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Prepare to Apply & Register


Key Take-Aways:

  • Register Early! Registration is a multi-step process that can take 8 weeks or more and MUST be completed before the submission deadline.
  • Organizations must be registered with SAM, and eRA Commons. Additionally the SAM registration must renewed annually. Organizations should be sure to complete the renewal process well in advance of any submission date that is close to their renewal date.
  • 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 SAM and then 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

Program Directors/Principal Investigators (PD/PIs), Authorized Organization Representatives (AORs) and Signing Officials (SOs) all have a role to play in the submission process. Learn more

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Select Approach

Applicant organizations can choose from one of the following options to submit an application to the agency through

    NIH's web-based service for the preparation and submission of grant applications to the agency through ASSIST is available for all competing, multi-project grant applications and will become an option for most other competing grant programs in 2015 (NOT-OD-15-044). 
    • Key features:
      • Online data entry
      • Multiple user access
      • Verification of application against agency business rules prior to submission
      • Pre-submission preview of assembled application image in agency format
      • Submission to agency through
      • Tracking application status within single system
    • Considerations:
      • All ASSIST users working on an application must have eRA Commons accounts (all standard registration requirements apply)
  • Downloadable Forms
    Applicants download an application package from (application forms and instructions), complete the forms offline, submit the completed forms to and track application status in eRA Commons. 
    • Key features:
      • Offline data entry (especially good option when Internet connectivity is unreliable)
      • No registration required to begin application data entry
    • Considerations:
      • Requires a compatible version of Adobe Reader
      • Applicants must track the application status in separate eRA Commons system after submitting to
      • No pre-submission verification of application against agency business rules
      • Unable to preview assembled application image in agency format prior to submission
      • Data entry access restricted to one user at a time
  • Institutional Solutions (system-to-system)
    Some institutions use their own systems to prepare and submit application data to Use of these solutions is acceptable, as long as they comply with all application requirements.
    • Key features:
      • Vary by solution
    • Considerations:
      • Consult your institutional officials for preferred method of submission

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Obtain Software

Adobe Reader
Adobe Reader software is needed to view and complete the application forms and also to view the assembled application image in eRA Commons after submission. Users can identify and download compatible versions of Adobe Reader by visiting the Adobe Reader  page on the website.

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 Conversion Programs to assist you in obtaining the necessary software. To avoid PDF problems, keep these guidelines in mind.

orange arrowFor 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 registrations for System for Award Management (SAM), and eRA Commons. Having an active registration with SAM (which must be renewed yearly), is required before registering with or submitting an application Principal Investigators do not have to register at, but must register with Commons. Please view an overview of steps for registering (PDF - 110 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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View Prepare to Apply & Registration FAQs