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Electronic Submission Process for Grants

Although there are several submission options available, most applicants will submit their application online using ASSIST or by using the downloadable forms. With either method, applicants must check eRA Commons to ensure that NIH has successfully received their application.

Please contact the eRA Service Desk if you have problems with registration or electronic submission:


Toll-free: 1-866-504-9552

Phone: 301-402-7469

Hours: Mon-Fri, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Time, except for federal holidays. Find more information here.

Complete Four Registrations

The registration process alone may take six to eight weeks, so it is important to start early! All registrations must be completed prior to the application being submitted.

Each role in the submission process carries specific responsibilities. The applicant must 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. Please click here for more detailed information about the various roles in the submission process.

Four Registrations Overview:

Employer Identification Number (EIN) – HHS requires both the EIN and a DUNS number prior to the issuance of a funding award. The EIN base for the organization is the IRS Tax ID number, for individuals it is their social security number, both of which are nine-digit numbers.

  1. Dun and Bradstreet Universal Numbering System (DUNS) – All registrations require that applicants be issued a DUNS number. After obtaining a DUNS number, applicants can begin SAM, SBA Company, and eRA Commons registrations.
  2. System for Award Management (SAM) – SAM can take a significant amount of time (days/weeks) to complete the registration or annual renewal process.
    • The annual renewal process may require as much time as the initial registration. Please be sure to initiate your SAM registration or annual renewal at least six weeks prior to your submission date.
    • SAM registration is required for prior to submission.
  3. – is a federal-wide portal to find and apply for federal grant funding. It is used by all 26 federal grant-making agencies and requires registration by the applicant organization. The applicant organization will need to designate an E-Business Point of Contact (E-Biz POC). The E-Biz POC will approve Authorized Organization Representatives (AORs) to submit applications.
  4. eRA Commons – eRA Commons is NIH’s Electronic Research Administration system that allows applicants, grantees, and NIH staff to access, share and transmit application/grant information.
    • eRA Commons requires registration by both the applicant organization and the Program Directors/Principal Investigators (PD/PIs). The organization’s Authorized Organization Representative (also known at NIH as the Signing Official) must register or affiliate the PD/PI(s).
    • To check if the organization is already registered, go to the List of Commons Registered Organizations.
    • Register in Commons
    • NIH demo on registering in Commons

Submit via ASSIST or the Downloadable Forms Method Applicants may submit their application using ASSIST or the downloadable forms method.

Applicants may submit their application using ASSIST or the downloadable forms method.

You can find the link to submit your application electronically in the AREA Program funding opportunity announcement (PA-16-200). Within the FOA, you will select either the "Apply Online Using ASSIST" button, or "Apply Using Downloadable Forms" button, depending on your submission preference. The Annotated Form Set for NIH Grant Applications, found here, can help guide you step-by-step through the grant application, and help you identify many HHS-specific application requirements.

The Annotated Form Set for NIH Grant Applications, found here, can help guide you step-by-step through the grant application, and help you identify many HHS-specific application requirements.


ASSIST (Application Submission System & Interface for Submission Tracking) is NIH's online system for the preparation, submission, and tracking of grant applications through to NIH. It was created to help streamline the electronic submission process, and allows the submission status of your application to be tracked in both and eRA Commons.

ASSIST provides:

  • Secure web-based data entry
  • Collaboration of multiple users
  • Pre-submission validation of many HHS and business rules
  • Pre-population of data from eRA Commons profiles
  • Pre-submission print/preview of application in HHS format
  • Submission status tracking for both and eRA Commons within a single system
  • Ability to import subaward budget data from external sources

Ability to copy application data (and attachments) from one announcement to another The ASSIST webinar was held on November 4, 2015. Please find the resources below.

Additional resources are available to help applicants prepare their applications using ASSIST:

For more information, view the NOT-OD-15-156.

Downloadable Forms

The downloadable forms require you to download a grant package from, and upload PDF attachments of your application components. You then must submit via, and log-onto eRA Commons to ensure successful submission. We strongly recommend that you use the Annotated Form Set for NIH Grants, found here, to guide you step-by-step through the submission process.

**An error-free application in DOES NOT guarantee an error-free application in eRA Commons, since eRA Commons has HHS-specific application requirements that do not apply to**

  • Within the AREA Program FOA (PA-16-200) you can click on the "Apply Using Downloadable Forms" button within the FOA to download the grants package.
  • Downloading a grant application package allows you to complete it offline and route it through your organization for review before submitting. You will need to ensure your Adobe software is compatible with
  • Instructions on how to open and use the forms in the package are on the application package cover sheet. You MUST also use the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide to view the HHS specific instructions. Be sure to check the FOA due dates, and the FOA specific application and submission information.

Download a Grant Application Package

  • Now that you have downloaded an application package, complete the grant application offline. Save changes to your application as you go, does NOT automatically save changes.
  • The package cannot be submitted until all required fields have been completed, but does NOT check for HHS-specific requirements. You will need to use the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide to understand the agency-specific instructions, which are marked with the HHS logo. You will have to complete the SF424 (R&R) forms, as well as the PHS 398 forms which includes HHS-specific requirements for successful submission.

Creating PDFs as Attachments

  • As part of the application process, you will have to develop and attach several different documents that MUST be saved as PDFs. Please read the instructions at the “Format Attachments” link in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide for more information.

    **All of your application attachments MUST be in PDF format with the correct filename. All filenames must be included with no special characters (including brackets), and a .pdf extension must be used.**

  • About Page Limits: Make sure you follow all of the page limits for the PDF attachments. HHS will conduct validations to ensure these limits are met.
  • Common Application Errors: As you’re developing your application and getting ready to submit, please take the time to review some of the common application errors so you can be prepared. ASSIST performs a pre-submission validation of many HHS and business rules, which helps applicants reduce the number of electronic submission errors.
  • Creating PDFs as Attachments: As part of the application process, you will have to develop and attach several different documents that MUST be saved as PDFs. Please read “Format Attachments” for more information.

Submit, Track and View Application

  • Submit the Completed Grant Application Package on The Authorized Organization Representative (AOR) (known at NIH as the Signing Official [SO]) will hit the “Submit” button, and be prompted to enter their login information and agree to the terms of the application. Once confirmed, the application is uploaded to
  • Track the Status of a Submitted Grant Application Package After successful submission, the application will be scheduled for download into the eRA system for agency validation. The PD/PI and the AOR/SO should log on the eRA Commons to view the assembled application or review the list of warnings/errors that were encountered during the validation process.

**Errors DO STOP the application from processing, but warnings DO NOT**

Correct Errors if Necessary:

  • Submit the Completed Grant Application Package on If necessary, make corrections to your ASSIST application or the application on your local computer (if submitting using downloadable forms) to correct the problem or inconsistency that was noted in eRA Commons. You will also need to check the “Changed/Corrected Application” box in Item 1 of the SF424 (R&R) Cover form and provide the Previous Tracking ID. The AOR must submit and track the corrected application back through to eRA Commons.
  • Viewing Window: After successful error-free submission, an application image will be assembled by the eRA Commons. PD/PIs and AORs/SOs will have two business days to check the assembled application. During this two-day viewing window, PD/PIs and AORs/SOs can reject the application, or let it automatically move forward to HHS staff for further processing and consideration.

Congratulations – You Have Successfully Submitted an AREA Grant Application! It will now move forward to peer review.

Top R15 Submission Errors

Developing an NIH R15 grant application requires a lot of hard work and multiple steps. Once you've written your application, you must be able to successfully submit it electronically and error-free so NIH can review it.

Applicants and grant offices should review these top five eRA Commons Submission errors before your next submission. Doing so will help save precious time and ensure that your application moves forward for review.

Also refer to the annotated SF424 forms to help you prepare your application field-by-field.

These are the top five eRA Commons errors during R15 submission

  1. The Federal Identifier on the Cover Page should include only the IC and serial number of the prior grant number.
    • Federal Identifier: If box 1=Application and box 8=New, then leave blank
    • If box 1=Changed/Corrected and box 8=New, then enter previous tracking number
    • Otherwise, use Institute and serial # of previous NIH grant/app (e.g., use CA987654 from 1R01CA987654-01)
  2. Each Senior/Key Person listed must include effort of value > 0 in calendar months, or academic and summer months
    • It's okay to put 0 dollars (no salary), but NOT 0 effort.
    • Be sure to describe the source of key personnel funding in the Budget Justification if $0 salary is listed.
  3. All application attachments must be in PDF format
    • Use simple PDF-formatted files (no Word files)
      • Do not use Portfolio or similar feature to bundle multiple files into a single PDF
      • Disable security features such as password protection
    • Keep file names to 50 characters or less and use only letters, numbers, underscore, hyphen, space and period
    • Use meaningful filenames (e.g., not "NIH grant final 2C") and follow guidelines for fonts and margins
    • Do not include headers or footers
  4. NIH does not use the role of Co-PI
    • Use collaborator, consultant, or subcontractor for those who will not be serving as Multiple PD/PI.
    • For Multiple PI, use PD/PI role for each. Remember each must be eligible for an R15.
  5. eRA Commons username must be supplied in the Credential field of Senior/Key Person Page
    • For multiple PD/PI applications, select the PD/PI role for each PI and provide their eRA Commons username in the Credential field of Senior/Key Person Page. This field is required for NIH grant submissions.
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