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Living in Austria For Members

EXPLAINED: What you need to know about Austria’s new digital ID

Aaron Burnett
Aaron Burnett - [email protected]
EXPLAINED: What you need to know about Austria’s new digital ID
ID Austria is designed to allow people to use their phone in place of ID, or to sign documents electronically. (Photo by Philippe LOPEZ / AFP)

Austria’s ‘Handy-Signatur’ – which was in place before ID Austria, the country’s digital ID card – is being phased out this week, as the country switches over completely to the new ID Austria system.

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What’s happening?

From December 5th, ID Austria will completely replace the Handy-Signatur or cell phone signature, which is used to sign in to almost all official government websites, allowing people in Austria to look at their tax assessments online or to log into their public health insurance site.

The government is replacing the cell phone signature with ID Austria, a digital ID that around 1.5 million people in Austria are already using.

Around 2.8 million people currently using the Handy-Signatur will need to switch before December 5th.

EXPLAINED: How to get the essential Handy-Signatur and ID Austria

Do I really need to have the new ID?

If you like being able to access government services and handle bureaucratic matters online, you currently need a cell phone signature and will need ID Austria in the future when the signature switches over.

If you don’t have a cell phone signature now or ID Austria in the future, you’ll need to deal with most of your government bureaucracy the old-fashioned way through in-person appointments and the post.

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How do I get the new ID?

If you already have the Handy-Signatur, switching over to ID Austria is fairly straightforward.

You’ll need the Digitales Amt smartphone app and sign in using your currently existing cell phone signature. Skip the full version of the app, as it contains many functions that are exclusive to Austrian citizens.

Sign in then with your Handy-Signatur password and you’re done.

If, however, you don’t have a Handy-Signatur yet, you can either sign up for one and then change over to ID Austria, or you register for it directly.

A typical log in page for a public site in Austria (screenshot)

For a Handy-Signatur, you actually won’t need a smartphone, just a phone that can receive texts that, typically, is either a German or Austrian number. You can get the signature through government websites like FinanzOnline, which then give you the option to request the signature.  

If you convert your Handy-Signatur, you will likely be converted to a basic function of ID Austria, which will prevent you from using its full functionality until you visit your local authority to verify your identity.

To register for ID Austria directly, you can go through the Digitales Amt app or online to pre-register yourself by entering in your information.

READ ALSO: The smartphone apps that make living in Austria easier

Once you’ve done that, you’ll need to book an appointment at your local registration office and bring your passport and residence permit, a passport photo, and your phone with you.

If you have an Austrian driver’s licence you can bring that as well. This appointment is to personally verify your identity. You’ll get a TAN sent to your phone when you get there that you’ll need to show the staff. If you don’t have a smartphone, online registration allows for the option to have this TAN sent to you by post or text, which you then bring to your appointment.

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Why is the Austrian government doing this?

The full functionality of ID Austria will do more than simply allow secure sign-in to government services, which is the main function of the Handy-Signatur now. ID Austria is planned as a way to verify your identity in many different situations, from electronically signing a rental contract, to even standing in as an electronic copy of your driver’s licence – for example if you forget the physical copy at home but have your phone with you.

The government currently also plans to have ID Austria accepted throughout the EU.

READ ALSO: How to exchange your foreign driving licence for an Austrian one

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