Getting Started with Government Contracts: UEI and CAGE Code Basics

May 29, 2024


What are UEI and CAGE Codes? 

The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) requires that all firms seeking federal financial assistance (FFA) from the U.S. Government are required to obtain an active registration including the issuance of a Unique Entity Identifier (UEI).  For GSA, the 12-digit UEI number replaces the 9-digit DUNS number provided by Dun & Bradstreet which were previously used by the agency to uniquely identify organizations receiving FFA.  UEI stands for Unique Entity Identifier. A CAGE code, short for Commercial and Government Entity code, is a unique identifier assigned to suppliers to various government or defense agencies, as well as government agencies themselves and various organizations. CAGE codes are used internationally as part of the NATO Codification System (NCS).

For businesses looking to participate in government contracts, grants, and loans, the UEI and CAGE identifiers are unique identifiers that are required for registration on the Federal System for Award Management, which is the primary database for Small Businesses to work with the United States Government. The use of standardized identification codes like UEI and CAGE streamlines the procurement process and facilitates the exchange of goods and services between entities and government agencies. By assigning a unique code to each entity, government agencies can easily track and manage contracts, payments, and other important information related to suppliers and contractors.

Understanding the Unique Entity Identifier (UEI)

The UEI is a 12-character alphanumeric code assigned to entities (businesses and organizations) by the System for Award Management (SAM) to uniquely identify them. It replaced the DUNS number in April 2022 as the primary means of entity identification for federal contracts. All entities doing business with the federal government, including contractors, grant recipients, and loan recipients, must have a UEI. The UEI is used to track and manage contracts, grants, and other agreements between the government and private entities. Having a UEI streamlines the procurement process and enables entities to bid on government contracts, receive payments, and manage their profiles in SAM. It also helps government agencies track and manage their relationships with suppliers and contractors. 

To apply for a UEI, entities must register on The UEI registration process is integrated into the SAM registration process. To register in SAM and obtain a UEI, entities need to provide basic information such as legal business name, physical address, taxpayer identification number (TIN), and banking information for Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT). The UEI registration process typically takes a few days to complete. Once the registration is approved, the entity will receive its UEI and can start using it for government contracting purposes. There are no fees associated with obtaining a UEI through SAM. The registration process is free for all entities.

Understanding the Commercial and Government Entity Code (CAGE)

A Cage Code, or Commercial and Government Entity Code, has been in use for a more extended period than the UEI. It is primarily used to identify suppliers and contractors for the Department of Defense (DoD) and other federal agencies. Cage Codes have historically been associated with the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA).  Cage Code consists of a five-character alphanumeric code assigned to entities that do business with the DoD and other government agencies. Cage Codes are assigned by the Defense Logistics Agency’s Defense Logistics Information Service (DLIS). While Cage Codes are widely recognized across the federal government, they are particularly important in defense contracting.

To apply for a CAGE Code, visit Click on the “Register/Update Entity” tab and log in to your SAM account. If you do not have a SAM account, you must create one. Once logged in, select “Entity Registration” and complete the necessary information, including your business’s legal name, physical address, and taxpayer identification number. Under “Points of Contact Information”, you will see an option to enter your CAGE code. If you do not have a CAGE code, click on the “Create New CAGE Code” button. Follow the prompts to complete your CAGE code registration. You may need to provide additional information, such as your business’s DUNS number, NAICS code, and North American Industry Classification System code. Once you have completed your CAGE code registration, it may take up to five business days for the code to be processed and assigned. To look up a specific CAGE code, visit the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) website and enter the code in the search bar.

Tips and Best Practices

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Not starting the registration process early enough. Allow ample time for processing. Providing inaccurate or inconsistent information during registration. Double-check all details. Failing to update your registration annually or when business information changes.

Making the application process more efficient

Gather all required information and documents before starting the registration process. Designate a point of contact within your organization to manage the registration process. Use the guides and resources to help navigate the registration process.

Tips for maintaining compliance

Keep your SAM registration current and update it annually or whenever business information changes. Ensure your business information is consistent across all government systems and databases. Regularly check for any notices or alerts related to your registration.