Guide to Qualified Electronic Signatures

Our guide to legally compliant, convenient and secure digital signatures:

Digitisation is advancing inexorably, and more and more companies are recognizing the benefits of qualified electronic signatures (QES) for accelerated signature processes. Paper-based processes are increasingly seen as slow, unreliable and inefficient.

Yet many companies still sign contracts by hand, forgoing the potential of digital signatures. Or they use digital signature solutions where data sovereignty is compromised and the legal validity of the signature is not guaranteed.

Our guide serves as a comprehensive source of information for all those who value confidentiality and data security and want to gain an overview of the digital signature, especially the qualified electronic signature. Learn how to sign electronically in a legally compliant, convenient and secure way.

Do you have further questions about the qualified electronic signature?

«What is a qualified electronic signature? The qualified electronic signature is a secure digital signature with a legal basis according to the EU regulation eIDAS and the Swiss federal law ZertES. It has a very high probative value and liability, is equal to the handwritten signature before the law and can be verified via validators. Examples of these legally recognised validation options are the validator of the Swiss Federal Administration or the signature verification of the Austrian Rundfunk und Telekom Regulierungs-GmbH.»

Definition of QES, Swisscom Trust Services

5 Advantages of the qualified electronic signature

Legal validity under Swiss and EU law

The QES is equivalent to a handwritten signature and meets the requirements of Swiss (ZertES) and European (eIDAS) law for digital signatures.

High protection against manipulation

Modern cryptographic procedures and the signature certificate guarantee the integrity of the document and the authenticity of the signatory.

High cost savings

The qualified electronic signature saves you costs for paper, printing, scanning, mailing and logistics.

Valuable time saving

Save time-consuming trips to the office or to the customer with the qualified electronic signature, because with the QES a contract can be signed regardless of location and time.

Secure operation according to ISO-27001 standard

All server-side components are operated in ISO-27001-certified infrastructures in Switzerland.

Legal validity of qualified electronic signatures according to ZertES and eIDAS

qualified electronic signature
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What requirements must the qualified signature fulfil?

In order for a digital signature to be 100% equivalent to a classic handwritten signature in court in both Switzerland and the EU, the two legal areas require specific requirements. These are fulfilled with eSignR.

Legal validity for the Swiss legal area

In the field of digital signatures, there are often three types of signatures – the simple (EES), the advanced (FES) and the qualified electronic signature (QES). The EES and the FES are not regulated in Swiss law and have no legal significance. Only the QES is regulated by law in Switzerland and therefore has the highest legal effect.

eSignR exclusively uses the qualified electronic signature, which is 100% equivalent to the handwritten signature both in Switzerland and in the EU and thus has the highest probative value.

Legal validity for the EU legal area

The EU eIDAS Regulation governs qualified electronic signatures in the EU area. It defines electronic signatures as “data in electronic form which are attached to or logically associated with other electronic data and which are used by the signatory to sign”. To be legally valid, they must:

  • Be uniquely identifiable to a person
  • Allow for the unique identification of the person
  • Be created by a trust service provider (such as Swisscom Trust Services).
  • Be based on a qualified electronic certificate
  • Prove that the document cannot be altered after the signature has been affixed.

These requirements are all fully met by eSignR.

Maximum evidential value: The differences between EES, FES and QES in digital signatures.

What types of digital signatures are there, and how do they differ?

In the field of digital signatures, three types of signatures are often mentioned – the simple (EES), the advanced (FES) and the qualified electronic signature (QES). The EES and FES are not regulated in Swiss law and have no legal significance. Only the QES is regulated by law in Switzerland and therefore has the highest legal effect.

eSignR exclusively uses the qualified electronic signature, which is 100% equivalent to the hand signature in Switzerland as well as in the EU and thus carries the maximum probative force.

In times of Covid-19 and home offices, eSignR already pays for itself many times over when it comes to the legally valid signing of documents, simply by saving the otherwise necessary postal routes.

Michael Bieri, CEO basis06 AG

Step-by-step to the qualified electronic signature

In this step-by-step guide, we explain how to successfully add a qualified electronic signature to your PDF:

Step 1: Unique personal identification

According to the legal requirements (eIDAS and ZertES), a person must be identified once in order to be subsequently qualified for the qualified electronic signature. To use the QES in your chosen signature application (e.g. eSignR), you are identified via the integrated Smart Registration Service with your preferred identification method for the qualified electronic signature.


For more information on the identification process and methods, click here.

Step 2: Choice of signature software

Depending on your specific use case or the legal significance of the digital document you need to sign, choose a suitable signature software such as eSignR.

Step 3: Load PDF document

Load your ready-to-sign PDF document into the signature software.


Note: With eSignR we do not use the “signature round” – why? Because a signature round involves uploading confidential PDF documents to a cloud, we have decided against this feature. It may be a convenient feature, but we do not believe that you should give up the confidentiality of your documents for this reason.

Step 4: Digitally sign the document

Sign your document digitally using 2-factor authentication by conveniently confirming the expression of intent with the Mobile ID on your mobile phone.

Step 5: Save digitally signed PDF

E voilà, your document has been legally digitally signed, now save it on your device.


Note: With eSignR, your document has never left your device until this point!

Identity verification for the qualified electronic signature

qualifizierte elektronische Signatur

Official identification is a prerequisite for the QES

Before you can use the qualified electronic signature (QES) in accordance with Swiss (ZertES) and European law (eIDAS), you must identify yourself at an official Swisscom Trust Services registration office. In Switzerland, identification must take place on site; in Europe, there is the option of online identification, among others.

Companies have the option of having their own employees identified internally via the RA App. You can find more information about the RA App here.

How do I check the validity of PDFs that have a qualified electronic signature attached?

Don’t trust blindly: We recommend that you always check digitally signed PDFs you receive to see whether they comply with the standards for qualified electronic signatures and are therefore legally valid.


For documents that must comply with Swiss law, we recommend that you use the signature validator of the Swiss Confederation. For documents according to EU law, we recommend the signature validator of the Austrian Rundfunk und Telekom Regulierungs-GmbH.

Standards in the field of digital signatures

As a partner of Swisscom Trust Services, we fulfil the following standards in the field of digital signatures:

Swiss federal law ZertES

EU Trusted List


Adobe Approved Trust List (AATL)

EU Regulation eIDAS

ETSI Standards

PDF/A und PAdES Standard

How secure is the qualified electronic signature compared to the handwritten signature?

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Afraid of the cloud? Not without reason! When foregoing the cloud upload of PDFs, you reduce data protection concerns and ensure compliance requirements are met. eSignR therefore deliberately relies on a local signature solution that ensures the confidentiality of your data. This keeps your confidential PDFs protected and maintains the highest security standards.

The qualified electronic signature (QES) offers the highest level of security compared to the handwritten signature. Here are some reasons why QES is the more secure choice:


The qualified electronic signature uses cryptographic procedures to confirm the identity of the signatory beyond doubt. This ensures that the signature comes from the authorised person and has not been forged. With the handwritten signature, on the other hand, there is a risk of forgery.


The qualified electronic signature guarantees the immutability of the signed document. Any change to the document after it has been signed is detected and the signature becomes invalid. In contrast, handwritten signatures can easily be manipulated or changed afterwards.


The qualified electronic signature enables seamless tracking of all signed documents. Each signature is provided with a time stamp and can be clearly assigned to a specific signatory. This makes it easier to verify authenticity and carry out checks. Handwritten signatures lack this complete traceability. (->Validate digitally signed PDFs)

Protection against loss

Electronically stored QES documents can be protected against loss or damage by appropriate security measures. Handwritten documents, on the other hand, can be destroyed by fire, water or other unforeseen events.

When is a qualified electronic signature required?

Before you decide on the signature type of electronic signatures, it is important to carefully check which documents you want to sign and which legal requirements exist. A qualified electronic signature (QES) offers you the certainty that your signatures will be valid in court in any case.


In the following section, you will find some food for thought that may help you decide whether or not to use a qualified electronic signature:

Use case

It is of great importance to carefully consider which documents you want to sign electronically and whether there is a legal necessity. Choosing the wrong type of signature can have negative consequences. With a qualified electronic signature (QES), you can ensure that your signatures are binding and valid in your chosen jurisdiction. You do not have to worry about recognition in court or by authorities. Using a QES gives you the assurance and security you need to successfully complete your electronic documents and transactions.


Check the applicable laws and regulations in your country or relevant jurisdiction, as certain countries have specific requirements for the use of QES.


Example: In Switzerland, only the qualified electronic signature (QES) is enshrined in law. According to the Federal Law on Certification Services in the Field of Electronic Signature (ZertES), it is stipulated that QES must meet certain requirements, such as unique assignment, integrity protection and use of recognised certificates.


A qualified electronic signature (QES) not only offers you legal security, but can also provide a strong emotional argument: Trust. By using a QES, you show your contractual partner that the document to be signed is of high importance to you. The QES underlines your professionalism and credibility as it meets the highest security standards and ensures the integrity of your electronic documents.

Relevance of the document to be signed

Consider the importance of the document and the associated legal consequences. The greater the risk or impact in the event of forgery or manipulation, the more advisable the use of a QES.

Conclusion: In conclusion, we at eSignR have deliberately decided to use the qualified electronic signature (QES) exclusively. In this way, we minimise potential risks and errors and ensure that our customers’ electronic signatures are legally binding and valid in every case. Our signature software thus offers an uncomplicated solution that meets the highest security standards. With QES, we ensure trust and avoid legal uncertainties.

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Professional advice

If you are unsure, we recommend that you seek advice from a expert or legal advisor to be sure. Our dedicated support team is always available to help you with any questions you may have.

More information on the qualified electronic signature

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