This paper explores the question: How is the NGO observer application process to the Arctic Council influenced by perceptions of legitimacy of the applicant? Using information gleamed from numerous interviews we map out the application process for NGO observer status in the Arctic Council. In addition to the formal criteria, we argue that Arctic states have a set of informal criteria for evaluating NGO observer applications, and that the evaluation of these criteria are coloured by individual Arctic state and the Permanent Participant perceptions of the legitimacy of the NGO applicant. Reaching into the literature on NGO legitimacy, we develop a framework detailing four key components upon which the perceptions of the legitimacy of an NGO are generally formed. This framework is then incorporated into a broader model of the overall application process through which NGOs must submit in order to attempt to gain observer status at the Arctic Council.