In today’s payment world, EMV Level 3(L3) certification is one of the most challenging and time-consuming processes for acquirers and terminal vendors. A typical L3 certification process for major brands (MasterCard, Visa, Amex, and Discover) takes between 3 and 6 months. In this article, we will analyze the reasons making the process so challenging and time-consuming and figure out how this process can be managed more efficiently and smoothly.

As it is shown in the diagram below, there are 3 main applications in a payment device:

L3 certification is performed to ensure that the components of the entire solution (EMV Level 1, Level 2, payment application and acquirer host messaging) on the device meet the payment brand requirements. L3 certification examines anything that sits between the card and the payment network which is indicated with yellow color in the diagram below.

Acquirers need to get L3 certification for each payment brand to be able to deploy payment terminals to the merchants. EMV contact and contactless payment transactions cannot be processed without this certification.

Payment Application on the device works according to product settings of the terminal. Product settings are a combination of merchant business and EMV parameter settings. These settings might differ from one market to another market, one payment brand to another payment brand and one acquirer to another acquirer. To give a better idea, we listed a few product setting parameters as following:

Acquirer Settings:

L3 Certification Steps

L3 certification is performed in the following order of steps:

  1. Acquirer – Registers to Payment Scheme
  2. Acquirer and Terminal Vendor – Fills out Data Collection Forms
  3. Acquirer – Set up test host environment to process transactions coming from the device
  4. Terminal Vendor – Set up the test environment (L3 test tool, test terminals, and connection to acquirer test host)
  5. Terminal Vendor – L3 Test Execution
  6. Acquirer – L3 Test Execution
  7. Acquirer – Getting Letter of Acceptance Letter

If it is not managed well, there might be much unnecessary time spent out during these steps.

Acquirer – Registers to Payment Scheme

This is the first step to register the payment scheme to initiate an L3 certification process.

Filling Out Data Collection Form

This is an important step where the acquirer/terminal vendor sets EMV and product settings for the L3 certification process.

During filling out data collection forms, it is very crucial to correctly set the parameters. These parameters need to be:

During this step, there are many going back and forth between the terminal vendor and the acquirer to answer the questions in the form. Setting some parameters wrong may cause significant loss of time and additional effort. It needs to be ensured that both the acquirer and terminal vendor assigns a certification consultant/product manager. These people should work closely to ensure that all data collection forms are filled out correctly. Sometimes, there might be some questions to ask payment brands for further clarification. Acquirers need to ensure to have a quick response from the payment brand. Even though only a few parameters are set wrong, this may cause to repeat most of the L3 tests.

Setup Test Environments

Although this step seems not complicated in the first glance, sometimes one or more of the following issues happen to cause a delay in the process:

Terminal Vendor – L3 Test Execution

Generally, this is the most challenging and time-consuming process. In some cases, tests are performed with the terminal vendors first and then the acquirer performs the tests. In some other cases, the acquirer directly performs the tests where the terminal vendor provides support for failing test cases. There are thousands of test cases to be performed and sometimes a test failure for a small reason might take weeks to fix. The following list is mostly a common reason for test failures.

 Acquirer – L3 Test Execution

If Acquirer repeats tests after the terminal vendor performs full testing, there shouldn’t be much issue in this phase. If the acquirer directly performs tests, then a close engagement should be ensured between the terminal vendor since most of the cases the issue should be fixed by the terminal vendor.

Acquirer – Getting Letter of Acceptance

This is the final step for the L3 certification process. The acquirer needs to submit to brand all test results associated with data collection forms.


To summarize, the smooth and efficient L3 certification process can be achieved if the following items are ensured:

Quick support from other parties: Payment brands and test tool vendors

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