Electronic signature

This website provides information to recipients of electronically signed Federal Administration documents on how these documents are handled.

The Federal Administration provides its electronic documents:

  • either with a personal qualified electronic signature in the name of the responsible employee. According to Art. 14 para. 2bis of the Code of Obligations (SCO, SR 220), such a signature is deemed equivalent to a handwritten signature;
  • or with a regulated seal (official seal), as a rule in the name of the responsible administrative unit.

Adobe Acrobat Reader (freeware) is the most widely used and recommended application for viewing and displaying electronically signed documents.

Although Adobe Acrobat Reader is at least able to check the technical validity of electronic signatures, the Validator of the Federal Administration must be used to check the validity of electronic signatures under Swiss law. For further information on displaying and validating documents, see the relevant point at <Link: Display and validation>.

Please note that an electronically signed document is valid only in electronic form. In printed form, it is considered merely a copy.

The Federal Administration now processes almost all of its business electronically using electronic records and process management (GEVER systems) and specialist applications (e.g. register of criminal convictions, customs administration systems). This increasingly allows the possibility of providing or transmitting all documents of the Federal Administration (responses to enquiries, letters, decrees, decisions, permits, etc.) to applicants in electronically signed form (PDF) on request without media discontinuity and without additional effort. Both the generally recognised requirements regarding archival suitability and universal access are taken into account.

Electronic signatures ensure that the content of the document cannot be changed without being noticed (integrity) and that the origin of the document is guaranteed (authenticity).

The qualified electronic time stamp also records the exact time at which an electronic signature was applied.