Reference Services

This section outlines the process for requesting, receiving, and returning your agency's records. You may access your agency's records by removing them on temporary loan, reviewing them on-site at the FRC, requesting photocopies or electronic scans of the records, or permanently withdrawing the records.

 Please note that the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, MO, has special procedures for requesting records. If you are requesting records from the NPRC, please see the NPRC Guidelines.

Requesting Records

Agencies may submit reference requests using one of four methods:

  1. CIPS--The Centers Information Processing System (
  2. The Federal Records Centers Reference Request Optional Form 11 (OF 11)
  3. Electronic OF 11 (
  4. Other formats (including agency request forms)

Specific instructions for each method of requesting records are included in this chapter.

In all cases, include the following information in the reference request:

  1. Transfer number (formerly accession number);
  2. Agency box number;
  3. Folder name/number (if applicable);
  4. Beginning location of transfer at the records center;
  5. The type of request (temporary loan, review, permanent withdrawal, photocopies, SmartScan, etc.);
  6. Date;
  7. Complete name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address of requestor; and 8.
  8. For any records requested under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the Privacy Act, or due to congressional interest, note the applicable reason in the "Remarks" section of the OF 11.

Be sure to complete a separate request form or CIPS submission for each folder or box requested.

Please note that the FRC will bill your agency separately for each item, folder, or carton requested (as specified in your agency's agreement with NARA) regardless of the type of reference service requested.

Agencies participating in Stratified Report Invoicing (see definition, page 6) must include a caret (^) followed by a valid, legible two-character charge code encircled on the top right front of every request. Agencies that use CIPS may request to have their charge code included as part of their shipping address. Contact your agency's account representative for more information.


CIPS allows you to request your agency's records right from your desktop computer. Requesting your records via CIPS is the fastest and most cost-effective method, because it minimizes mail delays and allows the FRC to more efficiently process your request. CIPS provides all copies needed by FRC staff to process the request.

To apply for access to CIPS, complete both the Department of Veterans Affairs VA Form 9957, Timesharing User Access Request (, and the NA Form 13166, CIPS Registration Form ( Send the completed forms to the CIPS Systems Administrator at the FRC in your area. Information about CIPS, including forms and a list of administrators, is available online. Requests for a CIPS account must be authorized by your agency. Please note that the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) is the FRC's contractor for CIPS. The DVA will issue a user ID and password to each user when the completed forms are received. You will need to specify your agency's record group numbers, the records center(s) for which you will need access, and any charge codes for stratified billing. Contact the CIPS Systems Administrator at the FRC in your area for further information.


If your agency does not use CIPS for reference requests, you may request records by submitting the Federal Records Centers Reference Request, Optional Form 11 (OF 11).

The OF 11 is a three-part form. The records center uses the first part (white) of the OF 11 to service the request. This part remains with the file until it is returned for refiling. The requesting agency retains the second part (pink) for tracking and control purposes. The records center uses the last part (tan) as a charge out for the file/box until it is returned from the agency for refiling.

Submit requests using the OF 11 through the U.S. Postal Service or commercial couriers whenever time permits. Agencies also may fax requests to the designated numbers listed for each FRC. Agencies may telephone FRCs with emergency requests. Please note that these emergency requests are billed at a higher rate than regular requests.


You may also e-mail reference requests by completing the PDF version of the OF 11 ( and sending it to your local FRC ( at the designated e-mail address listed for each center.


You may request records via letter, e-mail, memo, or by using an appropriate form from your agency. Please check with your agency's records officer to determine if you should use an agency-specific form.

Delivery of Requested Files to Agencies

In most cases, properly submitted and complete reference requests will be ready for mailing, pickup, or delivery to the agency one business day after receipt by the FRC.


The U.S. Postal Service or commercial carriers are the standard methods of delivering requested files to agencies.


FRC customers have several options for delivery of urgent/special reference requests (requests requiring same-day or overnight delivery):

  • Overnight express courier: Please provide the name of the overnight express courier (along with a billing account number) in the "Remarks" section.

  • Delivery by agency's messenger: Please provide the approximate time of pick-up in the "Remarks" section of the OF 11. Messengers will be required to provide photo ID and agency affiliation when arriving at the FRC to pick up requested files. The agency messenger must also be on the approved agency authorization list.

  • FRC Metro Courier and SmartScan services: Select Federal Records Centers provide next-day delivery of reference requests via Metro Courier and same-day electronic delivery of requested files with SmartScan. Please see the "Special Services" section for more information.


You should return your agency's files to the Federal Records Center when they are no longer needed. Write the word "REFILE" on the white copy of the OF 11 or CIPS request form that accompanied the requested file, and return it to the records center. If the OF 11 is no longer attached, provide a brief note or cover memo annotated "REFILE" and attach it to the file being returned. The memo must also include the same information that was contained on the original OF 11:

  • transfer number;
  • box number;
  • records center location number; and
  • charge code (if the agency is participating in Stratified Report Invoicing

Do not refolder or rebox records requested from the records center. Unless you have made some prior arrangement with the center, return the records in the original folders or boxes to allow accurate refiling. If the box or folder is unusable for shipment, copy the transfer number, location, box number and any other information on the outside of the container onto the front of the replacement box or folder. FRCs will contact agency customers when expanded refiles are too large for their original location.


Agencies may send documents or folders that were not included in the original transfer to be interfiled into that transfer at the center. The agency must provide the transfer number, charge code (if participating in Stratified Report Invoicing---see definition), box number, records center location number, and correct file designation where the interfile should be filed. The FRC will contact agency customers if the new material will not fit into the original box.

Please note that the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, MO, has special procedures for interfiles. If you have records for interfile at NPRC, please see Transactions with the National Personnel Records Center.

Relocation of Records

Occasionally, it becomes necessary to move records within a Federal Records Center. When this happens, NARA will notify agencies of the relocation. A Notice of Transfer Location Change, NA Form 13016 (, is mailed to the agency after the relocation. Following a relocation, you should update your agency's file copies of SF 135s to show new location numbers for use in requesting these files in the future. For further information concerning the relocation of records, contact the FRC staff. Note: If you are using CIPS, the system automatically connects your transfer number with the current location number.

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FRC Training

FRC Training Local Federal Records Centers offer training on FRC services (including transfer, disposition and reference procedures), either at records centers or onsite at agency facilities.

Please contact your local FRC for more information.

In addition, NARA's records management team offers a comprehensive certification course for Federal employees on records management.