A digital signature certificate (DSC) is a secure digital key issued by recognised Certifying Authorities (CAs) to validate the identity of the certificate holder. It contains an individual’s name, digital signature, date of issuance of the certificate and date of expiry, and the name of the CA.

Benefits of a Digital Signature Certificate

Apart from authenticating the certificate holder’s identity, DSC helps in the following ways:

Time-saving and cost-saving: Digital signatures ensure a smoother workflow in an organization by limiting the time and cost spent on signing documents and contracts. Documents can be signed by the required persons in a click of a button. This is especially useful when the signer is located in a different area and there is no dependency for him/her to be physically present.

Enhanced security: Added security features in DSC prevents unauthorised use of your document and data. No one can fake your signature, tamper the data or alter your document. DSC ensures your signature is valid, verified and legitimate.

Legal validity: According to the Information Technology Act, 2000, a DSC is accepted evidence in any court of law similar to the acceptance of any signed document.

Global acceptance: Apart from government bodies like GST, MCA, Income Tax, etc., a DSC is being accepted in all the countries across the world as it offers greater security. DSC is important for companies looking to take part in government tenders.

Types of Digital Signature Certificate

There are three classes of DSC – Class 1, Class 2 and Class 3 used for different purposes based on the type of entity and need.

Class 1: Class 1 certificate is issued to both businesses and individuals, or private subscribers, to confirm the user’s name and email id as mentioned in the consumer database. This is just a basic assurance and is usually not considered to be of major significance.

Class 2: Similar to Class 1, Class 2 certificate is issued to both the entities – businesses and private subscribers for confirmation of information in the database. It is used during monetary transactions or to access one’s personal information, and for other transactions, where there is a substantial risk of malicious activity. Also, Class 2 is used to file various government forms in India.

Class 3: Class 3 certificate is an upgraded version of Class 2. It is issued to individuals and organisations that want to participate in bidding for government tenders or online tenders and auctions. Sometimes the applicants may be expected to be physically present before the CAs to receive a Class 3 certificate. Class 3 signatures are relevant to environments that are prone to data theft, fraudulence and failure of security.

How DSCs Work?

A DSC is created based on the PKI mechanism where two keys – a public key and private key are generated. The private key is kept by the signer and the public key is required by the receiver to decrypt the information regarding the identity of the user during information exchange. The user can store the private key on a computer or hard disk as a token and access it with his/her respective password issued.

During the transfer of information, both the keys are used by the browser and the server to encrypt and decrypt information, to authorise the identity of the user. The public key is disseminated with the encrypted information. The authentication process fails even if one of the keys does not match. Hence the encrypted data cannot be decrypted making it impossible for unauthorised access.

Documents required to get DSC

Indian Individuals looking to obtain DSC must submit:

  • ID proof: Passport/Driving license or any Photo Identity issued by the Govt
  • PAN card
  • Address proof: Aadhaar card/Voter ID/Driving license/Registration Certificate
  • Attesting Officer proof

Indian Organizations looking to get DSC must submit:

  • Organizational PAN
  • Partnership deed, if applicable
  • List of Authorised Signatories which could be the list of Directors, Board resolution, etc.
  • Authorised Signatory ID proof
  • GST certificate

For Indian companies, the documents may differ depending upon the type of entity like Partnership, Proprietorship or sole ownership, LLP, etc.

Foreign individuals and organizations looking to obtain DSC must submit:

  • Attested copy of applicant’s passport
  • Attested copy of Visa, if the applicant is out of their native country
  • Attested copy of Resident Permit certificate, if the applicant is in India
  • Attested copy of any Govt-issued address proof

Foreign attestation procedure for DSC:

Authorisation letter must be sought with the respective company seal and signature.

  • Embassy of native country (If applicant is out of native country)
  • Apostilled by native country, after Public Notary (if country is in Hague Convention). For example Austria, Greece, Oman, Australia, Iceland, Ireland, Japan, etc.
  • Consularized by native country, after Public Notary (if country is not in Hague Convention). For example, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, etc.

How to apply for a Digital Signature Certificate? – A detailed process

At StartupGenie, our professionals will help you get your DSC in just three simple steps:

Step 1: Collect basic details

We will collect basic details like Name, Gender, Address, Nationality, Country, Email Id, Mobile number, and the usage type of DSC you are applying for. It could be for company incorporation, MCA e-filing, IT filing, GST filing, Foreign trade, e-Tenders or personal use. Accordingly, we will guide you in selecting the right class.

Step 2: Submission of supporting documents

All the necessary documents like PAN card, address proof, passport, etc. with relevant attestation will be collected.

Step 3: Documents Validation

Once the payment is made and the information is verified against the PAN card as in the Income Tax portal, we will validate your documents in two ways:

Video recording: You will receive a video link to your registered mobile number and email address, where you need to record your personal information like name, DOB, etc. and send it to us.

SMS: You will then receive an SMS with the DSC application ID and a mobile number to which you need to reply with your DSC application ID, name, mobile number and email ID.

Upon successful verification we will dispatch your Digital Signature Certificate USB token, which is a password-protected physical device containing your digital signature. A USB token also called e-token, dongle or digital signature has a special built-in software that recognises and opens your digital signature.

FAQs on What is a Digital Signature?

What is the validity of a DSC?

A Digital signature certificate is valid for 1 to 2 years from the time of issuance. Every signature has the start date and end date. If your DSC expires you can apply again for a digital signature online.

From where can I get a Digital Signature Certificate?

You can get your DSC from StartupGenie. We are authorised providers for DSC, and we are partnered with some of the prominent, licensed CAs to get your DSC at the best rate without any hassles and in the most secure way. We require only your basic documents and verify your details against the PAN card registered on the Income Tax portal.

Who is a Digital Certifying Authority?

According to the Information Technology (IT) Act 2000, any person or entity which has been granted the license to issue a Digital Signature Certificate is recognised as a Digital Certifying Authority or CA. Before issuing license to a prospective CA, the Controller of Certifying Authorities, Ministry of IT, will first audit the establishment and then ensure compliance requirements are satisfactory, and finally grants the license.

Who are all the Digital Certifying Authorities in India?

The licensed authorities identified by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology are Safe Scrypt, DRB, (n) Code Solutions, e-Mudhra, NSDL, Capricorn Identity Services, CSC e-Governance Services India Limited, Indian Airforce, Vsign, CDAC, and DRB.

Who is a Registration Authority (RA)?

RAs are the agents of the CAs who collect and verify the information and the requisite documents from the applicant. RAs will then decide to approve or reject a DSC application request.

Where can I use my DSC?

You can use your DSC to send and receive digital files, perform web-based transactions and for signing documents in PDF and MS files. In addition, a DSC is mandatory for registering a company with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, e-filing of income taxes, e-Tendering, e-Procurement, and in other important government-related forms.

When should a person use class 2 DSC?

Class 2 Digital Signature is used for income tax filing, incorporation of a Pvt Ltd company or LLP, filing of Annual returns, and whenever e-filings are done with MCA and Income Tax department.

When should a person use class 3 DSC?

If you want to register for e-tenders or e-procurement or e-auctions you need class 3 certificate. Also government bodies like Indian Railways, national banks may have to get DSC for tenders.

How long does it take to get a DSC?

Usually, it takes 3-4 days for processing the DSC application after which it is couriered to you.

What type of DSC do I need for e-filing on MCA portal?

For e-filing on the MCA portal, you need to have either Class 2 or Class 3 signing certificate category which has to be issued by a licensed Certifying Authority (CA).

Why do I need to submit my documents to apply for a DSC?

A DSC in the digital world is as important as your PAN card or passport in the physical world. Hence, before issuing the certificate all your details will be thoroughly checked and verified.

Do I need to be physically present for verification of my identity?

No, you need not be present as StartupGenie Digital Signature Certificate process completely done online. However, for Class-3, sometimes, you may have to be present physically which will be informed to you prior to the verification process.

Is there any guarantee my confidential information will not be misused during the process of applying for DSC?

StartupGenie adopts stringent policies to ensure our customers’ data are secure. We shall not disclose any information to any third party, unless it is required by law.

What type of DSC is required for procuring tenders and trademark/patent filing?

Class 3 certificate is mandatory for e-Tendering, e-Procurement , Trademark / Patent filing. Class 3 is the highest type of Digital Signature Certificate.

Can I get more than one DSC?

Yes, you can have two certificates, say one for personal use and the other for official use. But note only one email address is allowed for one certificate.

Is it necessary to get the USB token?

Yes, a USB is mandatory as per the Government’s notification because it is not vulnerable to virus attacks, thereby offering the highest security.