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​​Digital signatures without ID card​

In the European Union, the use of electronic signatures is governed by the eIDAS Regulation [1] , which provides, inter alia, that

  • an electronic signature, or e-signature, may not be declared legally invalid or inadmissible in legal proceedings solely because it is in electronic form or does not meet the requirements for qualified e-signatures and that
  • a qualified e-signature has the same legal effect as a handwritten signature. 

An Estonian digital signature — whether it is given using an ID card, a Mobile ID or a Smart ID — is a qualified electronic signature, or QES, within the meaning of the eIDAS Regulation, and is therefore as strong as a handwritten signature, and sometimes even stronger. For example, the Commercial Code states that a digitally signed application and power of attorney submitted to the Commercial Registry is deemed to be equivalent to a notarised application and power of attorney. 

Illustration by DALL·E 

Estonia vs developing countries (i.e. almost the rest of the world) 

For Estonians, giving a digital signature is about as special an event as sending an email or making a mobile phone call — something so commonplace that we don’t even think about it when making a transfer at an online bank, for example. It is based on a strong, nationally recognised digital identity, which every Estonian has had since 2002 in the form of an ID card and since 2011 in the form of a Mobile ID. Instead of, or alongside, Mobile ID, around half of Estonians use Smart-ID — a digital ID solution that can also be used on devices without a SIM card. 

If the transaction involves a foreigner, and if the law does not require at least a written form of the transaction, it is possible to use e-signing services popular in other parts of the world, such as DocuSign, Adobe Sign, HelloSign, signNow, PandaDoc, signRequest, etc. But when a foreigner needs to issue a signature equivalent to a handwritten signature, things will quickly get “interesting”. True, since 2014 Estonia has also offered e-residency — digital identity that allows foreigners to use the e-services here and to provide digital signatures equivalent to local ones — but applying for it it takes time not everyone is willing or able to do it. 

Digital signatures for the masses 

This is where the Swiss company Skribble comes to the rescue, being the only — as far as I know today — service provider to enable anyone who wants to issue qualified e-signatures, which must be treated as legally equivalent to handwritten signatures throughout the European Union. The journey from zero to the first QES issuance costs nothing and involves the following steps in Skribble: 

  1. Create a Skribble account. To do this, you need to go to, click on “Get started“, select “For me as an individual” and enter your email address and choose a password or link the Skribble account you are creating to your existing Google or Microsoft account. 
  2. Enable strong signature standards. A newly created Skribble account only allows issuing the weakest signatures (SES, simple electronic signature). To access the next level (AES, advanced electronic signature), you must also link your mobile phone number to your account. To give a QES (qualified electronic signature), which is as strong as a handwritten signature, you need to authenticate yourself according to EU law. This can be done online via video call or on your mobile device using the Swiss Mobile ID and Nect Wallet apps. Either way, you will need a passport (ID card is not accepted). Germans and Austrians have a couple of other options as well. Step-by-step instructions are available at and 
  3. Upload and sign your first document. Click “New” on the home page of your Skribble account, drag and drop the PDF document into the highlighted area, click “Next“, set only yourself as the signer, select the maximum legal force for the signature, click “Next” again, drag and drop your signature onto the document and click “Sign now“. Follow the instructions, confirm the signature, and download the signed document. For “in black and red” instructions and useful additional information, please visit 
  4. Check the validity of the signature. Unfortunately, DigiDoc4 Client can’t do this, but fortunately there are at least three workable alternatives.
    (a) When you open your newly signed document in Adobe Acrobat Reader, after a little thought it should say “Signed and all signatures are valid“. When you open the signature panel and click on your signature information, you should see, among other things, the message “This is a Qualified Electronic Signature according to EU Regulation 910/2014“.
    (b) By uploading your document to and clicking on the “Submit” button, you should be able to read about your signature: “Qualification: QESig” and “Indication: TOTAL_PASSED“.
    (c) By going to (requires login) and selecting “New validation”, you can upload your document. When you click on the “Validate” button, the server will think for a while, and you should then see the signed document with the explanation “1/1 valid signature”. 
Half an egg is better than an empty shell 

Skribble allows all its users, who are authenticated with sufficient confidence, to provide qualified electronic signatures that have the same legal force as a handwritten signature throughout the European Union. My experience so far confirms that although Estonian ID software cannot verify these signatures, at least the Commercial Register has found documents signed in this way to be acceptable. 

Estonian e-services are not available through Skribble. Therefore, foreigners wishing to act, for example, as board members of Estonian companies should apply for an e-residency digital identity card. However, Skribble is a perfectly adequate solution for individual “strong” signatures and is accessible to practically anyone. 

[1] Regulation (EU) No 910/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 July 2014 on e-identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market and repealing Directive 1999/93/EC.