Fingerprint Program for Transfer Agents and Clearing Agencies
On October 2, 2023, FINRA launched the new Fingerprint Program for Transfer Agents and Clearing Agencies (TA/CAs) ("Program") as the SEC declared FINRA's updated Fingerprint Plan effective September 22, 2023. This Program outsources fingerprint processing to Sterling Identity (Sterling), the same FBI-approved channeler that processes fingerprints for broker-dealers on FINRA’s behalf. TA/CAs that elect to use this Program will be able to have personnel fingerprinted electronically by Sterling at one of its 650 U.S.-based fingerprint collection sites. Sterling will channel the fingerprints to the FBI and provide the results to FINRA, which will in turn make the results available to TA/CAs through secure email. Transfer Agents and Clearing Agencies are registered with and regulated by the SEC.
This Program provides a more efficient and streamlined process with fewer fingerprint rejections, secure electronic transmission of FBI results, significantly reduced turn-around times, and the elimination of the current FINRA fingerprint fee. Sterling will assess and collect all fees for fingerprint collection and processing, including the FBI fee. The Sterling fees and information on how to create an account with Sterling are available on Sterling's website. Additional information about this Program is available below.
ON THIS PAGE
- Program Participation
- Fingerprinting Outside the U.S. or Its Territories
- FAQ Applicable to All TA/CAs
- FAQ Applicable to TA/CAs Outside the U.S. or Its Territories
FINRA ceased in-house fingerprint processing for TA/CAs on October 6, 2023, when Sterling, FINRA’s designated fingerprint provider, began processing TA/CA fingerprints to the FBI. FINRA sends the FBI results to TA/CAs through secure electronic communication.
- Participating TA/CAs will need to first set up an account with Sterling.
- Visit Sterling to enroll and create an account for the Program.
- For TA/CAs located outside the U.S. or its territories, see the Fingerprinting Outside the U.S. or Its Territories section that outlines requirements to comply with FBI protocols.
- Only FINRA-specific fingerprint cards are used by this Program, which are available for purchase through Sterling.
- Fingerprint fees:
- Sterling will include all fingerprint fees on a monthly invoice and TA/CAs will pay Sterling directly.
- TA/CAs will need WinZip or a similar product to open FBI results from FINRA, which will be delivered via secure email.
Fingerprinting Outside the U.S. or Its Territories
To ensure compliance with FBI protocols regarding international fingerprint collection and related submission of personally identifiable information when collected by a private channeler, TA/CAs located outside the U.S., or its territories will need to use a U.S. Agent. A U.S. Agent is a U.S.-based affiliate (if your organization has an affiliate within the U.S. or an office domiciled in the U.S.) or a U.S.-based person to represent your organization in the Program. The U.S. Agent must be domiciled in the U.S. and be authorized by the TA/CA to perform Program responsibilities on behalf of the TA/CA. Program responsibilities include placing fingerprint orders, receiving FBI results, reconciling fingerprint processing issues when notified, and paying Sterling invoices. The U.S. Agent will be responsible for creating an account with Sterling on behalf of the TA/CA. Designating a U.S. Agent is required to meet FBI protocols and to participate in the Program.
The FBI prohibits electronic fingerprint collection outside the U.S. or its territories and does not permit a private channeler from directly receiving fingerprints collected internationally. For these reasons, fingerprints of personnel of any TA/CA located outside of the U.S. or its territories will need to be captured in the U.S. through Sterling’s network or on FINRA-specific fingerprint cards and sent to FINRA in an international mailer designed for this Program. Both FINRA-specific fingerprint cards and international shipping mailers are available for purchase from Sterling.
FAQ Applicable to All TA/CAs
Q1: What are the benefits of the Fingerprint Program for Transfer Agents and Clearing Agencies (TA/CAs)?
- Offers electronic fingerprint capture for domestic TA/CAs in 650 locations nationwide.
- A more efficient and streamlined process with fewer fingerprint rejections due to Illegible prints and significantly reduced turn-around times.
- Receipt of FBI results from FINRA through secure electronic transmission.
- Elimination of the current FINRA fingerprint fee.
- Consolidated monthly payment for all fingerprint-related fees to Sterling.
Note: TA/CAs domiciled outside the U.S. must comply with FBI protocols.
Q2: Can another electronic fingerprint services (EFS) vendor participate in this Program by submitting electronic fingerprints to Sterling?
A2: No, FINRA selected Sterling as the provider for this Program, offering the option for electronic fingerprinting to TA/CAs.
Q3: Can a third-party provider capture fingerprints on behalf of the TA/CA?
A3: No, this Program requires that TA/CA fingerprints be captured by law enforcement or a person authorized at the TA/CA to capture fingerprints.
Q4: What documentation must an organization collect or provide at each fingerprint appointment?
A4: Organizations must adhere to all FBI requirements including, at minimum:
- Written notification, which can be provided electronically, of how the fingerprints and associated information will be used by the FBI
- A copy of the Noncriminal Justice Applicant’s Privacy Rights
- A copy of the FBI Privacy Act Statement
- FBI Applicant Rights Information instructions on how the candidate can assess and amend their criminal history record information
- Obtain written consent to fingerprint from the individual being printed
Q5: What do TA/CAs need to do to participate in the Program?
A5: To participate in the Program, your organization will need to contact Sterling to create an account. Once your account is created, Sterling will send credentials within 2 business days from account creation. If your organization will use hardcopy fingerprint cards (required of international TA/CAs), contact Sterling to purchase the FINRA-specific fingerprint cards that were designed for the Program, along with international mailers. Once your organization has created a Sterling account, FINRA will send, through express delivery service, each participating organization a password for accessing FBI results.
Q6: What are the Fingerprint Program responsibilities of the TA/CAs?
A6: TA/CAs participating in the Program are responsible for:
- creating an account with Sterling, which requires a point of contact for all fingerprint-related communications from Sterling and FINRA;
- creating orders for individuals who require fingerprinting through the Client Hub;
- paying Sterling invoices by due date;
- providing an Authorized Contact to receive FBI Results from FINRA through secure email;
- notifying FINRA immediately of a suspected or actual security incident, which includes compromise of information or passwords;
- notifying FINRA and Sterling immediately of a new Authorized Contact to receive FBI Results;
- for TA/CAs outside the U.S. or its territories, designating a U.S. Agent to perform all Program responsibilities. See FAQs applicable to TA/CAs Outside the U.S. or Its Territories section below for more information.
- complying with all required FBI protocols and Program requirements.
Q7: Why is my organization receiving emails from this email address <[email protected]>?
A7: Sterling may follow up with TA/CAs throughout the process of onboarding to the Program as well as to resolve or alert TA/CAs of issues processing their fingerprints. To ensure communications from Sterling are received, work with your IT department and consider whitelisting Sterling’s email address.
Q8: How does the TA/CAs pay for fingerprint-related services?
A8: TA/CAs pay Sterling for all fingerprint-related fees, including Sterling electronic collection of fingerprints, Sterling’s processing fees for fingerprints, FBI fees, and any fingerprint-related materials purchased (e.g., fingerprint cards and international shipping mailers in kits). Sterling sends a monthly invoice with all fees. View more information on Sterling’s fees.
Q9: Does FINRA charge any fees for fingerprints submitted through the TA/CAs Fingerprint Program?
A9: No, there are no current FINRA fees for fingerprints processed through the Program.
Q10: How does a TA/CA find out if a fingerprint submission was received by Sterling?
A10: TA/CAs will be able to view the processing status of all fingerprints submitted using Sterling’s Client Hub system.
Q11: Does Sterling provide email responses when there are problems with the fingerprints?
A11: Sterling will notify TA/CAs when there is an error processing fingerprints.
Q12: How will the FBI results from FINRA be sent?
A12: FINRA will provide each participating organization with a unique password to use to access FBI results. FINRA will distribute the password once an account is created with Sterling. FINRA will send, through express delivery service, the instructions and password via letter to the Authorized Contact to receive FBI Results. TA/CAs must be able to open an encrypted zip file by using WinZip or a similar product to support secure delivery through email.
Organizations that collect or receive information in connection with fingerprinting personnel, including Criminal History Record Information (CHRI) through the Program are responsible for complying with requirements set forth in the current FBI Criminal Justice Information Services Security Policy (Policy) located here https://le.fbi.gov/cjis-division/cjis-security-policy-resource-center. This Policy establishes the minimum set of security requirements an organization must implement to maintain appropriate controls to protect and safeguard CHRI.
Q13: What is the turnaround time for fingerprint results?
A13: The turnaround time is typically 48 hours.
Q14: Why does the format look different for the FBI results?
A14: Results provided through the Program are the results received from the FBI without additional formatting.
Q15: Why does the FBI determine some fingerprints as illegible?
A15: The FBI may determine that fingerprints are illegible for a number of reasons. For example, if the individual’s fingerprint ridges are worn down or prints do not meet minimum quality thresholds. When the FBI determines that fingerprints are illegible, FINRA will notify you of this result through secure email.
Q16: Will FINRA perform Name Checks?
A16: Yes, FINRA will continue to perform FBI Name Checks.
Q17: Under what conditions does the FBI permit a Name Check request?
A17: To request a Name Check, the FBI requires that at least one set of fingerprints for an individual be identified by the FBI with a reason that permits a Name Check to be requested. When the FBI provides an eligible reason for a Name Check, FINRA’s Document Services Team will request a Name Check. TA/CAs should be aware that if more than 365 days passed between the second and third fingerprint submissions, an additional submission may be requested to satisfy FBI processing requirements. There is no fee for Name Checks.
Q18: How do TA/CAs request an exemption from Section 17(f)(2) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, (15 USC 78q(f)(2), and Exchange Rule 17f-2 thereunder, as amended, when an individual cannot be printed due to a physical handicap?
A18: TA/CAs that need to request an exemption from Exchange Rule 17f-2 fingerprint requirements must submit a request to:
SEC-Division of Trading and Markets
Office of Clearing and Settlement
Mail Stop 70-10
100 F Street, N.E.
Washington, DC 20549
Q19: How do I complete a fingerprint card?
A19: The following information is required to ensure fingerprints are processed:
- Create an order through Sterling systems for every individual who needs to be fingerprinted.
- Barcodes are not required for fingerprints.
- All fingerprints must be taken in black or dark blue ink.
- Complete the information below and ensure it is accurate and complete for every fingerprint submitted:
- Employer’s Name
- Main Address
- Org ID# (Enter your CIK Number in this field. Refer to EDGAR for more information.)
- Individual's Name
- Social Security Number (required if born in the U.S.)
- Individual CRD# (Leave Blank)
- Date of Birth
- Place of Birth
- Race (Using one digit code.)
- Height (Allowable range is 4'00" to 7'11". Height below 4’00” will be set to 4’00”; height over 7’11” will be set to 7’11”.)
- Weight (Allowable range is 000 to 499. All weight in excess of 499 will be set to 499.)
- Hair Color (Using three-letter code.)
- Eye Color (Using three-letter code.)
- The fingerprint card must be signed by the person being fingerprinted and the official taking the fingerprints.
- To prevent rejected fingerprints, do not highlight any portion of the fingerprint card and write clearly.
Q20: Where is an organization’s CIK # found?
A20: A TA/CA’s Central Index Key (CIK) number is assigned by the SEC and is available from the SEC’s EDGAR system.
Q21: What are the codes for race?
|Asian or Pacific Islander
|American Island or Alaskan Native
Q22: What are the codes for hair color and eye color?
|Blonde or Strawberry
|Gray or Partially Gray
|Red or Auburn
Q23: Why are some fingerprints rejected by Sterling’s quality check prior to being sent to the FBI?
A23: Sterling conducts a submission quality check for fingerprints received that uses the latest FBI specifications prior to sending to the FBI. The quality check may result in Sterling rejecting fingerprints for reasons such as:
- poor image quality, typically due to dry or unwashed hands
- improper fingerprint collection technique is used
- fingerprints are smudged
- flats are captured when rolled fingerprints are expected
- fingerprints are too dark or too light
- partial fingerprints are captured
- information missing when capturing prints
A rejection prevents the transaction from being sent to the FBI. Sterling considers that candidates with poor quality prints (degraded fingerprint ridges) need to have their fingerprints processed through to have the FBI determine that a print is illegible. Sterling will notify the appropriate TA/CA contact when an individual’s fingerprints are rejected from [email protected] with instructions to provide new fingerprints. To ensure TA/CAs receives rejection notifications from Sterling, work with your IT department and consider whitelisting Sterling’s support email address.
Q24: How do I annotate amputated or bandaged prints?
A24: Use the code "XX" for amputated or bandaged digits, or "UP" for unprintable digits. However, if all 10 of an individual’s fingers are amputated, bandaged, or are otherwise unprintable, contact the SEC to request an exemption under Exchange Rule 17f-2.
FAQ Applicable to TA/CAs Outside the U.S. or Its Territories
Q25: What does a TA/CA domiciled outside the U.S., or its territories need to do to participate in the Program?
A25: To participate in the Program:
- Designate a U.S. Agent to perform all Program responsibilities.
- Direct your U.S. Agent to create an account through Sterling's website.
- Order new FINRA-specific fingerprint cards and international shipping kits from Sterling.
Q26: What is a U.S. Agent?
A26: For purposes of this Program, a U.S. Agent is a U.S.-based affiliate or U.S.-based person that is domiciled within the U.S. or its territories who is authorized by the TA/CA to perform Program responsibilities on behalf of the TA/CA.
Q27: As a US Agent representing an International TA/CA, what information will be needed when contacting Sterling to create an account?
A27: Information needed by a U.S. Agent when contacting Sterling to create an account will include, at a minimum:
- TA/CA name that U.S. Agent is representing
- TA/CA SEC-provided CIK Number
- TA/CA Organization Address (Street 1, 2, City, State, ZIP/Postal Code)
Q28: What are the U.S. Agent responsibilities regarding a TA/CA that is outside the U.S. or its territories?
A28: The U.S. Agent is responsible for performing all Program responsibilities, to include creating an account with Sterling, creating orders, resolving fingerprint processing issues when identified by Sterling, receiving FBI results, and paying Sterling invoices.
Q29: Why does a TA/CA outside the U.S. and its territories need to designate a U.S. Agent?
A29: To ensure compliance with FBI protocols regarding international fingerprint collection and related personal identifiable information when collected by a private channeler, TA/CAs located outside the U.S. or its territories will need to use a U.S.-based affiliate or designate a U.S.-based agent (U.S. Agent) to participate in the Program. The U.S. Agent must be domiciled in the U.S. and be authorized by the TA/CAs to perform Program responsibilities on behalf of the TA/CA. Program responsibilities include placing fingerprint orders, receiving FBI results, and ensuring payment of Sterling invoices.
The FBI prohibits electronic fingerprint collection outside the U.S. or its territories and does not permit a private channeler from directly receiving fingerprints collected internationally. For these reasons, fingerprints of personnel of any TA/CA located outside of the U.S. will need to be captured in the U.S. through Sterling’s network or on FINRA-specific fingerprint cards and sent to FINRA in an international mailer designed for this Program. Both FINRA-specific fingerprint cards and international shipping mailers are available for purchase from Sterling.
Q30: Can I use my existing stock of FINRA-specific fingerprint cards to submit hardcopy fingerprints?
A30: No, only FINRA-specific fingerprint cardstock developed for the Program must be submitted for processing. Any other fingerprint cards including FBI Standard FD-258 cards will not be processed and destroyed. To order FINRA-specific fingerprint cards, contact Sterling Client Support at [email protected] or (833) 794-2009.
Q31: How do I get fingerprint cards and international shipping mailers?
A31: FINRA-specific fingerprint cards and international shipping mailers, which includes 10 mailers per kit, are available for purchase from Sterling. Contact Sterling Client Support at [email protected] or (833) 794-2009 to place an order.
Q32: Our organization is planning to send in a large volume of hard cards from our overseas location. Are there any special instructions or notification required prior to sending?
A32: At least 2 weeks prior to mailing a large volume of fingerprint cards, contact FINRA at [email protected] to alert us of the expected number of fingerprint cards and anticipated timing. FINRA defines a large volume as more than 500 cards that are mailed in international shipping mailers all at once or over several days.
Q33: Where do I send fingerprint cards through overnight or courier services?
A33: Fingerprint cards mailed by overnight or courier from outside the U.S. or its territories must be sent in an international shipping mailer to FINRA at this address. As a reminder, do not mail more than 200 fingerprint cards per mailer. FINRA will send the fingerprint cards to Sterling for processing:
FINRA, Document Services
9509 Key West Avenue, 3rd Floor
Rockville, MD 20850
NOTE: When sending overnight/courier mail, please include the following phone number: (301) 590-6500.