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Public Organisations

How you can introduce electronic signatures in your public administration or government agency. All of CEF’s tools and services are available at no cost. 

1Get familiar with legislation and standards

The  eIDAS Regulation (910/2014) sets the legal framework for electronic signatures in the EU. It defines who can use electronic signatures and in what context. To ensure that electronic signatures can be created and validated anywhere in Europe, a number of  standards  were identified for their implementation.

Read our summary of the  legislation  and find you what you need to do to become compliant.


2Identify your needs

Consider the needs of your organisation and define what types of documents need to be digitally signed, and in which  use cases. These are typically low-risk, high-volume agreements such as HR documents, but can also be documents used in your interactions with citizens.


3Select the type of e-Signature

There are different types of e-signatures with different trust levels: simple, advanced and qualified. Qualified e-signatures, for example, feature the highest trust level and have the same legal standing as a handwritten signature. Assess which  type of e-signature  is appropriate in your case. To do so, take the practical details and legal risk into account, balance cost of implementation against risk of losing a legal challenge.

Keep in mind that e-seals are the same as e-signatures, but used by legal entities, such as a businesses or government organisations.


4Define your IT specification

Based on your needs and the type of e-signature chosen, refine your requirements and define IT specifications to shape the workflow, application architecture and security controls. 


5Decide how to enable digital signatures

To electronically sign a document, you need a digital application. You can choose to build your own solution in-house or find a solution provider that can adapt their product to your needs. Check out our documentation overview  and support services  to help you put together a solution. Consider the benefits  of going digital with CEF eSignature and assess your eligibility for CEF funding .

If you go for a solution provider approach, you can skip the two next steps and go to section 8.


6Use the eSignature DSS open-source library

You can use the Digital Signature Software (DSS) open-source library to ensure that your e-signatures and e-seals are created and verified in line with European legislation and standards. You can adopt DSS as such or use it as a reference implementation. Need help with this step? Contact our  service desk  for information and support.


7Make your solution compliant

If your solution is based on the DSS, it’s already compliant and you can skip this step. If you developed your own signing application without the DSS, you can test the interoperability and conformity of your e-signature solution with our ETSI Signature Conformance Checker . You can also validate qualified and advanced signatures and seals using our Qualified electronic signature - QES validation algorithm.


8Obtain a digital certificate from a Trust Service Provider

To digitally sign a document using an advanced or qualified e-signature, you must have a valid digital certificate. Digital certificates are similar to a digital ID and they are provided by Trust Service Providers. Access our  eSignature Trusted List Browser  to choose from over 200 active Trust Service Providers. 

Please note that some signing solution providers have partnerships with TSPs to facilitate the provisioning of digital certificates and smooth the process.


9Start e-signing documents

You and your application are ready to start digitally signing documents.


Questions? Contact our  eSignature Service Desk. All of CEF's tools and services are available at no cost.


Do you work for an EU institution?

Request a workshop with CEF Digital

We offer expert advice and consulting on e-signatures and related matters to EU institutions and bodies. We can help you get started using e-signatures and e-seals, break down legal and technical concepts, and assist in on-boarding these services to your current business platforms and processes.


Businesses

How to start signing documents electronically within the EU

1Get familiar with legislation and standards

The eIDAS Regulation (910/2014) sets the legal framework for electronic signatures in the EU. It defines who can use electronic signatures and in what context. To ensure that electronic signatures can be created and validated anywhere in Europe, a number of standards were identified for their implementation.

Read our summary of the  legislation  and find you what you need to do to become compliant.


2Identify your needs

Consider the needs of your organisation and define what types of documents need to be digitally signed, and in which use cases. These are typically low-risk, high-volume agreements such as HR documents, but can also be sales and procurement papers or concern customer onboardings.


3Select the type of e-signature

There are different types of e-signatures with different trust levels: simple, advanced and qualified. Qualified e-signatures, for example, feature the highest trust level and have the same legal standing as a handwritten signature. Assess which  type of e-signature  is appropriate in your case. To do so, take the practical details and legal risk into account, balance cost of implementation against risk of losing a legal challenge. Any signature can be contested but features like an e-Sign audit trail, implementation choice (one time PIN via SMS; specific click to accept terms and conditions) or adding a qualified signature gives you confidence should you have to defend something before a court.

Note that you can also request certificate-based signatures from signers outside your organization.

Keep in mind that e-seals are the same as e-signatures, but used by legal entities, such as a businesses or government organisations.


4Define your IT specifications

Based on your needs and the type of e-signature chosen, refine your requirements and define IT specifications to shape the workflow, application architecture and security controls.


5Decide how to enable digital signatures

To electronically sign a document, you need a digital application. You can choose to build your own solution in-house or find a solution provider that can adapt their product to your needs. Check out our documentation  and support services  to help you put together a solution. Consider the  benefits  of going digital with CEF eSignature and assess your eligibility for CEF funding .

If you go for a solution provider approach, you can skip the two next steps and go to section 8.


6Use the eSignature DSS open-source library

You can use the Digital Signature Software (DSS) open-source library to ensure that your e-signatures and e-seals are created and verified in line with European legislation and standards. You can adopt DSS as such or use it as a reference implementation. Need help with this step? Contact our  service desk  for information and support.


7Make your solution compliant

If your solution is based on the DSS, it’s already compliant and you can skip this step. If you have developed your own signing application without the DSS, you can test the interoperability and conformity of your e-signature solutions with our ETSI Signature Conformance Checker. You can also validate qualified and advanced signatures and seals using our  Qualified electronic signature - QES validation algorithm



8Obtain a digital certificate from a Trust Service Provide

To digitally sign a document using an advanced or qualified e-signature, you must have a valid digital certificate. A digital certificate is similar to a digital ID and they are provided by Trust Service Providers. Access our  eSignature Trusted List Browser  to choose from over 200 active Trust Service Providers. 

Please note that some signing solution providers have partnerships with TSPs to facilitate the provisioning of digital certificates and smooth the process.


9Start e-signing documents

You and your application are ready to start digitally signing documents.


Questions? Contact our  eSignature Service Desk. All of CEF's tools and services are available at no cost.

Solution providers

If you would like to offer electronic signing solutions that comply with the eIDAS Regulation, there are a few things you need to do first.

1Get familiar with legislation and standards

The eIDAS Regulation (910/2014) sets the legal framework for electronic signatures in the EU. It defines who can use electronic signatures and in what context. To ensure that electronic signatures can be created and validated anywhere in Europe, a number of  standards  were identified for their implementation.

Read our summary of the legislation and find you what you need to do to  become compliant .

2Scope your offering

Gather business needs from the market or target user group and translate them into requirements. Keep in mind that e-seals are the same as e-signatures, but used by legal entities, such as a businesses or government organisations.  There are different types of e-signatures and e-seals with different trust levels: simple, advanced and qualified. Qualified e-signatures, for example, feature the highest trust level and have the same legal standing as a handwritten signature. Assess the requirements for each type and define  what types of e-signature products you will be offering.


3Develop your solution with the help of our services

As a service provider, you can build your solution with our open-source library, Digital Signature Software (DSS). DSS supports the creation and verification of interoperable and secure electronic signatures in line with the eIDAS Regulation. You can adopt DSS as such or use it as a reference implementation. Check out our  documentation  and  support services  to help you put together a solution. Consider the  benefits  of going digital with CEF eSignature and assess your eligibility for  CEF funding .


4Test the interoperability and conformity

If your solution is based on the DSS, it’s already compliant and you can skip this step. If you developed your own signing application without the DSS, you can test the interoperability and conformity of your e-signature solutions with our  ETSI Signature Conformance Checker . You can also validate qualified and advanced signatures and seals using our Qualified electronic signature - QES validation algorithm .


5Access our Trusted List Browser

Access our Trusted List Browser to find over 200 active Trust Service Providers that are accredited to deliver the highest level of compliance with the EU eIDAS electronic signature Regulation.


6Offer and promote service

You are ready start offering and promoting your service.


Questions? Contact our eSignature Service Desk. All of CEF's tools and services are available at no cost.


Third Countries

The Pilot for the International Compatibility of Trust Services aims to illustrate how the mutual recognition between the EU and a third country (hereafter 3rd country) of the qualified trust service providers (QTSP) and the qualified trust services (QTSs) they provide (hereafter collectively QTSPs/QTSs) could be (technically) implemented under Article 14 of eIDAS.

For more information, please click here.


Citizens

Processing physical documents can take a lot of effort. Calculate the time it usually takes you to print your documents one by one, have the documents signed, prepare the documents for sending and wait for the post office or the courier to reach your recipient.

Using e-signatures makes signing documents easy. Once you have the document, all you need to do is sign it using an e-signature and email the document to your recipient.


1Obtain a digital certificate from a Trust Service Provider

To digitally sign a document, you must have a valid digital certificate, which is similar to a digital ID. Digital certificates are provided by Trust Service Providers. Access our  eSignature Trusted List Browser  to choose from over 200 active Trust Service Providers.

Please note that some signing solution providers have partnerships with trust service providers to facilitate the provisioning of digital certificates and make it easier for users to get certificates.


2Choose your signing solution provider

Next, you need to choose a signing application. Trust service providers or e-signature solution providers offer such applications and other e-signature products. Choose the provider that meets your needs. 


3Sign your document

Each service provider will offer their own step-by-step process for signing digitally.


4Submit document

Email your signed document to the recipient.