General Registration FAQs

Most individuals and organizations that do business as futures professionals must be registered under the Commodity Exchange Act (Act). The primary purposes of registration are to screen an applicant's fitness to engage in business as a futures professional and to identify those individuals and organizations whose activities are subject to federal regulation. Some registrants may also have to be Members or Associates of NFA. You can find more information at Who Has To Register under the Registration menu.

The Act specifies certain disqualifications from registration, such as criminal and regulatory proceedings that resulted in findings against the applicant. NFA performs an extensive background check to determine whether a disqualification exists. Three essential elements of the background check are the Disciplinary Information questions on the application forms, which require the applicant to disclose and supply detailed information concerning possible disqualifications; the fingerprint cards provided by individuals; and a check against FINRA's CRD database. For foreign applicants, NFA may perform additional background checks with foreign agencies such as regulatory and self-regulatory bodies and Interpol.

Initial applications for registration as a futures commission merchant, swap dealerretail foreign exchange dealer, introducing broker, commodity pool operator, commodity trading advisor, associated person, principal, floor broker or floor trader and for NFA membership can be filed once entry of the required data is complete. APs who are eligible will receive a temporary license as soon as the application is filed. Guaranteed IBs that are eligible will receive a temporary license as soon as all required filings have been made for it and its principals. However, it may take six weeks or longer to complete all background checks before NFA can grant a full registration to initial applicants.

If an individual is already registered or listed as a principal, it is possible to obtain registration in a new category as soon as the application is filed. For example, an individual who is already listed as a principal, has no fitness information that needs to be reviewed, and has satisfied the proficiency requirements can be registered as an AP when the application is filed. Similarly, a registered firm may be able to add an additional registration category the next day. For example, a registered IB with no disciplinary information to be reviewed that files an application to be registered as a CTA will be registered as a CTA overnight if there are sufficient funds in its prepaid account to cover the application fee.

For other firms, the length of the registration process depends on the completeness and content of the information filed by the firm and on the complexity of the firm's business.

An individual's status as a principal is determined by the individual's 1) ability to control a registrant's business activities; 2) formal title or position with the registrant; and 3) financial or ownership interest in the registrant. Individuals who, through their conduct or activity, directly or indirectly control a registrant are principals of the registrant, irrespective of their formal title or financial interest in the registrant. Similarly, individuals who hold specific positions or titles with registrants are also principals of the registrant, irrespective of their ability to control the registrant's business. More information can be found here.

Section 4k of the Commodity Exchange Act provides that an individual must be registered as an AP if that person is involved in soliciting or accepting customer orders or supervising people who do, and the Commission has indicated that any individual who supervises APs must register as an AP, regardless of that person's title.

NFA Bylaw 301(a)(iii) states that "no person, unless eligible for membership in the contract market category, shall be eligible to become or remain a Member unless at least one of its principals is registered as an 'associated person' under the Act and Commission Rules. If any Member fails to have at least one principal that is registered as an 'associated person' NFA shall deem that Member's failure to be a request to withdraw from NFA membership and shall notify that Member accordingly."

Any futures commission merchant, swap dealer or major swap participant, retail foreign exchange dealer, introducing broker, commodity pool operator, commodity trading advisor, or non-natural floor trader can establish a prepaid account with NFA. No minimum balance is required. The prepaid account will be used for payment of: 

  • Registration filing fees
  • Additional firm registration filing fees
  • NFA membership dues
  • Late filing fees (8-T filings & financials)
  • Annual registration records maintenance fees
  • Fingerprinting by NFA staff (written request required)

Account statements reflecting the account balance and all activity by month and year can be viewed in ORS. Hardcopy statements may also be mailed monthly.  

To open or add money to a prepaid account, send a check and cover letter with instructions to NFA at the address below. Please include the name and NFA ID number of the firm for which the prepaid account is being established or for which the deposit is being made.  

Treasurer's Office
National Futures Association
Post Office Box 98383
Chicago, Illinois
60693-0001 

To close a prepaid account, send a letter requesting a refund of the account balance to the address below. NFA will mail a check for the balance in the prepaid account within 10 business days after NFA receives the request.  

Treasurer's Office
National Futures Association
300 South Riverside Plaza
Suite 1800
Chicago, Illinois
60606-6615

NFA provides three different payment options:

  1. Online Payment Request (This option is currently only available to U.S. firms),
  2. Wire Transfer, or
  3. Check made payable to NFA and sent to:

    National Futures Association
    Box 98383
    Chicago, IL 60693-0001

Completed fingerprint cards should be sent to NFA at the following address:

National Futures Association
Attention: Registration Department
300 S. Riverside Plaza, Suite 1800
Chicago, IL 60606-6615