The CertificateRequest is a namespaced resource in cert-manager that is used to request X.509 certificates from an Issuer. The resource contains a base64 encoded string of a PEM encoded certificate request which is sent to the referenced issuer. A successful issuance will return a signed certificate, based on the certificate signing request. CertificateRequests are typically consumed and managed by controllers or other systems and should not be used by humans - unless specifically needed.

A simple CertificateRequest looks like the following:

apiVersion: cert-manager.io/v1
kind: CertificateRequest
  name: my-ca-cr
  isCA: false
  - signing
  - digital signature
  - server auth
  duration: 90d
    name: ca-issuer
    # We can reference ClusterIssuers by changing the kind here.
    # The default value is Issuer (i.e. a locally namespaced Issuer)
    kind: Issuer
    group: cert-manager.io

This CertificateRequest will make cert-manager attempt to request the Issuer ca-issuer in the default issuer group cert-manager.io, return a certificate based upon the certificate signing request. Other groups can be specified inside the issuerRef which will change the targeted issuer to other external, third party issuers you may have installed.

The resource also exposes the option for stating the certificate as CA, Key Usages, and requested validity duration.

All fields within the spec of the CertificateRequest, as well as any managed cert-manager annotations, are immutable and cannot be modified after creation.

A successful issuance of the certificate signing request will cause an update to the resource, setting the status with the signed certificate, the CA of the certificate (if available), and setting the Ready condition to True.

Whether issuance of the certificate signing request was successful or not, a retry of the issuance will not happen. It is the responsibility of some other controller to manage the logic and life cycle of CertificateRequests.


CertificateRequests have a set of strongly defined conditions that should be used and relied upon by controllers or services to make decisions on what actions to take next on the resource.


Each ready condition consists of the pair Ready - a boolean value, and Reason - a string. The set of values and meanings are as follows:

Ready Reason Condition Meaning
False Pending The CertificateRequest is currently pending, waiting for some other operation to take place. This could be that the Issuer does not exist yet or the Issuer is in the process of issuing a certificate.
False Failed The certificate has failed to be issued - either the returned certificate failed to be decoded or an instance of the referenced issuer used for signing failed. No further action will be taken on the CertificateRequest by it’s controller.
True Issued A signed certificate has been successfully issued by the referenced Issuer.


CertificateRequests include a set of UserInfo fields as part of the spec, namely: username, groups, uid, and extra. These values contain the user who created the CertificateRequest. This user will be cert-manager itself in the case that the CertificateRequest was created by a Certificate resource, or instead the user who created the CertificateRequest directly.

Warning: These fields are managed by cert-manager and should never be set or modified by anything else. When the CertificateRequest is created, these fields will be overridden, and any request attempting to modify them will be rejected.


CertificateRequests can be Approved or Denied. These mutually exclusive conditions gate a CertificateRequest from being signed by its managed signer.

  • A signer should not sign a managed CertificateRequest without an Approved condition
  • A signer will sign a managed CertificateRequest with an Approved condition
  • A signer will never sign a managed CertificateRequest with a Denied condition

These conditions are permanent, and cannot be modified or changed once set.

NAMESPACE      NAME                    APPROVED   DENIED   READY   ISSUER       REQUESTOR                                         AGE
istio-system   service-mesh-ca-whh5b   True                True    mesh-ca      system:serviceaccount:istio-system:istiod         16s
istio-system   my-app-fj9sa                       True             mesh-ca      system:serviceaccount:my-app:my-app               4s


The Approved and Denied conditions are two distinct condition types on the CertificateRequest. These conditions must only have the status of True, and are mutually exclusive (i.e. a CertificateRequest cannot have an Approved and Denied condition simultaneously). This behavior is enforced in the cert-manager validating admission webhook.

An “approver” is an entity that is responsible for setting the Approved/Denied conditions. It is up to the approver’s implementation as to what CertificateRequests are managed by that approver.

The Reason field of the Approved/Denied condition should be set to who set the condition. Who can be interpreted however makes sense to the approver implementation. For example, it may include the API group of an approving policy controller, or the client agent of a manual request.

The Message field of the Approved/Denied condition should be set to why the condition is set. Again, why can be interpreted however makes sense to the implementation of the approver. For example, the name of the resource that approves this request, the violations which caused the request to be denied, or the team to who manually approved the request.

Approver Controller

By default, cert-manager will run an internal approval controller which will automatically approve all CertificateRequests that reference any internal issuer type in any namespace: cert-manager.io/Issuer, cert-manager.io/ClusterIssuer.

To disable this controller, add the following argument to the cert-manager-controller: --controllers=*,-certificaterequests-approver. This can be achieved with helm by appending:

--set extraArgs={--controllers='*\,-certificaterequests-approver'}

Alternatively, in order for the internal approver controller to approve CertificateRequests that reference an external issuer, add the following RBAC to the cert-manager-controller Service Account. Please replace the given resource names with the relevant names:

apiVersion: rbac.authorization.k8s.io/v1
kind: ClusterRole
  name: cert-manager-controller-approve:my-issuer-example-com # edit
- apiGroups:
  - cert-manager.io
  - signers
  - approve
  - issuers.my-issuer.example.com/* # edit
  - clusterissuers.my-issuer.example.com/* # edit
apiVersion: rbac.authorization.k8s.io/v1
kind: ClusterRoleBinding
  name: cert-manager-controller-approve:my-issuer-example-com # edit
  apiGroup: rbac.authorization.k8s.io
  kind: ClusterRole
  name: cert-manager-controller-approve:my-issuer-example-com # edit
- kind: ServiceAccount
  name: cert-manager
  namespace: cert-manager

RBAC Syntax

When a user or controller attempts to approve or deny a CertificateRequest, the cert-manager webhook will evaluate whether it has sufficient permissions to do so. These permissions are based upon the request itself- specifically the request’s IssuerRef:

apiGroups: ["cert-manager.io"]
resources: ["signers"]
verbs: ["approve"]
 # namesapced signers
 - "<signer-resource-name>.<signer-group>/<signer-namespace>.<signer-name>"
 # cluster scoped signers
 - "<signer-resource-name>.<signer-group>/<signer-name>"
 # all signers of this resource name
 - "<signer-resource-name>.<signer-group>/*"

An example ClusterRole that would grant the permissions to set the Approve and Denied conditions of CertificateRequests that reference the cluster scoped myissuers external issuer, in the group my-example.io, with the name myapp:

apiVersion: rbac.authorization.k8s.io/v1
kind: ClusterRole
  name: my-example-io-my-issuer-myapp-approver
  - apiGroups: ["cert-manager.io"]
    resources: ["signers"]
    verbs: ["approve"]
    resourceNames: ["myissuers.my-example.io/myapp"]

If the approver does not have sufficient permissions defined above to set the Approved or Denied conditions, the request will be rejected by the cert-manager validating admission webhook.

  • The RBAC permissions must be granted at the cluster scope
  • Namespaced signers are represented by a namespaced resource using the syntax of <signer-resource-name>.<signer-group>/<signer-namespace>.<signer-name>
  • Cluster scoped signers are represented using the syntax of <signer-resource-name>.<signer-group>/<signer-name>
  • An approver can be granted approval for all namespaces via <signer-resource-name>.<signer-group>/*
  • The apiGroup must always be cert-manager.io
  • The resource must always be signers
  • The verb must always be approve, which grants the approver the permissions to set both Approved and Denied conditions

An example of signing all myissuer signers in all namespaces, and clustermyissuers with the name myapp, in the my-example.io group:

    resourceNames: ["myissuers.my-example.io/*", "clustermyissuers.my-example.io/myapp"]

An example of signing myissuer with the name myapp in the namespaces foo and bar:

    resourceNames: ["myissuers.my-example.io/foo.myapp", "myissuers.my-example.io/bar.myapp"]
Last modified April 8, 2021: Change behavior to US spelling (840b84a)