Apply for a License

How to Become a Federal Explosives Licensee

Once you have decided to apply for a federal explosives license or permit (commonly referred to as an “FEL”) you would send the completed application to ATF’s Lockbox; the Lockbox is operated by U.S. Bank in Portland, OR. The bank will deposit your application fee, which you can pay by check, credit card or money order (we do not accept cash) and once the application fee is processed, the Bank will forward your application to the Federal Explosives Licensing Center (FELC) in Martinsburg, West Virginia.

First Review and Background Check

The FELC will then enter your application information into its database and commence a full review of your application and supporting materials, including employee data, fingerprint cards, and photographs. We will review the fingerprint cards you submitted for clarity and as required by law we will then conduct an electronic background check on all “responsible persons” identified on the application. A responsible person is a sole proprietor, partner, or anyone with the power to direct the management, policies, and practices of the business as it pertains to explosives. In a corporation this includes corporate officers, shareholders, board members, or any other employee with the legal authority described above. All responsible persons must submit an ATF Form 5400.13A/5400.16 - Responsible Person Questionnaire.

All “employee possessors” must submit an ATF Form 5400.28 – Employee Possessor Questionnaire (commonly referred to as an EPQ). An Employee Possessor (EP) is an individual who has actual or constructive possession of explosive materials during the course of his employment with your business. Electronic background checks are conducted for all EPs submitted with the application.

Interview and Final Review

Applications for new licenses and permits are then sent to the nearest ATF field office having responsibility for the area in which your premises are located. The field office supervisor will issue an assignment to an Industry Operations Investigator (IOI) who will conduct a face-to-face qualification inspection with you. The IOI will interview you, discuss state and local requirements with you, review explosives storage requirements, review federal recordkeeping requirements, go over the application with you, and additionally discuss the laws and regulations with you. The IOI will then prepare a report of his/her interview, inspection and make a recommendation to either issue the license or permit or deny the license or permit. Some reasons for denial include failure to comply with state or local law, evidence of an applicant’s previous violation of the Safe Explosives Act, or falsification of the application.

The field office supervisor will review the report and electronically submit his/her recommendation to the FELC. Assuming that all background checks have been completed and your premises address, storage requirements and proposed business operations are in compliance with state and local law, the FELC will complete the application processing and issue you the license or permit. This will take approximately 90 days from the time your application is completely and correctly filled out.

New Application Checklist

To assist you in preparing your new application for a Federal Explosives License/Permit, we have prepared a checklist for you to use. Please complete all forms included in your application packet in accordance with the instructions on each form.

Please verify you have completed the following as indicated:

  • Completed the application ATF Form 5400.13/5400.16. Please ensure all questions have been fully answered to include information for all storage facilities and locations, if applicable, in accordance with specific instructions.
  • Verify that each ATF Form 5400.13/5400.16 has been signed by the sole proprietor, corporate officer or partner as applicable, and that all questions have been answered.
  • Complete ATF Form 5400.13A/5400.16 - Responsible Person Questionnaire for any individual who meets the definition of a Responsible Person
  • Attach one FD-258 (fingerprint card) and one 2″ x 2″ photograph for each Responsible Person identified in item 11 on ATF Form 5400.13/5400.16.
  • Complete ATF Form 5400.28 — Employee Possessor Questionnaire for any individual who meets the definition of an Employee Possessor (see definition #2 on back of form).
  • Verify that each ATF Form 5400.28 has been signed by the person on the form and all questions have been answered.
  • Confirm that the appropriate fee has been included. The payment of the fee should be with a check or money order (no cash) made payable to: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.


Application for Explosives License or Permit (ATF Form 5400.13)

Sample FEL Form

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