How to Prepare Your Device to Use Digital Signatures

A digital signature is NOT an image file of your scanned, physical signature. Instead, it uses a certificate or credential located on your computer.

The updated PDF files have been modified to accept digital signatures. If your department is using DocuSign, you may continue to do so.

Anyone who digitally signs one of these PDF files must use either Adobe Acrobat Reader or Professional, and it is recommended that you set it as your default PDF application.

Just having Adobe Acrobat installed does not ensure that it is the default. Double-clicking some PDF file may start some other application like Microsoft Edge on Windows.

To be certain you are using the correct application, open Adobe Acrobat (Reader or Pro) first, and then use the menu to File > Open the file you would like to sign.

Use Adobe Acrobat and Sign with a Certificate

  1. Download and install Adobe Acrobat Reader DC. This free software can be downloaded here: Please note, do not install McAfee AV products when you are installing your Adobe product. Deselect those options in the Adobe installer.
  2. Install a personal digital certificate (UVA users may already have one). A personal certificate is an electronic file that indicates you have validated your identity to some authority. When you click on a Signature field on a form, your computer will look for a valid personal certificate on your system to use as a digital signature.

UVA faculty, staff, and students can install a UVA certificate here. UVA users may already have a digital certificate installed.

Non-UVA signees may use a certificate issued by their own institution's certificate authority. Also, it is possible to use a self-signed certificate, but this should be discouraged since there is no authenticating validation.

Adobe Reader FAQ and digital certificate management instructions:

How to Sign a Form Using Digital Signatures

When you receive an email with an attached PDF awaiting your signature, the best practice is to save the file to a local or network drive BEFORE signing it. Within your email, select the Attachment option to "Save As". Click in the appropriate digital signature box and you will be prompted to select your certificate for signing. Once you sign and save the file, it can then be attached and sent to the next recipient.

How to Clear Cached Older Versions of Forms from Your Browser

If you've accessed older versions of the graduate forms, you may need to delete your browser's cached files to access the updated form(s).

  1. Click some non-link area of your browser to make it the active window.
  2. Open the delete dialog box with your keyboard shortcut or find through your browser's Settings menu. Depending on your browser and OS, it will vary how this is done. You can find this through your browser's Settings menu or you can use a keyboard shortcut to pull up the appropriate dialog box. Most browsers give you a keyboard shortcut to open the appropriate dialog box to delete stored items. You will press three keys at the same time:
    Windows: [Ctrl] + [Shift] + [Delete]
    Mac (Safari): [CMD] + [Alt] + [E]
    Mac (other): [CMD] + [Shift] + [Delete]
  3. In the dialog box that opens, make sure that something like "cached files" is selected.
  4. You may need to adjust the "time range" for what files you want to delete. Select "All time" (or something similar) to clear everything.
  5. Click “Clear data” (or something similar).