What is Digital Signature Certificate (DSC) and How to Obtain It?

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A digital signature certificate is an electronic proof of identity. Just like paper certificates and documents such as the PAN card or passport, a digital signature is also used to prove a person’s identity. The difference between a physical document and a digital signature token is that the digital signature token is presented electronically. Digital Signature Certificates are used not only as proof of identity but also to access online services or information or as e-signature to digitally sign any document. Such certificates come handy, save time, and ease the online experience.
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Digital Signature Certificates and its three classes

E-commerce has become popular. So, government agencies have now adopted digital signatures too. Digital signature certificates are also being used for signing e-forms or electronic versions of physical documents. It can also be used for filing your income tax returns, or other regulatory filings. All Digital Signature Certificates need to comply with the Indian IT Act, 2000 and the X.509 Certificate Policy for India PKI (Public Key Infrastructure). Both individuals and companies can apply and obtain a Digital Signature Certificate.

Before you head for DSC application, you should know about the various classes of digital signature that you could opt for:
  • Class 1 Digital Signature Certificate – it is issued to private individuals to assure that the application’s information given by the subscriber is as per the information present in the legal consumer database. These certificates cannot be used by companies as they merely verify the name and mail addresses of the applicants. The requirements for verification in order to get these certificates are:

    - Aadhaar eKYC biometric for identity proof
    - Physical application form and related documents
    - Aadhaar eKYC OTP and video verification
    - Software to be used for private key generation and storage
  • Class 2 Digital Signature Certificate – It is issued for both individuals and business entities when the risk and consequence of data breach is not very high (example: for filing tax returns). This certificate is used to prove that the details of the applicant match with the existing trusted database. The requirements for verification in order to get these certificates are:

    - Aadhaar eKYC biometric for identity proof
    - Physical application form and related documents
    - Aadhaar eKYC OTP and video verification
    - Hardware cryptographic device validated to FIPS 140-2 level is required for Private Key generation and storage
  • Class 3 Digital Signature Certificate – It is issued for private individuals when the risk and consequence of data breach is extremely high. These certificates are mostly issued for e-commerce applications or online auctions and are considered as high assurance certificates. The requirements for verification in order to get these certificates are:

    - Aadhaar eKYC biometric for identity proof
    - Physical application form, related documents, and video verification or physical/personal appearance before certified authorities
    - Aadhaar eKYC OTP and video verification
Digital Signature Certificates and its three classes

Step-by-step guide for DSC application

DSC application is an online process and involves the following steps:
  • Step1: Log on to the website of any certifying authority in India that issues the DSC such as emudhra and vsign. You will be guided to the Digital Certification Services’ section. Under this section, you need to select the type of entity (individual or organization) for which you need the DSC. Based on your entity type, once you make the selection, a new tab will appear containing the DSC registration form. Download this form.
  • Step 2: Once you are done with downloading the form, the next step is to fill in all the necessary details mentioned in the form. After filling up all the necessary details, you need to submit your recent photograph and put in your signature under the declaration. Once this is done, read the form carefully to ensure that all the details are correct, and then print the completed form.
  • Step 3: Attest the identity and address proofs as the supporting document by an attesting officer. Ensure that the sign and seal of the attesting officer are clearly visible on the attested documents.
  • Step 4: Pay for the DSC application via demand draft or cheque issued in the name of the Local Registration Authority where you are going to submit your application for verification. The details of the local registration varies based on your city of residence and can be found online.
  • Step 5: Post the following required documents after enclosing them in an envelope:

    1. DSC registration form duly filled along with the attested supporting documents for proof of identity and proof of address.
    2. Post the demand draft or cheque for payment addressed to the LRA (Local Registration Authority) at its designated address.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Can I renew Digital Signature Certificate?
Yes, your Digital Signature Certificates can be renewed easily within seven days before the digital signature validity expires. However, for the renewal, the applicant’s name should not be changed. Doing so would qualify it as a new application and not a renewal. Though the applicant’s name cannot be changed at the time of renewal, you can change your postal address and contact details. If you do not renew digital signature within the above mentioned time, you will have to file a new application for the Digital Signature Certificate.
Q. What is the digital signature validity?
A. The validity of your Digital Signature Certificate varies from 1-2 years. This validity depends on the class of your Digital signature token. Ensure to opt for the right class to avoid any loss.
Q. Is holding many DSCs allowed?
A. Yes, you can hold multiple Digital Signature Certificates to separate your signatures for personal and professional use.
Q. Can I modify the details filled in the Digital Signature Certificate (DSC) application form?
A. Yes, you can easily modify the details filled in your DSC application form through the following steps:

- Log in your existing DSC user ID
- Find the ‘Change DSC details’ option
- Edit the required details
- Select the edited/changed DSC
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Now that you have the basic knowledge of what a DSC is, you can do a little research of your own before applying for the same. You can also follow the above-mentioned steps (filling in the DSC form and providing necessary documents and payment) to complete the entire Digital signature process. Generally, your digital signature certificate would be issued from three and seven days.
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