There are two main ways to become a domain registrar, each of which has benefits and potential drawbacks. The primary way to become a domain registrar is to obtain a certification from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). This is a somewhat involved process that involves paying a fee, providing various types of documentation, and then receiving the appropriate accreditation. The exact process will differ depending on the types of domain names you want to register. An alternative option is to become a domain reseller, which can provide you with many of the same benefits without the initial money and time investment.
A domain registrar is an entity that is capable of registering domain names. Individuals and businesses pay the registrar a fee to reserve a domain, and the registrar then pays ICANN or another governing body. At one time there was only one company authorized to perform these functions, though the process has become much more open. It is now possible for virtually anyone to become a domain registrar so long as the correct procedure is followed.
If you have decided to become a domain registrar, the first step is to review the list of qualifications that ICANN requires. You will need to show that your business has the capability of running a registrar or provide a satisfactory business plan. It is also necessary to obtain a certain level of liability insurance, so you will need to demonstrate the ability and willingness to do so. Other qualifications include a demonstration of financial stability and possession of an existing second level domain (SLD). Certain factors can also disqualify you from becoming a registrar, such as lying on the application or having been convicted of certain financial crimes in the last ten years.
After you have verified that you qualify to become a domain registrar, you will need to pay a fee and file an application. If you are accepted you will need to sign an agreement, after which you will be able to register domain names for a period of five years. The final step in the process is to contact the relevant registry operators.
An alternative to this process is to become a domain reseller. In this case you will use an existing registrar as a middleman instead of dealing directly with ICANN. Each domain you register on behalf of your clients will be recorded by your registrar since you will lack the ability to do so yourself. You will also pay the registrar instead of ICANN and the registry operators. This can leave you with a smaller margin, though you will typically also have far lower start-up costs.