Federal Records Management

Accessioning Guidance and Policy

What is accessioning?

Accessioning is the process of transferring physical and legal custody of permanent records from federal agencies to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Records that have been appraised as permanent have great value to the nation and the public interest.

Federal agencies are required to accession their permanent records into the National Archives. Authority and regulations for this requirement are found in 36 CFR 1235. Additional requirements and guidance include:

  • NARA Bulletin 2012-03, Instructions Concerning the Use of the Electronic Records Archives (ERA) for Scheduling Records and Transferring Permanent Records to the National Archives.

We look forward to receiving your records and including them in our holdings!

What is the difference between a “Transfer” and an “Accession”?

The terms "transfer" and "accession" are often used interchangeably by both agency and NARA staff; however, there is a distinction.

  • Transfer 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.

  • Accession refers to sending permanent records to 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.

How do I get started?

Most accessioning activity at the National Archives is initiated using the Electronic Records Archives (ERA).

The Electronic Records Archives (ERA) is NARA's unclassified system that allows federal agencies to perform critical records management transactions with NARA online. Agency records management staff will use ERA to draft new records retention schedules for records in any format, officially submit those schedules for approval by NARA, request the transfer of permanent records in any format to the National Archives for accessioning or pre-accessioning, and submit electronic records for storage in the ERA electronic records repository. More information on ERA can be found here.

Types of accessions

Just as there are different types of records, there are different types of accessions. Below is additional guidance for specific types of records:

In rare instances, the National Archives may accept donations of alienated federal records or non-federal material. To learn more about the process for donating records to the National Archives, please visit the Donations page.


All records proposed for transfer to the National Archives should have a finding aid or equivalent (such as a Standard Form-135) available. To learn more about our finding aid requirements, please visit our Finding Aids page.

In accordance with Executive Order 13526, the National Archives requires that all classified records undergo declassification review prior to accessioning. Declassification review should be documented on the NA form 14130, which should be submitted with the Transfer Request form.