The domain name for government (mostly)

If you’re reading this then the chances that you probably already know what a domain name is and what it’s used for, but maybe not how to actually register one.  If that’s the case then you’ll want to jump towards the end for “How to register a domain“.

If that’s not the case then read on, we’re going to look at:

  • What a domain name is
  • Who can register a domain
  • How to register a name
  • Typical costs for registering and renewing a domain
  • Transferring a domain between providers
www . Houses of Parliament

What is a domain name?

The domain name *should* be used by all tiers of government from central down to local and is managed by Jisc who are a UK technology agency mainly focused on higher education and research.

Who can register an name?

Most public sector organisations must use a or other government domain name for their websites, emails and services.

– Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO), Check if your organisation can get a domain name

For government that’s pretty clear guidance, but let’s take a look at exactly who that includes:

  • central government department or agency – unless you qualify for an exemption
  • non-departmental body – also known as an arm’s length body
  • police and crime commissioner
  • fire service
  • combined or unitary authority
  • county, borough, metropolitan or district council
  • parish, town or community council
  • neighbourhood or village council
  • joint authority
  • joint committee
  • partnership body

Exceptions to the rules…

Specific bodies

Sometimes a part of the government is just too specific or too large and should use an alternative office domain, we’ve set out below what the exceptions are:

Scottish government Use
Welsh government Use or
NHS Use, or
Police forces Use
Judiciary Use
Parliaments and assemblies Use
Schools Use
Universities and higher education Use

There are also further exemptions where a geographic area has their own ccTLD (country code top level domain) e.g. Gibraltar (.gi), Isle of Man (.im).

Northern Ireland government should use

General exemptions

There are circumstances where a governmental body can register a domain that isn’t within the namespace (other than those above).

Such situations include:

  • Where less than 50% of the funding is provided by the government e.g.
  • Specific public inquiries e.g.
  • Defensive registrations e.g.
  • Where it is more appropriate in the mind of the public e.g.

If you are registering a domain outside of the government namespace then it should still meet the same standards as set out for domains, if the registration is purely defensive then you should notify the CDDO so they can monitor it correctly.

Are there any special requirements for operating a name?

Domains registered within the namespace are a trusted and respected over and above other names by the public, and the public expects them to be secure.  With this in mind, there are a number of requirements around operating a name and the CDDO provide extensive guidance:

If you don’t follow the CDDO guidance then you can expect them to be in touch with you about it (we’ve known it happen) and ultimately you can be stopped from using your domain name.

How do I register a domain?

Jisc manages registration and renewal of domain names on behalf of CDDO and the Cabinet Office.  You will need to pick an “approved registrar” from the list that Jisc maintains to actually register a name.

You can view the full list of approved registrars via Jisc (disclaimer: We’re on the list)

The CDDO has a checklist for selecting an appropriate supplier: Choose a good registrar or DNS provider

Once you’ve picked your approved registrar they’ll ask you a series of questions:

  • The name you would like to request (see below)
  • What the domain represents e.g. Your organisation name and any associated acronyms e.g. Whitwell Parish Council, WPC
  • Which organisation will own the domain name
  • What type of organisation is it e.g. Limited company, charity, local government parish council etc.
  • The role and objective of the organisation
  • The status of the staff e.g. Civil servants, employees etc.
  • The source of funding e.g. Central taxation, council tax etc.
  • To whom the organisation is accountable
  • The purpose of the domain name e.g. Email, promotion, informational etc.
  • The intended audience
  • If the organisation already owns a domain name
  • Contact details
  • Technical contact details
  • Private contact details
  • Public registrant contact (published in the public domain WHOIS)
Man holding a large pencil stood next to an oversized clipboard with check-list on it.

Once that is completed Jisc will review the application and come back with either an approval, denial or request for more information.

Are there any rules on what name I can chose?

As you’d expect with a highly respected name like there are some rules:

  • Domains are registered on a first-come, first-served basis
  • Domains must be 3-63 or more characters in length
  • Domains must be representative of the organisation’s name or initiative
  • Contain only the characters 0-9, a-z and ‘-‘ (dash)
  • The name must not be substantially similar to an existing domain name
  • The name must not contain abbreviations like ltd, plc and gov
  • The name must not include a postcode

If you use an abbreviation, acronym or initialism it must be descriptive, unique and clear to end users to avoid confusion.

If your choice of domain name is rejected, you can appeal.

Meeting the standards

All domains must meet certain standards of operation and security, this also includes and domains registered by qualifying organisations that aren’t in the namespace e.g. You’ve registered a .com name for a project.

You can find full details with Guidance: Get started with your domain name

How much does it cost to register and renew a name?

That’s going to depend on your chosen approved registrar, but Jisc charge registrars a fee of £100 + VAT for the first two years of registration, after that they charge a fee of £50 + VAT.

What registrars charge will vary due to a number of factors:

  • Support provided (none, email, phone etc.)
  • How much help is provided with appeals etc.
  • Payment methods
  • Overheads etc.
String - Length? String forms the shape of a UK pound sign.

Generally speaking an approved registrar will add more of a markup on domains than more commercial domains such as and usually more than a due to the extra checks and work.  This is because it’s a much more manual system and generally involves several emails back and forth with Jisc per registration rather than being a fully automated process.

As always, check what you’re getting for your money as we’ve recently seen a case of a company professing to give preferential rates to their customers as they have many and domains under management (no one gets a discount from Jisc for volume) and they were charging £200 per 2 year period for renewals with very little support.

How do I transfer a domain name?

As with most tasks relating to a name, transferring ownership or changing your approved registrar is a manual task and handled by the Jisc support desk and should be handled via your current approved registrar if at all possible.  If relationships have broken down with your current approved registrar then you will need to find a new registrar and then contact Jisc.

Woman and man shaking hands having agreed a deal

Transferring your domain ownership to someone else

To transfer your domain to a new owner you will need to provide notice to Jisc on headed paper stating your intention to transfer the domain and to whom you wish to transfer it.  Jisc will then check that everything is in order and that the domain is being transferred correctly.

Changing your approved registrar

To change your approved registrar you will need to provide notice on headed note paper stating the intention to move registrar and providing:

  • The domain name
  • The name of the current registrar
  • The name of the new registrar

Your new approved registrar will also need to provide you with a completed “Modification Template” for you to provide to Jisc.


Hopefully you’re now confident on if you’re eligible for a domain and how you can register one.  As always, if you think we’ve missed anything then please feel free to get in touch either via social media, email or phone.

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