an FFL initiated a National Instant Background Check System (NICS) check for a proposed firearms transaction, but the transfer of the firearm did not take place. In such cases, the FFL is required to record any transaction number on Form 4473, and retain it for a period of not less than 5 years after the date of the NICS inquiry. Multiple Handgun Sales Report, Form 3310.4, and FFL Theft/Loss Report are also required to be retained for a period of not less than 5 years.
ATF, as the regulatory body to govern and regulate Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms in the United States, keeps a close watch on the firearms manufactured, imported and transferred across the country. As long as your NFA firearm is purchased from a federally licensed firearm dealer (FFL), ATF has your record and can trace the ownership of guns. However, if the guns were purchased from individuals without any background check or paperwork, tracking their ownership can be tricky.
An NFA Gun Trust is a legal instrument or “entity”, which allows you to own and share firearms among the responsible persons enlisted on it. For example, a group of people can create an “NFA Gun Trust” to enlist NFA firearms as well as themselves in the Trust, and those items can be possessed and shared among them without any restriction.
Your eligibility for getting a firearm in the United States depends on different factors including age, background, etc. Your probability of getting a firearm (within the legal boundaries) may vary from state to state. However, if you are a convicted felon, suffering from mental illness, have faced charges such as domestic violence, etc. and a few other factors will disqualify you from purchasing a firearm in most U.S. states. Some states may have stricter rules, while others may be comparatively lenient.
- Conviction of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.
- Conviction of a felony or any other crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year (this does not include State misdemeanors punishable by imprisonment of two years or less).
- If you are a fugitive from justice.
- An unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance;
- If you have been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to a mental institution.
- If you have been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions.
- If you have renounced your U.S. citizenship; are an alien illegally in the United States or an alien admitted to the United States under a non-immigrant visa; or are subject to certain restraining orders.
Background check is an umbrella term that involves multiple checks and criminal history investigation is an important part of it. Background checks require verification of several records from multiple sources, some of which may not be available via the internet. Sometimes, the sources may be unavailable on cause delays due to issues at their end; all these reasons may cause background checks to become a time taking process.
- Past felony convictions.
- Misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.
- History of drug consumption.
- Mental illness history.
- Records of indictment or information for a felony in any Federal, State, local court, or any other crimes are punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.
When there is inaccurate information provided (intentionally or unintentionally) while applying for approval, agencies might find discrepancies in the information provided and available records. This may cause back and forth communication and delay the process. Background checks, even when conducted with all the accurate information, require verification of different records from multiple sources, some of which may not be available via the internet. Sometimes, the source agency may take time due to issues at their end, all these reasons may cause delays in background checks.
There are a couple of reasons that cause ATF wait times to be long. There is extensive paperwork that includes minute details to be verified from different sources. On top of that, there are already requests to be processed in the queue. The penetration and ownership of NFA items have increased dramatically in the past couple of decades.
Another reason is that most ATF approvals are submitted as legal entities (such as trusts or corporations), which takes longer to process as there can be multiple individuals and firearms enlisted in these legal entities.
ATF has been pushing itself to shorten the wait times and the new eForm system introduced in December 2022 is a step taken in that direction. However, the impact of the new system is yet to be visible.
|ATF Form||Processing Office||Paper||eForm|
|Form 1||Application to Make and Register a Firearm||NFA Division||5 months||60 days|
|Form 2||Notice of Firearms Manufactured or Imported||NFA Division||1 month||10 days|
|Form 3||Application for Tax-Exempt Transfer of Firearm and Registration to Special Occupational Taxpayer (SOT)||NFA Division||1 month||10 days|
|Form 4||Application for Tax Paid Transfer and Registration of Firearm||NFA Division||8 months||–|
|Form 5||Application for Tax-Exempt Transfer and Registration of Firearm||NFA Division||2 months||10 days|
|Form 6||Application and Permit for Importation of Firearms, Ammunition and Implements of War||Imports Branch||6 weeks||13 days|
|Form 6 NIA||Application/Permit for Temporary Importation of Firearms and Ammunition by Non-immigrant Aliens||Imports Branch||6 weeks||–|
|Form 7||Application for Federal Firearms License (FFL)||FFLC||2 months||–|
|Form 9||Application and Permit for Permanent Exportation||NFA Division||1 month||10 days|
|Form 10||Application for Registration of Firearms Acquired by Certain Governmental Entities||NFA Division||1 month||10 days|
|Form 3311.4||Application for Alternate Means of Identification of Firearm(s) (Marking Variance)||FATD||3 months||–|
|Application for Explosives License or Permit (FEL/FEP)||FELC||3 months||–|
|Form 5400.28||Employee Possessor Questionnaire (EPQ)||FELC||3 months||–|
According to the ATF, the agency is applying additional overtime resources and providing an increased level of effort to the research and perfection of pipeline applications. ATF is also diligently working to bring tax-paid applications to the eForms portal for efficient workflow management. ATF also re-examining different options including technology to improve the paper-based applications’ wait times.
Yes, the new ATF eForm system is claimed to be more efficient, modern, and faster than the older eForm process. The agencies improved the eForm system in many aspects including the electronic fingerprinting process in which you can create a digital fingerprint EFT file and send it to the ATF.
ATF is also called BATFE (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives). BATFE background check and ATF background check are just two different names for the same process.
The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) system is maintained by the FBI in order to enable instant background checks before firearm transfers. You will need a Form 4473 readily filled, whether you conduct background checks over the phone or via NICS E-Check online system.
If the response to a background check is “proceed”, the NICS transaction number is recorded and the firearm transfer takes place. If the response of the NICS check is “denied”, a NICS resolution card with NTN at the bottom is provided to the customer so they can appeal. If the response is “delayed”, the NICS has three days to research and respond. Often the NICS examiner can provide a response immediately, but if there is no response after three days, the transfer of the firearm can proceed.
No. You will need an FFL to submit eForm 4. ATF eForm 4 is an “Application for Tax Paid Transfer and Registration of a Firearm”, which needs to be filed by a qualified federal firearms licensee to transfer to an individual or other entity (non-licensee).
If NICS checks unearth criminal history in your background information that does not conform to the approval policy of the ATF, NICS can be denied.
ATF may call you for several reasons, for example, if you have an ATF application pending for the approval of multiple firearm purchases, ATF may reach you to collect further information. ATF keeps a close watch on the transfer of multiple firearms to prevent unlicensed firearms businesses, weapons trafficking and to promote public safety.
If there is an ongoing investigation and it somehow links to your identity, ATF may contact you to lead their investigation. The agency may call you or come knocking on your door for investigating any case related to firearms in which your name has appeared in firearm tracing.
ATF eForms offer several benefits over traditional paper form-based submission. In paper forms, there is almost no room for editing if errors occur, while in ATF eForms you can review and edit any time before finalizing your submission.
Different data validation checks can be applied on electronic forms to make sure that the entered data is of the correct type (e.g. text, numeric, etc.) and the user can be alerted if it is not. Electronic versions of any form can be provided with different pre-filled data using the drop-down menu, radio buttons, calendar, etc. instead of making users type the data, to further avoid the possibility of data entry errors.
Filling paper forms can be a slow and cumbersome process, on the other hand, filling ATF eForms offer a faster data entry experience. That’s not all; ATF eForms offer faster turnaround times as they are submitted electronically, unlike paper forms that need to be dispatched to the ATF physically via mail. In paper form applications, your approval process does not start until your form reaches the agency. However, ATF eForms cut the time taken by the mail to zero.
Since the launch of the new ATF eForm system in December 2021, ATF has been showing a lot of optimism about the new system. The agency claims it to be more refined, faster, and efficient. However, just like any, IT powered system, ATF eForm works according to the underlying programs and logic. No IT system is perfect and ATF eForms are not an exception. There may be minor hiccups in between but it is very unlikely that the entire system will go down as ATF has put some serious efforts to make the system more efficient and reliable this time.