Businesses and individuals are increasingly using digital signatures to sign contracts and complete transactions, particularly in the context of COVID-19 in Vietnam.

While digital signatures have been gaining popularity for years, their usage has exploded due to COVID-19, as many companies have shifted to remote or hybrid work models and conduct most of their business electronically.

Vietnam Briefing looks at how Vietnam regulates digital signatures, and what steps companies should take when using them to complete contracts.

As per Vietnamese laws, digital signatures, also in electronic form, use a cryptographic system on a digital platform. Such digital signatures are generally electronically attached to the contract that needs to be signed. These types of signatures go beyond an e-signature in terms of providing security as it provides encryption.

Typically, digital signatures are not often used for major and complex contracts but are usually used for custom forms, social insurance declarations, electronic invoices, or paying taxes online.

Decree 130/2018/ND-CP  (Decree 130) is the main legal authority that governs digital signatures. Vietnam recognizes digital signatures as per Decree 130, which states that a document can be digitally signed in place of a ‘wet’ or physical signature if it is secure.

As per Decree 130, digital signatures are legally valid if they are certified by certificate authentication service providers or a certification authority. These are:

Under the third bullet point, the MIC has authorized 16 certification authorities which include, Viettel, VNPT, FPT, SAFE, CMC, Trust, MISA, Smartsign, and Newtel among others for certifying digital signatures.

While Vietnam is generally moving towards digital signatures, there are exceptions to them. For example, these involve specific administrative documents such as the notarization of documents where the signing of contracts must be done physically at notary offices. Other exceptions include agreements related to land, real estate, marriage documents, and so on.

It’s important to know the difference between an e-signature and a digital signature. An e-signature is part of the digital signature concept. As per Decree 130, e-signatures are established in the form of words, letters, numerals, symbols that are linked or associated with a data message that certifies the person who has signed the e-signature as well as the approval of the person to the contents of the document.

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This article was first published by VietnamBriefing which is produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The firm assists foreign investors throughout Asia from offices across the world, including in in China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, India, and Russia. Readers may write to [email protected]

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