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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

How long does it take for ATF to process my NFA application?

The processing time for NFA applications varies depending on the type of application submitted. Certain applications require the processing of making or transfer taxes while others are tax-exempt. Some applications require the prospective transferee to pass Federal background checks based on both name and fingerprints while transferees such as law enforcement agencies or foreign military agencies are exempt from background checks. ATF also must ensure that a proposed transfer would not violate State or local law in the transferee’s place of residence. The time needed to research and verify State and local requirements can vary greatly depending on the legal complexity of laws governing the type of firearm sought or the business structure and status of applicants other than individuals. In addition, the sheer volume of applications submitted for ATF review has dramatically increased in recent years. In fiscal year 2005, for example, ATF processed 41,579 NFA applications of all types. By FY 2014, while that number had increased to approximately 235,000, ATF had limited staff available to process the paperwork. Currently, ATF processes the Application to Make and Register a Firearm (Form 1), and the Application for Tax Paid Transfer and Registration of a Firearm (Form 4), approximately 6 months after receipt of a ‘properly executed application'. It is important to keep in mind that incomplete or incorrect applications hamper ATF’s ability to take final action. Questions regarding NFA transfers can be directed to the NFA Branch at 304-616-4500.