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What is ICANN Accreditation? How to Become an ICANN Accredited Registrar?

What is ICANN Accreditation for Domain Registrars?

ICANN Accreditation refers to the formal recognition and authorization granted by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to entities known as registrars. These registrars are responsible for providing domain name registration services to the public. ICANN is a non-profit organisation that oversees the global domain name system (DNS) and the allocation of IP addresses.



How to become an ICANN Accredited Domain Registrar in 2024? Venkatesh Venkatasubramanian answers all your questions related to ICANN
How to become an ICANN Accredited Domain Registrar in 2024?

To become an ICANN Accredited Registrar, a business must go through a rigorous application process and meet specific requirements set forth by ICANN. These requirements include demonstrating financial stability, technical expertise, and a commitment to adhering to ICANN’s policies and agreements. Registrars must also comply with various operational and contractual obligations to maintain their accreditation.


Once accredited, registrars gain access to the shared registry system, allowing them to interact with domain registries to register and manage domain names on behalf of customers. Accredited registrars play a critical role in the domain industry, offering domain registration services to businesses, organisations, and individuals worldwide. They help facilitate the smooth functioning of the DNS and ensure that domain names are accessible and functional for internet users.


How to Become an ICANN Accredited Registrar?

Becoming an ICANN Accredited Registrar is a multi-step process that requires careful preparation and adherence to ICANN’s requirements. Below are the general steps involved in becoming an ICANN Accredited Registrar.


Glossary

Evaluation Phase

During this pivotal phase, companies enlist the expertise of a consultant to determine their eligibility for ICANN Accreditation and become a distinguished ICANN Accredited Registrar.

The ICANN Accreditation process is multifaceted, and applicants must fulfil specific criteria to achieve the esteemed status of an ICANN Accredited Domain Registrar.

These requirements encompass four key aspects:

  1. Proof of Working Capital – A minimum of $70,000 is required to demonstrate financial stability and capability.

  2. Proven Registrar Management Knowledge – Companies need to showcase their adeptness in registrar operations, ensuring they possess the necessary expertise to excel in this role.

  3. Technical Infrastructure Proficiency – A deep understanding of technical infrastructure is essential to guarantee smooth and efficient domain management.

  4. Clean Legal Record – Applicants must have no unresolved legal cases or past convictions to be eligible for accreditation.

Moreover, during this phase, applicants must make a crucial decision regarding the EPP Software they will utilise for their registrar operations. They have the option to either develop in-house software or subscribe to a reputable EPP Registrar Software platform.

Numerous software providers offer solutions in a Software as a Service (SaaS) model, with pricing based on domain transaction fees. For instance, if a domain is registered, renewed, or transferred for one year, the solution provider will levy a transaction fee ranging from 20 to 50 cents.

Regarding multi-year registrations, renewals, or transfers, some solution providers charge a per-year fee of 20 to 30 cents. However, based on our experience with Gransy and select other providers, they employ a flat fee per transaction, irrespective of the domain’s registration period.

This Evaluation Phase is a pivotal moment for companies aspiring to become ICANN Accredited Domain Registrars, as it determines their readiness and compliance with the stringent ICANN standards. Partnering with the right ICANN Accreditation Consultancy like Dotup Technology Consulting and selecting an optimal EPP Software solution is paramount to ensuring a successful journey toward ICANN Accreditation.

Feasibility Check Phase

The Feasibility Phase marks a pivotal moment for registrar applicants as they embark on a journey to shape their ICANN Accredited Registrar Business. This phase involves strategic decision-making, crafting a robust business model, and mapping out a comprehensive financial roadmap.

During this stage, registrar applicants meticulously chart their revenue models and project financials, ensuring they allocate funds effectively. Essential financial considerations include the ICANN application fee, annual fee, Registry Wallet funds, and investment in a reliable EPP Software.

Furthermore, the Feasibility Phase introduces various compelling use cases for becoming an ICANN Accredited Domain Registrar.

These use cases encompass:

  1. Retail: Catering directly to end-users, offering domain registration services to individuals and businesses seeking a personalised online presence.

  2. Reseller: Empowering entrepreneurs and businesses to resell domain names, providing an avenue for additional revenue streams.

  3. Wholesale: Serving as a domain wholesaler, catering to other registrars and businesses in need of bulk domain registrations.

  4. Drop Catch or Aftermarket: Participating in the domain aftermarket, acquiring valuable expiring or released domain names for resale.

  5. Brand Protection: Assisting brands in safeguarding their online identity by managing and protecting their domain portfolio.

  6. Domain Trading: Engaging in domain trading, buying and selling domain names as an investment strategy.

During this critical phase, registrar applicants thoroughly analyse these use cases and align them with their business objectives. Crafting a solid business plan that embraces the most suitable use case is vital for the success of their ICANN Accredited Registrar venture. The Feasibility Phase serves as the bedrock of their future accomplishments in the domain industry, underlining the significance of meticulous planning and strategic foresight.

Application Preparation

The ICANN Accreditation application form may appear daunting at first glance, comprising a total of 58 questions spread across nearly 25 pages. However, with the guidance of the right consultant by your side, you can craft a compelling and effective application form.

The questions cover various aspects, such as Business Entity Information, Owners, Directors, Managers & Officers details, Business Model, Technical Infrastructure Information, and Compliance-related inquiries, all of which the applicant must address. The ICANN Accreditation application assesses the applicant’s sound knowledge of Domain Names, Business Domain, Technical, and Compliance areas.

It is crucial for the applicant to answer all questions accurately and comprehensively, as any incorrect or insufficient response could lead to rejection and loss of the application fee. Moreover, it might hinder future applications from the registrar applicant.

To excel in all these areas, hiring an ICANN Accreditation Consultant with ample experience is essential. At Dotup Technology Consulting, we are immersed in the world of domain names every day and have successfully assisted over a dozen ICANN Registrars in obtaining ICANN Accreditation.

Throughout the process, we hold regular meetings with you and file the ICANN Accreditation Application on your behalf. The preparation of the application is just the beginning, as ICANN will follow up with numerous technical questions during the evaluation phases. Having the best minds by your side is vital to respond to ICANN’s inquiries promptly and accurately within the 72-hour timeline, showcasing the highest level of domain registrar business knowledge.

ICANN may present hypothetical situations, asking applicants to demonstrate how they would handle them. Providing impeccable answers from the outset ensures that ICANN Accreditation is achieved in the shortest possible time. Trust in Dotup Technology Consulting to guide you through this journey and secure your ICANN Accreditation with expertise and efficiency.

Application Submission

With the meticulous preparation of your application, it’s time to assemble all the necessary supporting documents into a comprehensive package to be submitted to ICANN. This crucial package includes essential items that showcase your registrar’s legitimacy and financial viability:

  1. Legal Business Registration Document: A validated document confirming the official registration of your business entity.

  2. Tax Registration Document: Ensure you provide any applicable tax registration documents, such as VAT, GST, HST, EIN, BN, PAN, or other relevant identifiers.

  3. Bank Statement: Present a bank statement displaying a minimum balance of $70,000, a concrete demonstration of your registrar’s working capital.

  4. Personal ID Proof: Furnish personal identification proof for all Directors, Officers, and Managers involved in your registrar’s operations. Passport, Driver’s License, National ID, or similar documents may be utilised for this purpose.

  5. Lease or Ownership Agreement of Office Address: A lease or ownership agreement for your registrar’s office address, affirming your physical presence and business infrastructure.

  6. Business Plan & Financial Roadmap: Provide a detailed business plan and financial roadmap outlining your registrar’s future endeavours and growth strategies.

Once the collection and verification of these documents are complete, your ICANN Accreditation Consultant will submit the application package to ICANN via email.

The ICANN Accreditation process encompasses eight distinct phases

Phase 1 – Initial Application Check

Phase 2 – Completeness Check/Initial Review

Phase 3 – Detailed Review

Phase 4 – Final Review

Phase 5 – Application Approval

Phase 6 – Contract Issuance

Phase 7 – Applicant Completes Conditions

Phase 8 – Contract Execution and Onboarding

Upon submission of your application, ICANN will acknowledge receipt and share an electronic signature form for the director’s endorsement. Following this, an invoice for the application fee payment will be issued.

Applicants will need to make a one time non refundable application fee ($3500) for which applicants have the convenience of paying either by credit card or wire transfer. Opting for credit card payment will involve a preliminary authorization process via a credit card authorization form. Once payment is authorised and the receipt shared, Phase 2 of the application processing will commence, bringing you one step closer to achieving ICANN Accreditation.

Liaising between ICANN & Applicant

ICANN’s meticulous evaluation begins with a comprehensive completeness check of your ICANN Accreditation application. They will diligently review every aspect, ensuring that all required information and supporting documents are included, clearly legible, appropriately labelled, and accurately reference the corresponding questions. If any documents are in a language other than English, ICANN will also facilitate their translation. This crucial step may take approximately 2-3 weeks, reflecting their commitment to a thorough assessment.

In the event that any information is missing or additional details are required, ICANN will promptly request them. Adhering to the Terms and Conditions of the ICANN application, the applicant must respond within 72 hours. This responsiveness showcases the applicant’s seriousness and preparedness towards the registrar business, a key aspect in the accreditation process.

Once the applicant has diligently answered all of ICANN’s questions and satisfied the necessary criteria, ICANN proceeds to the background verification stage. During this phase, ICANN initiates background verification through a reputable 3rd-party vendor. This verification process encompasses the business entity and the related parties, including directors, officers, and managers, ensuring a thorough evaluation.

Throughout this entire process, Dotup remains steadfastly by the applicant’s side, addressing any queries raised by ICANN and providing essential accreditation consulting services. Our expert guidance ensures a smooth and successful accreditation journey, empowering you to achieve ICANN Accreditation with confidence.

Successful Accreditation

Upon completion of the thorough background verification process, ICANN will eagerly proceed to announce the long-awaited news of your successful accreditation. A congratulatory email will be sent to the applicant, accompanied by the issuance of a unique IANA Number, symbolising the fulfilment of ICANN Accreditation. This pivotal step marks the official completion of the accreditation journey, recognizing your readiness to operate as an accredited domain registrar.

Simultaneously, ICANN will share the crucial Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA) with the applicant. This agreement holds significant importance as it lays the foundation for the registrar’s responsibilities and obligations. The Director of the Registrar must sign this document, signifying a formal commitment to adhere to ICANN’s accreditation guidelines.

In addition, ICANN will proudly update the list of ICANN Registrars on their official website, adding your esteemed registrar to the prestigious roster of accredited entities. This public acknowledgment further establishes your authority and reputation in the domain industry.

During this momentous stage, ICANN will also facilitate the provision of essential Registrar Information. You will be required to furnish contact details for the registrar’s primary, administrative, billing, and abuse contacts. This information is crucial for effective communication and swift response to any queries or concerns.

Furthermore, ICANN will promptly issue an invoice for the first year’s annual fee of $4000. Registrars have the flexibility to opt for annual (One time $4000) or quarterly ($1000 x 4) payment options, based on their preference, which must be communicated to ICANN.

With successful accreditation achieved, the registrar may be tempted to think the journey has come to a close. However, the truth is that the real game has only just begun. While reaching the milestone of accreditation is a significant step, there are numerous crucial stages awaiting the registrar to fully establish their domain business.

EPP Platform Onboarding

As we’ve previously discussed, the EPP Software platform plays a pivotal role in domain management for registrars. From domain availability checks to registration, renewal, transfer, and even redemption, all these processes are seamlessly facilitated through the EPP Protocol between registries and registrars. To access the registry’s EPP servers, a registrar must possess a capable software solution that can effectively connect with the registry. Fortunately, several software providers in the market, such as Gransy, Corehub, and Logicboxes, offer ready-to-use solutions for registrars. On the other hand, if a registrar opts to develop their own software, they must create an EPP connectivity solution to establish a successful connection with the registry.

Beyond EPP connectivity, a registrar’s software must encompass essential features to provide comprehensive domain management solutions to their clients and resellers. These include domain management tools, contact management functionalities, name server updates, secure payment gateway integration, and robust customer support options, such as support tickets, chat, phone, and more.

Once the registrar’s EPP software is fully set up, they will be well-equipped to engage with other key stakeholders, including Escrow and the registry. For registrars considering collaboration with resellers, it is prudent to build APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) for platforms like WHMCS. WHMCS is a popular choice among resellers, as it allows them to offer various solutions to end-users, such as web hosting, SSL certificates, DNS services, and other products from multiple vendors, all seamlessly integrated into their platform.

With a robust EPP Software platform and well-designed APIs in place, registrars can confidently embark on a successful journey of domain management and expand their reach to a broader market, working efficiently with resellers and catering to the diverse needs of their clients.

Registrar Data Escrow Setup

Having successfully navigated the ICANN accreditation stage, the registrar now faces the crucial task of connecting with DENIC, the designated Escrow service provider for ICANN. To grasp the significance of escrow and its importance, it’s essential to understand the distinction between thin and thick registries.

In brief, thin registries, such as .com and .net, solely handle domain registration, expiry dates, and name servers, leaving the whois contact information management to the registrar. Conversely, thick registries manage the entire whois data themselves for every other gTLD.

Given that registrars are now responsible for handling whois data for .com and .net domains, ICANN mandates the submission of a copy of this domain data to a designated Escrow provider, currently DENIC. While IronMountain was an earlier choice for ICANN’s data escrow needs, options expanded to include the NCC group. As of mid-July 2023, ICANN has designated DENIC as the sole authorised escrow provider.

To ensure compliance, registrars must enter into a contract with DENIC and establish a connection to transmit daily Escrow data. This Escrow process is mandatory, and failure to adhere to these requirements may result in the de-accreditation of the registrar.

Working with Dotup, we facilitate seamless Registrar Data Escrow (RDE) through DENIC. Our automated EPP software service provider ensures a smooth RDE process, making your registrar operations effortless.

Registry Onboarding

Welcome to the exciting phase of Registry Onboarding! Now that the Registrar Data Escrow (RDE) is set up, it’s time to approach the registries. But wait, what exactly is a registry, and can’t we register domains on our own as a registrar?



In the domain name industry, ICANN’s framework follows a registry-registrar model. Both registries and registrars play vital roles in ensuring the smooth operation of domain names. The registry’s primary responsibility is to maintain the root servers of a TLD (Top-Level Domain) and handle the technical backend that ensures continuous domain resolution 24/7. On the other hand, the registrar’s role revolves around selling domains, collecting payments, and managing compliance and abuse related to individual domains.

So, what is a registry, you might ask? A registry is a designated company responsible for managing a TLD. They establish a fair market price for each TLD, and this price remains consistent for every registrar, regardless of their size or accreditation status. However, registries may occasionally offer promotions in the form of rebates or co-marketing efforts to help registrars increase domain sales. These promotions usually apply to domain registrations, while renewal or transfer prices remain unaffected.

Now, back to the onboarding process. Newly accredited registrars sign contracts with specific registries, such as Verisign for .com and .net or Public Interest Registry for .ORG, depending on the TLDs they intend to offer. Once the agreement is in place, the registry shares OT&E (Operational Test and Evaluation) credentials and test cases with the registrar. The registrar must then undergo the OT&E test successfully. Upon completion, the registrar receives Live EPP (Extensible Provisioning Protocol) credentials, enabling them to connect with the registry’s systems.

In addition, registrars gain access to the registry management portal and are required to maintain prepaid wallet funds with the registry for domain transactions. This wallet system ensures smooth and efficient financial transactions between the registrar and the registry, streamlining the domain registration process. With the Registry Onboarding process complete, registrars can now confidently offer domain registration services to their customers!

Add-On Products

In today’s market selling just domain name registrations service alone will not be sustainable for a registrar since the prices of domain names are very competitive and the margins in domain names are very low unless you are one of those registrar who are planning to sell domain names wholesale in high volumes. 

So now is the time to bundle additional products and packages to offer with domain names. Products like Web Hosting, DNS, EMails and SSL certificates can be clubbed with domain names in your marketplace and sell together.  

Dotup will offer consulting services from their expertise to packaging such products to registrars time to time so that registrars can run a profitable business. 

GoLive

Now that all the registry connections are firmly established, the marketplace is meticulously developed, rigorously tested, and seamlessly deployed, and the add-on product bundles are expertly packed together, ICANN-accredited registrars are finally ready to go live and embark on their journey of selling domains and other products to their valued customers. 

At this stage, ICANN registrars must shift their focus to ensuring compliance and preventing abuse related to the domain names under their care. Occasionally, ICANN, WIPO, UDRP, or other law enforcement agencies may send notices to ICANN-accredited registrars concerning copyright infringements or abuse complaints associated with specific domain names under their registrar’s management. It is of paramount importance for ICANN-accredited registrars to have a robust compliance and abuse management process in place, enabling them to promptly address and handle these situations while taking necessary actions to tackle any arising challenges.

As ICANN-accredited registrars enter this exciting phase of their operations, they must remain vigilant and uphold the highest standards of integrity and accountability to maintain the trust and confidence of their customers and the broader internet community. With a well-prepared compliance and abuse management strategy, ICANN-accredited registrars can confidently navigate the dynamic landscape of the domain industry, ensuring a safe and secure digital environment for all stakeholders involved.

On-Going Compliance & ICANN Audits

ICANN Accredited Registrars undergo regular audits conducted by ICANN to ensure strict adherence to all rules and regulations. As responsible and diligent registrars, it is essential to remain vigilant and proactively comply with ICANN’s requirements. This entails providing necessary documentation and demonstrating full compliance during these audits.

The audit process serves as a crucial mechanism for ICANN to maintain the highest standards of accountability and transparency within the domain industry. By actively participating in and cooperating with these audits, ICANN Accredited Registrars reaffirm their commitment to excellence, trustworthiness, and the overall integrity of the domain name system.

Through ongoing compliance and steadfast adherence to ICANN’s guidelines, registrars play an integral role in upholding the credibility of the domain name ecosystem. This unwavering dedication ensures a secure and trustworthy digital landscape for businesses, individuals, and the global internet community. As an ICANN Accredited Registrars, our commitment to compliance is not only a regulatory requirement but also a fundamental cornerstone of our commitment to providing reliable and ethical domain registration services.

Conclusion

In conclusion, partnering with a trusted ICANN Accreditation Consultancy, such as Dotup Technology Consulting, is the key to a seamless and successful journey through the ICANN accredited Registrar application process. With our expert guidance, you can rest assured that no important factors will be overlooked, and your path to successful accreditation will be expedited, enabling you to achieve your goal in the shortest possible time. Trust in our expertise to navigate the complexities of ICANN Accreditation, and let us pave the way for your registrar business to thrive in the dynamic domain industry.

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