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Support is available 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern Time (except public holidays), and 24/7 for emergencies.


Frequently asked questions

Your domain is central to your organization’s brand and availability over the internet. It’s also key to your security, and that of your users. We’ve outlined answers to common questions below.

We also recommend you review our domain security best practices page.

Don’t see an answer to your question? Contact us.

Domain requirements

.gov is a unique space, only available to genuine U.S.-based government organizations and publicly controlled entities.

DNS

The Domain Name System (DNS) is the internet service that translates your domain name into an IP address. This makes it possible for people to access your online service by using a name instead of numbered address.

Contact information

Keeping your contact information current ensures that only authorized individuals can make changes to your domain. It also makes it possible for us to reach you if there’s an issue.

Renewals, transfers, and deletions

Some surprises are wonderful. Discovering your domain is no longer on the internet won’t be one of them.


Domain requirements FAQ

Who can obtain a .gov domain and what are the requirements?

The Eligibility section of our domain requirements says:

Only U.S.-based government and public sector organizations are eligible to obtain a .gov domain. This includes any federal, state, local, or territorial government entity, or other publicly controlled entity. It also includes any tribal government recognized by the federal government or a state government. Eligibility is determined by the DotGov Program, which will be informed by the United States Census Bureau’s criteria for classifying governments.

The requirements specify the general requirements that all domain registrants need to follow, as well as the specific requirements for the different domain types, or kinds of government organizations. The specific requirements outline additional requirements (where applicable), but the key detail is that they describe who your “authorizing authority” is, or the official we’ll accept as signatory for your .gov domain request.

What’s an “authorizing authority”, and who is ours?

The authorizing authority is the official we’ll accept as signatory for your .gov domain request. To determine who yours is, evaluate what kind of government organization you are and follow the link (which will take you to the relevant section of our domain requirements):

  1. Federal: Federal agencies from all three branches of the federal government
  2. Native sovereign nation (tribal): Tribal governments recognized by the federal government or a state government
  3. State/U.S. territories: 50 U.S. states, District of Columbia (D.C.), American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands
  4. Interstate: An organization of two or more states. From our domain requirements:

    Interstate (multi-state) governmental organizations are most frequently formed via legislation from Congress or from a legal accord between, or passed by, the state governments of two or more states. Examples include multi-state commissions, organizations that manage interstate compacts, or port authorities that operate across jurisdictions.

  5. Independent intrastate: An autonomous organization of a single state. From our domain requirements:

    Independent intrastate (within a single state) governmental organizations are most frequently formed via state or local legislation, where authority is vested in them to operate fully or quasi-independently from the state. Examples include organizations authorized by law that operate a jurisdiction’s elections, manage regional transit, or do area-wide economic planning with governance independent from e.g., the executive branch.”

  6. City/County: Cities, towns, villages, counties, parishes, borough, or equivalents

We’re an elections office. Who is our authorizing authority?

In general, elections offices maintain legal or practical autonomy from a municipality. Elections offices should follow the requirements for independent intrastate domains. The authorization authority is the highest election official. For state-level election offices, the authorizing authority is typically the state’s chief election official. For local-level election offices, the highest level election official is typically the elected or appointed official that runs the office.

We’re a school district. Can we get a .gov domain?

School districts that meet the characteristics of a ‘school district government’, as described in the U.S. Census Bureau’s classification of government units, may request a .gov domain. School districts that are dependent entities of local governments may not request a .gov domain, but their parent government (e.g., the county) may request one on their behalf.

For details about school district governments, see the section “School District Governments and Public School Systems” in Individual State Descriptions: 2017 Census of Governments (PDF pg. 12) and your individual state description.

School district governments are subject to the registration requirements for independent intrastate domains. So, for school district governments, the authorizing authority is the highest-ranking executive, e.g., the chair of a school district’s board or the superintendent.

What contact information do we need to keep updated?

Domain name registrants must keep names, email addresses, and phone numbers current for administrative and technical contacts. In general:

  1. An administrative contact is the person who controls or approves content on the domain and is the manager of operations for the domain.

  2. A technical contact is the person who directly manages or operates your DNS.

Administrative and technical contacts have accounts to the .gov registrar and can make changes to your DNS nameservers.

(A legacy contact, the billing contact, remains, even though domains are now available at no cost. You may consider it a secondary administrative contact.)

A security contact is a recommended practice. It should be added to allow the public to report observed or suspected security issues at your domain. Security contact details are made public. We recommend using an alias, like security@<domain.gov>.

Note: The security contact role does not have an account to the .gov registrar.

At present, we don’t allow a single person to serve as more than one contact – even for the billing account - meaning that three distinct contacts are required. (This does not apply to security contact.)

How do I request an exception to the naming requirements?

Exceptions to the naming requirements can be requested in your authorization letter. For cities and counties, we have outlined some circumstances where we may grant an exception.

My authorizing authority won’t sign an authorization letter. What do I do now?

Without a letter signed by the party defined in our domain requirements as the authorizing authority for your organization, you cannot register a .gov domain name.


DNS FAQ

Does the .gov TLD provide additional services for .gov domains?

We manage the authoritative name servers for the .gov zone and ensure the zone file is propagated to root name servers. We don’t operate a for-government, managed DNS hosting service, nor do we offer web hosting, email services, or certificates.

For DNS hosting, many service providers exists. Your technical support team may also manage DNS name servers you can utilize.

What are the name server requirements for .gov domains?

What are the valid characters for a domain name and how long can it be?

The only valid characters for a domain name are letters, numbers, and a hyphen. Other characters, including a space, are not permitted. Domain names may not begin or end with a hyphen.

A domain name may be up to 26 characters long, including the 4 characters used to identify the top-level domain (e.g., .gov).

Where do I look for the authoritative .gov zone data?

The root servers ([a-d].gov-servers.net) are the authoritative source of .gov information that is “live” on the internet.

Will I be notified if a change is made to my DNS information?

Yes. In response to recent incidents affecting other top-level domains, .gov domain contacts will receive a system-generated email when a change is made to their DNS in the .gov registrar.

The email will alert the contacts that a change was made to their DNS information and include instructions for mitigation should it be necessary.

How quickly will changes to my domain propagate throughout the internet?

Propagation depends on a variety of factors, such as caching and connectivity, but changes are usually effective within 24 hours.

If you’re planning to make critical changes to your name servers over the weekend, please contact us before 5 p.m. the Thursday before to ensure the information propagates during weekend hours.

When can I define my DS record?

You can define Delegation Signer (DS) records during registration or after the domain name is active. Before your DS records are published in the .gov zone, they will be tested and verified.

Why won’t my domain work after updating the registration with actual name servers?

Adding name servers to a reserved domain does not change its status from reserved to active if other requirements are pending. You can reserve a domain’s registration for up to 90 days, giving you time to submit all of the required information.

If the name server information is the only remaining information required for registration, it will take approximately 1 to 2 days after receipt of valid name server data for us to activate your domain. Expect an additional 1 to 2 days for the update to propagate across the internet.


Contact information FAQ

How do I change a contact for my domain?

A current contact should contact us to establish a new user account. If all contacts are unavailable (e.g., they’ve left the organization), the authorizing authority must sign a new authorization letter and assign new domain contacts.

Can one person serve as contacts on a single domain?

No. At present, we don’t allow a single person to serve as more than one contact – even for the billing account - meaning that three distinct contacts are required. (This does not apply to security contact.)

Can a person serve as a contact on multiple domains?

Yes.


Renewals, transfers, and deletions FAQ

How long is a .gov domain registered for?

One year. (Domain contacts will receive several reminder emails before expiration.)

How do I delete my domain?

If you’d like to delete a domain name, contact us. Once completed, you should ask your DNS provider to remove your domain’s authoritative DNS nameservers.

Danger: once a domain is deleted, the registration process must be started again to obtain the domain. Be certain you want to delete a domain before contacting us!

How do I transfer my domain to a different agency?

To transfer ownership of a domain name from one federal agency to another agency, two letters must be submitted to us: one from the transferring agency and one from the receiving agency.

Whether transferring or receiving, start by copying and pasting the domain transfer letter template into a document editor. The letter from both agencies must be on official agency letterhead and signed by the respecting authorizing authority. Once prepared, each agency emails their authorization letter to registrar@dotgov.gov. After we receive and verify both letters, the registry will be updated to reflect the transfer.

What happens if I do not renew my domain name?

Failure to submit updated contact information does not result in the immediate termination of your domain. However, it may be placed in a hold status. When a domain name is held, it ceases resolving in DNS, making all services attached to the domain inaccessible by name resolution.

If you do not wish to renew, please contact us to delete your domain.