Using electronic signatures – FAQ

Electronic signature – about, purpose, use, instructions, terminology

Why use an electronic signature?
In electronic communication, an e-mail address is not considered a sufficiently reliable method of identification for actions which may have legal effects. If you wish to file an application to terminate a right, using an e-mail address which may be accessed by anyone and on behalf of anyone, with no thorough identity verification, is not secure enough. The official in charge of processing your application must be certain that the application has been submitted/signed by the actual signatory.
Does a qualified electronic signature have the same legal effect as a handwritten signature?
A qualified electronic signature (issued with your electronic identity card or obtained on the qualified electronic signature market) has the same legal force as your handwritten signature.
This is why the provisions of the Act on the Amendments to the General Administrative Procedure Act (as well as other regulations) stipulate the use of a qualified electronic signature on those submissions, which are addressed to bodies governed by public law in electronic form and signed by the parties physically in handwriting, seeing as the qualified electronic signature and handwritten signature are equally valid, i.e. the qualified electronic signature has the same legal effect as the handwritten signature and provides the highest level of security of an electronic signature.
What is being verified by a qualified electronic signature?
Digital signatures are used to certify the identity of the signatory of the electronically signed document and verify the integrity of the content of the document (i.e. that the original content of the document has not been tampered with during transfer). This means that such a signature verifies:
  • the authenticity of the signatory (i.e. that the signatory is truly the person he or she claims to be),
  • indirectly, the integrity which guarantees that the message remains full and unaltered after signing (the integrity guarantees the electronic seal, but if the document was tampered with after the electronic signing, the electronic signature also ceases to be valid),
Is a qualified electronic signature secure?
Yes – the qualified electronic signature is secure if you follow the manufacturer’s instructions. You may sign your documents via the Central State Office for the Development of Digital Society website to ensure that the signature will be properly applied.
By using the provided link, you can make sure that only authorised persons have access to the documents and files, meaning they have been secured:
  • the integrity of data,
  • the authenticity of data,
  • and a simple verification can show whether the data have been illegally tampered with.
How can I verify the validity of an electronic signature?
By using a validator such as this one, made available by the Central State Office for the Development of Digital Society.
What are the documents required to apply a digital signature?
To use a digital signature, you will need:
  • a certificate,
  • an electronic signature creation device,
  • an appropriate computer application.
You may also apply the signature via your mobile phone and use it with ease after activation. There are different versions of the electronic signature, stored in smart cards, USB drives, cloud, etc.
Do digitally signed documents have the same legal weight as documents signed with a qualified electronic signature?
A digital signature may NOT be denied its legal effect and admissibility as evidence in court proceedings simply because it takes an electronic form or does not meet all the requirements for a qualified electronic signature. However, only a Qualified Electronic Signature has the same legal effect as a handwritten signature. 

Do I have to use a qualified signature?
An electronic document bearing a qualified electronic signature may not be disputed simply because it was signed electronically.  When communicating with state authorities, it is advisable to use qualified electronic signatures. However, depending on the purpose of the electronic document to be signed, the signatories themselves may assess the desired level of protection and type of electronic signature (advanced, qualified). 

Does the electronic signature remain valid after the document has been printed out?
The legal effect of an electronic signature, contained in the electronic form of the document, cannot be transferred to paper. A printout of an electronic signature has no legal effect and an electronically signed document loses its properties in printed form. Even if the visualization of the electronic signature is visible on the printed document, the document is considered unsigned. An electronic signature ceases to have legal effect once printed.
Why does an electronic record retain its legal effect and status as a public document after printing despite being electronically signed?
Electronic documents with an electronic record remain valid even after printing in accordance with the conditions laid out in the Ordinance on Organisational and Technical Standards for Connecting with the National Information Infrastructure (Article 15) , while printed documents bearing an electronic signature have no legal effect.
Electronic documents with an electronic record (e.g. certificates issued by the Croatian Pension Insurance Fund (HZMO), birth certificate, certificate of nationality) are generated and stored in the system of the institutions, which created the said documents. After their generation, you may print out the document and such a printed copy shall be valid as a public document with a legal effect.  Even in printed form, such a document contains a link through which the document from the state database that generated it can be invoked and thus, the authenticity of the data found on the printed document can be verified against the original copy stored in the database of the state authority. Due to available verification, printed documents with an electronic record and electronic signature of a state authority retain the force of a public document and produce a legal effect even after printing, as long as the electronic document is stored in the database. However, the recipient of the printed document must verify its authenticity via the link provided on the printed document.