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I have a bunch of domain names that I wish to transfer to a different registrar. They are about to expire in about 38 days from today.

Is there any guideline in place from ICANN about the number of days before expiry past which a domain name can't be transferred from one registrar to another?

I wish to know if my registrar can prevent me from transferring because I can't transfer a domain if it's set to expire in X days or less.

With this knowledge in hand, I would be able to spend adequate time looking for an appropriate new registrar.

While I am particularly looking the protocols governing this use-case rather than any technical issues which may arise when trying to transfer a domain, how many days before the expiry is it generally advisable to initiate the transfer?

I'd also note that while I would ideally not want downtime for the website, it's a personal portfolio website, and a short downtime in the process would be acceptable.

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  • I have ran into this before where I was not allowed to transfer within a certain amount of days before expiration. I don't recall what the number was, but I run into this periodically if I forget to move my domains before the end of their renewal period. – Trebor Apr 30 '20 at 0:06
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    @Trebor Some registries do indeed refuse transfers if the domain is too close to expiration. A good registrar should be able to let you know that. – Patrick Mevzek Jun 3 '20 at 15:31
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Is there any guideline in place from ICANN about the number of days before expiry past which a domain name can't be transferred from one registrar to another?

They aren't (and also remember that ICANN regulates only the gTLD space, not ccTLDs, so depending on which TLDs you are talking about, ICANN may or may not be relevant) but my advice is never to wait for the last time to renew a domain, because that does not buy you anything: a renewal, specially in gTLD, extends the current expiration life by one year (or some other amount of years) so its end result is not related to when you do it.

And, to have witnessed both at registries and registrars, it is clearly a bad idea to do multiple operations in a too short timeframe, because of the grace periods, which is a mechanism used by all gTLDs registries and many ccTLDs.

With this, it means when an operation is done there is a delay of 5 days typically (45 after an auto-renewal) during which if some other operation happen it can cancel out the previous one.

You say you are 38 days before expiration, so you are still good, I am often advising not to do anything in the last 2 months before expiration to have a big safeguard, but one month from it is still fine.

For example, in .CN, the registry will disallow a transfer to happen if the domain is less than 15 days from its expiration.

I wish to know if my registrar can prevent me from transferring

ICANN has specific list of rules saying when a registrar can deny a transfer, see https://www.icann.org/resources/pages/policy-transfers-2014-07-02-en and section 3 Note in particular:

The Registrar of Record may deny a transfer request only in the following specific instances:

[..]

  1. No payment for previous registration period (including credit card charge- backs) if the domain name is past its expiration date or for previous or current registration periods if the domain name has not yet expired.

Until you reach expiration, your domain is normally paid (so make sure you have no outstanding balances or things like that with current registrar otherwise it could deny the transfer).

I'd also note that while I would ideally not want downtime for the website,

Except in rare cases (not in gTLDs), a transfer is a change of registrar, nothing else changes, nameservers are not changed, contacts are not changed, etc. But, any of the following can happen:

  • your new registrar may ask you about new contacts or nameservers: if so, once the transfer is finished, it can now change the data immediately; for an external observer it is exactly as if the transfer changed things where in fact there was first a transfer then an update

  • if you use the old registrar also as DNS provider, even if you change your nameservers immediately after the transfer is done, you may then get problems (like your domain not resolving) if the old registrar stops doing DNS service right at the moment the transfer finished. In some TLDs, like .FR there is a specific provision in the registrar contract to continue in cases like that doing DNS service for some time however I wouldn't rely on this more generally. The good way to handle this case is more the following: 1) change the nameservers at old registrars for new ones that work 2) wait (depends on various factors, if you want to be safe let us say a week after the change is effective) 3) do the transfer

PS: a good registrar (the new one you choose) should be able to help you prepare for your transfers and let you know if your domains have any problem (like too close to expiration or things like that) that would prevent the transfer; of course it should bill you really only after the transfer is successful.

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  • Thank you sir for the elaborate and informative answer. 🙏🏻 – Nimesh Neema Jun 3 '20 at 17:20
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No, there are no rules I am aware of as a domain reseller, but it might differ with some of the new TLDs. It might be worth clarifying with ICANN.

There are somethings to be mindful of.

  • It generally takes 3 - 5 days for a transfer to complete. I would never start a transfer less than a week prior to expiration if I wanted to avoid disruption.

  • many TLDs require renewal on transfer so it can be a good idea to not renew too far in advance of the expiry date unless you are happy to renew and then have to add another year on transfer

  • nameservers can't be updated once a domain transfer has been approved by the registrant.

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  • Transfers take up to 5 days in gTLDs to complete because 5 days is the delay used by gTLDs after which the transfer is automatically accepted by the registry (but in practice some registries add 1 to 2 days to that for the domain really to have switched registrars). But otherwise if the loosing registrar accepts it, it can happen in minutes – Patrick Mevzek Jun 3 '20 at 15:29
  • "many TLDs require renewal on transfer" More precisely, in almost all TLDs, a transfer means a one year renewal. – Patrick Mevzek Jun 3 '20 at 15:29
  • "nameservers can't be updated once a domain transfer has been approved by the registrant." I am not sure what that means. Nameserver updates can be done by the sponsoring registrar at any time, before the transfer by old registrar, after the transfer by new registrar. Except in some rare cases, any update on the domain during the transfer are not possible. – Patrick Mevzek Jun 3 '20 at 15:30
  • @PatrickMevzek your comment seems to support my statement. In my experience as a web host and domain seller is that once a domain transfer has been initiated and approved (if that TLD requires approval) the nameservers can't be updated, effectively all settings are locked. – Steve Jun 3 '20 at 22:06
  • "the nameservers can't be updated, effectively all settings are locked." I am sorry but this makes no sense. Once the transfer is done the new registrar has full way to update anything it wants on the domain, on behalf of the registrant. Except specific rules maybe in some TLDs but you are not saying which. ICANN just prohibits a new transfer or change of registrant in the 60 days after a transfer, but other than that updates are completely possible. Some registrars ask for new contacts and updates at transfer time and do the update right after and it works without problems – Patrick Mevzek Jun 4 '20 at 0:24

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