Qualified electronic signature (QES)

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  • Post last modified:10. June 2024
Qualified electronic signature (QES)

Definition & meaning
of the qualified signature

The qualified electronic signature is a signature level specified by eIDAS. This regulation applies as the legal basis for the European Union as well as for countries of the EEA. Unlike the advanced electronic signature, the identity of the signatory must be verified before signing. This can be done, for example, via Video-Ident or eID-Ident. An electronic certificate is then issued by a certified trust service provider. This allows the signatory to create qualified electronic signatures.

Table of contents

If the following conditions are met, the signature is a qualified electronic signature:
  • All requirements for an advanced electronic signature are met.
  • The QES is issued by a trust service provider.
  • The identity of the signatory is validated before the signature.
  • The signature key must be located in a qualified signature creation device (QSCD).

Is the qualified electronic signature legally secure

Certain electronic declarations of intent require a qualified electronic signature (QES) in the EU economic area. This highest signature level of the eIDAS Regulation ensures direct and unambiguous bindingness with regard to the content of the declaration of intent and the identity of the signatory. This is already checked before signing and confirmed within the framework of a qualified certificate (a kind of digital ID) after successful identification.
Reasons for such a signature include, for example, legal requirements. In addition, companies’ and organisations’ demand for a higher level of provability depending on the risks involved (e.g. liability or similar), also calls for the use of qualified signatures.

Examples for qualified electronic signatures

A qualified signature is required when the law stipulates that the declaration of intent must be in writing, for example, employee leases, consumer loans, termination of employment contracts, fixed-term employment contracts, guarantees and life insurance policies on the lives of third parties.
The qualified signature is a certificate-based signature that is depicted in the form of a seal. The optical image could look like this, for example:
Qualifzierte elektronische Unterschrift QES

Advantages and disadvantages of qualified signatures

The qualified electronic signature is generally legally valid for all declarations of intent. It is equivalent to a paper signature and may not be refused within the EU. The identity of the signature is checked right at the beginning of the signature process. This leads to a high level of provability, but is associated with more effort.

Signature software solution from Germany

inSign is a market-proven signature solution from Germany that supports, among other things, qualified electronic signatures. inSign uses only eIDAS-certified and qualified trust service providers for the QES.

inSign cooperates with D-Trust

One cooperation partner is D-Trust with its remote signature solution sign-me. The company has already been listed with the Federal Network Agency under the eIDAS Regulation since 2016. D-Trust is integrated into the signature workflow of inSign with its signature solution.
If qualified signatures are required for processes, the signatory is seamlessly guided into the QES process. For personal identification, they are offered corresponding identification options (for example, Video-Ident and eID-Ident). While the workflow and all steps for preparing the signature are carried out by inSign, D-Trust issues the corresponding certificates for creating the qualified electronic signature.
QES takes place directly in the web browser, without additional hardware, like a signature card and card reader.

QES process in cooperation with D-Trust

  1. The transaction creator sets the qualified electronic signature as the signature level and transfers the process to the signatory
  1. The signatory logs in to the account of their trust service provider (D-Trust) or registers and identifies himself if they do not yet have an account. Identification can take place via a video session with an identity document (such as an ID card, passport or electronic residence permit) or via the eID for the German ID card. For identification, the signatory needs the following:
  1. The signatory receives a TAN via SMS (alternatively: signature release via app), which when entered, triggers a qualified signature.
  1. The signature process ends on the inSign portal with the qualified electronic signature, which also contains a time stamp.
Once the process is complete, the PDF can be opened in Adobe Acrobat Reader DC. The Signatures section displays more details about the signature and certificates used.

FAQ & summary

The qualified electronic signature is a signature type of eIDAS. It is issued by a qualified trust service provider and must include identification of the signatory even before the signature. For further requirements see eIDAS-Regulation.
A qualified signature is required if the law requires the written form. The QES is equivalent to a paper signature.
For a qualified e-signature, you need a software provider that supports this signature level and cooperates with trust service providers. QES requires registration with the certification service and unique identification.
Please contact us if you are interested.
About the author
Christina Detling – Online Marketing Manager
Christina has been working at inSign for over four years and is happy to pass on her knowledge of electronic signatures and digitisation.