Application Process -Prepare to Apply & Register - Electronic Submission of Grant Applications
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Prepare to Apply & Register
1. Prepare to Apply & Register - On This Page You Will Find: Roles, Approach, Software & Register2. Find Opportunity - On This Page You Will Find: Find Opportunity & Download Application3. Prepare Application - On This Page You Will Find: Using Forms & Avoiding Errors4. Submit, Track & View - On This Page You Will Find: Submit, Track, Address Errors & View Application

Key Take-Aways:

  • Register Early! Registration is a multi-step process that can take 6 weeks or more and MUST be completed before the submission deadline.
  • Organizations must be registered with both and eRA Commons.
  • PIs must be registered in eRA Commons and affiliated in Commons with the applicant organization.
  • The registration process is not sequential. As soon as an organization has obtained its DUNS number, it can begin registering with BOTH and eRA Commons.
  • Visit the Download Software page to obtain the software needed to download, view, and complete the application forms.

On This Page:
Know Your Role

Each role in the submission process carries specific responsibilities. Program Directors/Principal Investigators (PD/PIs) work with their institute or organization to prepare the application, and pass the completed application on to their Authorized Organization Representative (AOR). Only AORs have the ability to actually submit a grant application to NIH via

The resources below explain the different eSubmission roles and will help guide you in choosing the appropriate individuals to fill each role.

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Select Approach

Applicant organizations must determine how best to submit their application(s) to NIH via Applicant organizations can choose from one of these three options:

  • Forms-Based Submission
    Organizations download and complete application forms from These forms require the use of a compatible version of Adobe Reader, which can be can be downloaded free of charge through the Download Software page of the website.

  • System-to-System
    Organizations wanting to develop their own technical solution for transmitting data can work with to develop their own data exchange system (XML datastream)

  • Service Providers
    Applicant organizations or individuals may choose to establish an agreement with an established commercial company (known as a Service Provider) that has a system-to-system interface with to submit applications on their behalf. Service Providers offer a wide range of services — from low-cost, single transaction options through full scale, end-to-end grants management solutions. These solutions are an alternative to using’s forms-based approach and offer benefits such as error-checking based on NIH business rules prior to submission and the ability to print the entire application before submission.

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Obtain Software

Adobe Reader
Applicants must download a compatible version of Adobe Reader software in order to view and complete the application forms. Users can identify and download compatible versions of Adobe Reader by visiting the Download Software page on the Web site.

Creating PDFs
NIH requires that all application attachments be submitted in PDF format. Users must have PDF creation software installed in order to create the necessary PDFs. has published a list of recommended PDF Guidelines to assist you in obtaining the necessary software. To avoid PDF problems, keep these guidelines in mind.

Note: The free Adobe Reader used to complete an application cannot be used to create PDF attachments.

orange arrow For more information, see our list of Software FAQs

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Prior to submitting a grant application online through to NIH, an applicant organization must complete a one-time registration both at and eRA Commons. Principal Investigators do not have to register at, but must register with Commons. Please view an overview of steps for registering (PDF - 60 KB) in both Commons and to learn more.

Each registration is a multi-step process. Completing both registrations can take up to 6 weeks so be sure to start early!

New businesses [i.e. those applying to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) to complete the System for Award Management (, formerly Central Contractor Registration (CCR) registration] should start the process at least two months (eight weeks) prior to the grant submission date.

  • Important tips
    • If an applicant has started the eRA Commons registration process at least two weeks in advance of the submission date, NIH will consider it a “good faith” effort to prepare for electronic submission and the applicant will not be penalized for any NIH-caused registration processing delay.
    • The applicant organization must include its DUNS number in its Institutional Profile in the eRA Commons. This DUNS number must match the DUNS number provided at System for Award Management (, formerly Central Contractor Registration (CCR) registration with and the DUNS number used to complete any Federal Grant Application.
    • NIH requires the Principal Investigator to fill in his or her Commons User ID in the PD/PI section Credential log-in field on the Senior/Key Person Profile Component.

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This page last updated on September 21, 2012
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