This article was originally published November 2021 but was updated for accuracy and new information on UEI in September 2023.
If you’re learning about the federal contracting world, you may have heard about UEI numbers. You also may have heard that they replaced the old DUNS number system in April 2022. But what are they, why are they so important, and why are they being replaced?
What is a UEI number?
A Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) number is a unique nine-digit identifier for businesses, issued by SAM (System for Award Management). You can think of it as your business’s social security number, except you have to request one rather than automatically being assigned one.
What are they used for?
So why would you need a UEI number? First and foremost, it’s mandatory for applying for federal grants or contracts. Beyond simply being a requirement if you’re getting started with government contracting, the federal government uses this ID to keep track of how federal funds are allocated.
Who uses them?
As discussed in the previous section, the federal government uses UEI numbers for reasons such as fund tracking, but other government institutions may also use them. For instance, the European Commission uses UEI numbers as a part of the vetting process and risk assessment of US organizations they might work with. Even the United Nations utilizes companies’ UEI numbers, but its use isn’t limited to governments or international governance organizations.
Other companies can also use them to look up your business’s credibility as a potential vendor or customer. One example of this is Apple, who requires UEI numbers for all developers who list apps on their Mac and iPhone App Store. There are many other instances of businesses that require these identifiers, so the best course of action for most companies is to register for one, just in case.
How to get a UEI number
The first step in this process is to determine whether your company has already been assigned a UEI number. You can verify this by checking SAM.gov or your organization profile in Grants.gov, where it will be listed. Once you’ve confirmed that you don’t already have a UEI number, you can start the process of requesting one. To do this, you will have to “Create a New Entity” in SAM.gov, providing some information about your business such as:
- Legal Name
- Headquarters name and address for your organization
- Physical Address, City, State, and Zip Code
- Mailing Address(is separate from Headquarters and/or physical address)
- Telephone Number
- Contact Name and Title
- Number of Employees at your physical location
Once this information is passed to SAM, they can process your request and assign your business a UEI number.
UEI numbers vs. EIN numbers
Because of a number of similarities, UEI numbers can often be confused with EIN numbers (which also happens to be a nine-digit number). EIN numbers, or federal tax IDs, are issued by the IRS for tax purposes, while UEI numbers are issued by SAM.gov. UEI numbers also remain the same for the entire life of the business, while EIN numbers can change.
History of DUNS to UEI
As mentioned above, UEI numbers used to be called DUNS numbers from Dun & Bradstreet (rather than a government agency). In April 2022, SAM.gov phased out DUNS numbers and replaced them with this new UEI system. This is largely to remove the third-party middleman of Dun & Bradstreet and streamline the process on their end.
Those who already had a DUNS number (including inactive registrations) were automatically assigned a UEI and won’t have to re-apply.
However, the process for obtaining a UEI number is basically equivalent to the old DUNS process, just through SAM.gov rather than Dun & Bradstreet. This means that the process streamlining is primarily for the government — not for you, the business owner.
Only one step in a longer registration process
Unfortunately, UEI numbers are also just one piece of a much larger process of registering for work with the federal government. If you’re taking on all of the responsibility of learning the ins and outs of federal registration, you’ll need to start with a UEI number. Once you have that, you can begin SAM registration, then apply for a CAGE Code, and then you can start searching for contracts on the federal marketplace. Through all of this, there can be different hurdles that also pop up depending on the type of business you have, where it’s located, and more.
On the other hand, you can hire a professional team of federal marketplace experts like FAMR to not only register you for a unique identifier number, but take care of the rest of the process as well. In addition, we can help you market your company to get you better contracts and funding so you can focus on running the business.