Qualified Electronic Signature (QES)
A Qualified Electronic Signature (= QES) is an electronic signature that is compliant to the European eIDAS Regulation (Regulation No 910/2014) for electronic transactions within the internal European market. It enables to verify the authorship of a declaration in electronic data exchange over long periods of time. A QES can be considered as digital equivalent to handwritten signatures.
For Belgian citizens probably the easiest way to put a QES on an electronic document is by using their Belgian eID card.
Digitally signing a document with your Belgian eID in Acrobat DC
Prior to sign a PDF document with your Belgian eID card, please verify that you have :
- The PIN-code of your eID card, as initiated when obtaining the eID card at the city hall (or the most recent PIN code if changed afterwards).
- A card reader that has been properly connected to and installed on your PC.
- The Belgian eID software, which can be downloaded at https://eid.belgium.be/en/how-install-eid-software.
Follow the following steps to sign a document with Acrobat Reader DC (Windows) :
- Open the document you want to sign.
- Click 'More tools' at the bottom right.
- Click 'Certificates'.
- Click 'Digitally sign' at the top of the document.
- Select a zone in the document where you want to place the signature.
- Select a signature certificate. Click 'Continue and then 'Sign'.
- The program now asks you to save the document.
- You are then asked to enter your PIN code. Click 'OK'.
- The document is now signed.
Follow the following steps to sign a document with Acrobat Reader DC (Macintosh) :
- Set your digital signature :
- Connect your card reader to your computer and insert your eID in the reader.
- Open Acrobat Reader.
- Open the 'Edit' menu at the top and select 'Preferences'.
- Go to the 'Signatures' category and select the 'More...' option under 'Identities & Trusted Certificates'.
- Click 'PKCS#11 Modules and tokens' and then 'Link module'.
- Enter '/usr/local/lib/beid-pkcs11.bundle' (without the quotes) and click 'OK' ; the certificates appear.
- Select the 'Signature' certificate in order to electronically sign your documents.
- Your digital signature is now set.
- Sign a document by following these steps :
- Click the sign button in the document.
- Select the signature certificate. Select a certificate that is shown to be suitable for a 'PKCS#11 device'. Click 'Continue'.
- Enter your PIN code as password and click 'Sign'.
- Type a name for the file and click 'Save'.
- Enter your PIN code again and click 'OK'.
- The document is now signed.
More information in regards to signing with your Belgian eID can be found at https://eid.belgium.be/en/digital-signatures.
Other electronic signatures
Several service providers can be found who provide electronic signatures. One should always verify whether the signature is a QES as this is the only signature that identifies the signer for 100%.
The list of trust service providers for Belgium can be consulted at https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/tl-browser/#/tl/BE.
Basic or Simple Electronic Signatures (SES) or Advanced Electronic Signatures (AES) do not give a 100% certainety on the signer's identity and can therefore NOT be accepted for signing documents related to the registry.
Verifying electronic signatures
An electronic signature can always be verified by clicking the signature field in the document. Acrobat Reader DC for example will provide information of the validity of each electronic signature in a PDF document. When exploring the electronic signature property for known QES, Acrobat Reader DC will display that the signature is indeed a QES in accordance with the European eIDAS Regulation (Regulation No 910/2014).
The following symbol is commonly used to depict a QES :