Transferring Records to a Federal Records Center

This section provides information on:

If you have questions on any step of the transfer process, please call the staff at your local FRC for guidance.

Please note that the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, MO, has special procedures for transferring records. If you are transferring records to NPRC, please see the NPRC section of the Toolkit.

Organizing Your Records

Before transferring records to the FRC, separate the record series having the same disposition authority records into series. Each item or subordinate item in your records schedule represents a series. Identify and separate your records into series by records schedule item number and cutoff date. Each series will be handled as a separate transfer. Each transfer must consist of at least one box and normally only one closing year date for a series of records. FRCs may accept more than one year of records in a transfer.

A series is a block of records having the same disposition authority and same disposition date.

Transfer vs. Accession
Transferring refers to moving records into the physical custody of a NARA Federal Records Center. The transferring agency retains the legal custody of transferred records until final disposition. When permanent records are accessioned into the National Archives, NARA takes legal custody of the records, and in most cases takes physical custody of the records as well. Accessioned records become the property of NARA.

Tips for Packing the Records

(See Figures 1 and 2)

  • Please do not over pack the boxes. Leave a 1 - to 2 - inch space in each box to allow ease of reference.
  • Do not put additional material on the bottom, side, or top of the records in the box.
  • Mixed media (e.g., computer diskettes, microfilm, or videocassettes) cannot be stored in the same environment as paper records. Please do not include these media in the same transfer with paper records without prior approval from the FRC.

Boxes packed with letter and legal sized files.

Packing Pallets

Local FRCs differ slightly regarding the stacking of pallets and the preferred order of boxes on pallets. Please contact the transfer office at your local FRC to confirm proper box order for your FRC (e-mail addresses are available on the FRC Directors page. Pallets should be securely banded with shrink-wrap, steel, plastic, or cord strapping before shipping.

Preparing and Submitting the Standard Form 135,
Transmittal and Receipt Form

The SF 135 contains important information about your transfer that enables the FRC to properly document, store, and service your records. A completed SF 135 must be sent to your records center for approval before shipping records. A separate SF 135 is required for each individual record series having the same disposition authority and disposition date.

Did you know?
NARA no longer requires original signatures on the SF 135. Save time and submit your SF 135 electronically.

Filling Out the SF 135

  • Item 1: Enter the name and address of the FRC to which you are submitting records. See the FRC Directors page for the most current address information.
  • Item 2: Enter the name of the transferring agency official. To expedite and improve the transfer process for our customer agencies, FRCs will accept SF 135s without original signatures. Please note that your agency may have internal procedures that require signatures. If you are in doubt, please contact your agency's records officer.
  • Item 3: Provide the name, office, business telephone number (including area code), and e-mail address of the person to contact about the records.
  • Item 4: Completed by the FRC.
  • Item 5: Provide the complete address of the transferring office. If records come from one office, but the SF 135 should be sent to a different office, please include BOTH addresses. Specify where the approved SF 135 should be sent, and where the final SF 135 should be sent.
  • Item 6: This three-part number comprises the accession number (also called the transfer number).
  • Item 6(a): Enter the NARA record group number assigned to the records of the agency making the transfer.
  • Item 6(b): Enter the last two digits of the current fiscal year.
  • Item 6(c): Unless NARA has granted authorization to your agency to pre-assign numbers, FRC staff will assign a sequential number in this column. At the Washington National Records Center (WNRC), agency records officers typically control and assign transfer numbers.
  • Item 6(d): For transfer and billing purposes, a standard-size box equals one cubic foot. Enter the total number of boxes included in this transfer. If the records do not fit in a standard records center box, leave this column blank, add the dimensions of the container to item 6(f), and contact the FRC staff to verify acceptance.
  • Item 6(e): Enter the inclusive range of numbers (e.g., 1-30).
  • Item 6(f): Describe the records in sufficient detail to allow FRC personnel to verify compliance with your records schedule. You may wish to use the series description provided in your Records Control Schedule, or the General Records Schedule. A complete series description includes the series title and closing date (or inclusive dates) of the records.
  • Include the organizational component that created the records if the component is other than that described in item 5.
  • Indicate in this section if the series of records is subject to the Privacy Act. Since SF 135s are public records, information included on SF 135s (including folder title lists) should not contain National Security Classified information or information restricted by exemption B6, the Freedom of Information Act.
  • If the records are scheduled for permanent retention, are unscheduled, or if disposition instructions indicate sampling records is necessary, you must include a detailed folder listing for each box in item 6(f) (if space permits) or as an attachment. If you are submitting the SF 135 electronically, you may send the listing as a separate e-mail attachment.
  • Special description requirements apply for certain records and should be stated in item 6(f):
  • Stratified Report Invoicing: For agencies participating in Stratified Report Invoicing, a caret (^) followed by a valid two-digit charge code must be placed at the beginning of the series description.
  • Site Audit Records: State "GAO Site Audit" if the records have been so designated by the Government Accountability Office, and indicate whether the site audit records pertain to Native Americans
  • Non-paper-based and special format records: These can include records such as microfilm, engineering drawings (because of their special format), electronic media, etc. Include the format type in 6(f)
    for information on specific codes for non-textual record types).
  • Item 6(g): Restrictions
  • If your records pertain to National Security Information, you must complete this section using one of the three National Security Classification codes (C=Confidential, S=Secret or T=Top Secret). Please note that the codes Q, R, or W (listed on the back of the SF 135) should no longer be used. If you designate a National Security Classification, you MUST also indicate whether the records are designated
    as Code E (Restricted Data or Formerly Restricted Data). For further information, please see EO 12356 (, later amended by EO 13292.
  • At agency request, FRCs can store non-National Security Classified records in vault storage for an additional fee. To request vault storage, please use code A in item 6(g). If you are unsure whether your agency has authorized funding for vault storage for your records, please contact your agency's records officer
  • If there are no special restrictions on your records, you may designate code N or leave this section blank. In this case the default restriction (restricted to authorized agency users and researchers) will apply.
  • Cite the appropriate schedule identifier and item number in your agency records schedule or the General Records Schedule (GRS). For accountable officers' records, cite the appropriate item from GRS 6. You may also use the General Records Schedules (36 CFR 1228.40-46) when dealing with records common to most offices such as contracts, travel and transportation records, and similar records. If you need further assistance, contact your agency's records officer. Also indicate in this section if the records are subject to extended retention, commonly known as a "freeze" on destruction. The "freeze code" is a three-letter designation created by FRC staff to identify the freeze pertinent to the records.
  • Item 6(i): Follow the instructions on your Item 6(i): Follow the instructions on your records schedule to compute the disposition date. Because disposal is accomplished in quarterly cycles (i.e., January, April, July, and October), advance the date to the beginning of the next calendar quarter to obtain the actual date of disposal. For example, if the ending date of your records is September 2006, and the retention period is three years, then the disposal date will be October 2009. Permanent records are offered to the National Archives on an annual basis; no month is shown in the disposition date field. Place "P" after the offer year. If records are unscheduled, please indicate "U" in this section.
  • Item 6(i), 6(k), 6(l), and 6(m) are completed by FRC personnel.

Stratified Report Invoicing refers to billing that is broken out by different functions and/or geographical locations within the same agency. If you are unsure whether your agency participates in Stratified Report Invoicing, contact your agency's records officer, or your NARA FRC account representative.

Submitting the SF 135

Agencies may transmit the SF 135 to FRCs either in hard copy or electronically. Submitting the form electronically reduces mail time, is more secure, and allows revisions to be made in a timely manner. You may obtain an electronic version of the SF 135 online in Word or PDF format (

Before shipping records, you must send a completed SF 135 to your local FRC and receive approval of the form from the center. The "transfers" e-mail address for each FRC is available on the FRC Directors page ( A separate SF 135 is required for each individual record series having the same disposition authority and disposition date. For instructions on completing the SF 135, please see the "Filling out the SF 135" or page 2 of the SF 135.

Each individual record series being transferred requires a separate SF 135. See 36 CFR 1228.160 (e) for more details.

Approval of the Standard Form 135
and Preparation for Transfer

After you submit the SF 135, the FRC staff will review it to ensure that it is complete and accurate. FRC staff will then assign the transfer number and will return one copy of the SF 135 to you within 10 working days, authorizing shipment of the boxes. You must include a copy of the approved SF 135 in box #1 of each transfer. If you submitted a SF 135 electronically, print out the approved copy of the SF 135 that was e-mailed back to you by the FRC and place it in the first box as the "shipment" copy. If the boxes or other containers are sealed and must not be opened by NARA staff, place this shipment copy in an envelope securely taped to the outside of box #1.

Always retain a copy of the detailed box content listing so that you may provide agency box numbers when requesting reference service. We also strongly recommend that you include a copy of the box content listing in box #1.

FRC staff can prepare detailed folder indexing for your transfers on a fee for- service basis. Please see "Special Services" for more details.

After the FRC staff shelve the records, they will issue a records center location number and will return a completed, signed copy of the SF 135 to you as an official receipt. FRC staff will add the location of the records to the receipt copy of the SF 135. Your agency staff will use this location information when requesting records. This receipt copy is your official record of the transfer and should be retained in your files.

Freeze--In records disposition, those temporary records that cannot be destroyed on schedule because of special circumstances, such as a court order or investigation, require a temporary extension of the approved retention period.

Unscheduled records are Federal records whose final disposition has not been approved by NARA in a
records schedule.
An active record is a record necessary to conduct the current business of an office.

Transfers typically contain one series--the records all have one subject, function, or activity in common.

Mixed series are records grouped together into a transfer that do not have any relationship with each other, aside from being from the same agency or office. Mixed-series records may have different disposition authorities but must have the same disposition date.

Permanent records are records that warrant preservation by the Federal Government beyond the time they are needed for administrative, fiscal, or legal purposes because of their historical or other value. The National Archives makes the final determination on permanent records (see 44 USC 29).

Notes on Special Transfers

The majority of transfers to FRCs are paper-based, long-term, scheduled, temporary, non-classified records. If your transfer does NOT fall into these categories, please note the following:

  • Unscheduled Records
    In order to transfer unscheduled records to an FRC, agencies must:
    • Inform NARA's Life Cycle Management Division (NWML) in writing prior to the transfer. This can be done by sending NWML a copy of the SF 135 submitted for FRC approval before transferring the unscheduled records to the FRC. Be sure to include on the SF 135 the date you notified NWML, or include the number of a pending SF 115, Request for Disposition Authority. NWML's address is: 8601 Adelphi Road, Room 2200, College Park, MD 20740.
    • Include the official series title (if applicable) or a general descriptive title for the records in item 6(f): series description on the SF 135.
    • Include a folder title list of the box contents or equivalent detailed records description. This description can be listed under item 6(f): series description or included as an attachment.
    • Indicate "U" for unscheduled records under item 6(i) disposal date on the SF 135.
    • See 36 CFR 1228.152 and 154, Code of Federal Regulations (Transfer of Records to Records Storage Facilities or Unscheduled Records FAQs) for more information on transferring unscheduled records.
  • Active Records
    Agencies may transfer active records to an FRC by using local NARA agreements. Usually, these records stay on-site in the agency office. However, some active records may be suitable for off-site storage. Contact your local FRC for details.
  • Records with Short Retention Periods
    FRCs will accept records that have less than a one-year retention period before disposition, but agencies should consider the costs of proposing such a transfer. It may be more cost-effective to simply retain the records for the short time they are still needed.
  • Mixed
    Series FRCs, by prior agreement with some agencies, will accept mixed-series transfers. These transfers must consist of only one box. Contact your agency's records officer to determine if such an agreement exists for your agency.
  • Mixed-media Records Several
    FRCs will accept for storage mixed-media records (e.g. videos, cassettes, CDs, diskettes, etc.) Please contact your local FRC before transferring mixed-media records. Describe the non-paper media in item 6(f). Because mixed-media records cannot be recycled without screening, the records center will apply additional charges at the time of disposal.
  • Permanent Records
    The SF 135 for permanent records must be accompanied by a detailed folder title list. Agencies may include these lists on the SF 135 (if space permits) or as an electronic or hard-copy attachment.
  • Permanent Microfilm Records
    Permanent microfilm records may be stored at the Washington National Records Center in Suitland, MD, prior to their accessioning to the National Archives. SF 135 Instructions for WNRC
  • Storage and Servicing of Classified Records
    Several FRCs are cleared to accept records containing classified National Security Information. These facilities are cleared for Confidential, Secret, Top Secret, Sensitive Compartmentalized Information, Restricted Data, and Formerly Restricted Data. In addition, most centers can store, for an additional fee, sensitive but unclassified records in a separate vault. Contact the records center in your region for more information about availability of these services.

Shipping Records to the FRC

  • Numbering Boxes for Shipment
    After you receive the approved SF 135 back from your local FRC, write the transfer number and the box number (if not already indicated) in the designated printed blocks on the front of each box. Use a black permanent felt-tip marker and make the numbers at least 1.5½ high. Be sure not to write on sealing tape or place tape over transfer or box numbers. For boxes without the printed blocks, write the transfer number in the upper left corner and the agency box number in the upper right corner on one end of each box. Begin with box number 1, and include the total number in the transfer, such as 1/10, 2/10, and so forth. Do not use labels to cover old box markings or to supply additional identifying information. This is especially important for transfer and box numbers. No standard method of affixing labels is effective for long-term storage. You may use the sides of the boxes to write any information concerning box content. Be sure to seal your boxes securely with packing tape. For further information on box assembly and notation, please see figures 1 and 2.
  • Shipping Records Agencies are urged to arrange for the shipment of their records within 90 days after receipt of the approved SF 135. If the transfer cannot be made within this period, please advise FRC staff. Unexplained delays of more than 90 days may result in the FRC canceling the transfer and returning your SF 135.

    Agencies are responsible for covering costs of shipping their records to FRCs. You may send your agency's records via the U.S. Postal Service, commercial carrier, common carrier (on pallets), or by agency courier. In addition, some FRCs will pick up agency records through NARA's Metro Courier service at very competitive rates (see the "Special Services" section). Check with your local FRC for scheduling and fees. If you are mailing a shipment of 20 boxes or more, you may send it in a postal container or by bulk mail. Agencies shipping their boxes on pallets using a commercial carrier should complete a Transportation Services Order (

    For large shipments, please call your local FRC to schedule a delivery date, and instruct commercial carriers to contact the records center 24 hours before delivery.

    FRCs will make every effort to assist and advise agencies during the transfer process. However, shipments that arrive at the center out of order, in oversize boxes, damaged, improperly taped, improperly marked, without an SF 135 approved for transfer, or with an SF 135 that does not match the shipment, may require extensive remedial effort and increased costs. These costs are the responsibility of the shipping agency.

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Getting a TapeRead more about the Federal Records Centers in the Spring 2008 issue of Prologue magazine.

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