Foreign Licensing Information
Start the licensing process early
Depending on your destination, obtaining a license to legally operate an amateur radio station in a foreign country can either be very easy or extremely frustrating. One thing to remember is that you should probably not transport radio transmitting equipment into a foreign nation unless you have a license in hand or are certain of obtaining official permission to operate.
Secondly, start the licensing process as far ahead as possible. Many foreign nations require applications and fees to be filed by mail, which at the best require 60 to 90 days for processing. Start early and allow for delays in mail applications.
Passports and Visas
For travel entry into most nations, you must present a valid passport to enter the country. A passport is a document that proves your identity and nationality. US passports are issued by the State Department and are valid for a term of 10 years. When making application for a passport, you must supply supporting documents to prove your identity and nationality. Plan on about 45 days for the State Department to process your application and issue a passport.
A Visa is an official approval from a nation to permit someone of another nationality to enter the country and usually has a restriction on the length of stay in the country. Visas are issued by the appropriate foreign consular representative or embassy. Not all countries will require a visa. Check with the State Department or your travel agent to see if your destination requires a visa. Your travel agent should be able to help with the visa application process.
I am mentioning passports and visas because some foreign licensing authorities will require a copy of your passport and/or visa as part of the application prior to issuing a license. If you do not have either, then your radio license application may be further delayed. Remember the earlier hint to start the process early!
Payment of licensing fees
If your application to a foreign licensing authority requires payment of a fee, most likely that fee must be payable in the currency of that nation. If a check is required, it may be necessary to have it drawn of a bank within that nation. Fortunately, many US banks have a service to accommodate these types of transactions (for a fee).
Contact your local bank and inquire about payment in foreign funds. Larger banks may have an international services department with the capability to issue a bank draft in foreign funds, payable from a foreign bank. Smaller banks may not have this service immediately available, but can obtain this service in a few days from other institutions.
How to find out about the licensing requirements for your destination
Fortunately, there are many resources available on the Internet to assist you in obtaining information on foreign licensing. The first place to start is the ARRL's web site which is a valuable tool in learning about the licensing requirements for many countries. Another excellent source is OH2MCN's web site. The link for these sites are posted below in the "Other Countries and International Web Resources" section.
Secondly, many countries have national amateur radio organizations similar to the ARRL which can provide information and assistance to visitors.
Fortunately, there have been some formal agreements made to facilitate visits by amateur radio operators between participating nations. If you are a US Citizen traveling to a country that is a signatory on one of these agreements, then licensing is extremely easy.
A few countries will accommodate visitors by issuing a license "across the counter" after you arrive. Be sure to verify in advance that this option is workable, if you chose to go this route. You will need to go to the licensing authority office during business hours and present your documents and fees. It is normally better to have your license in hand before the trip if you possibly can.
Most amateurs are interested in callsigns, so you may find that some foreign nations will issue you a temporary foreign callsign to use while within their jurisdiction. Other nations simply use your US call with a portable designator. In Australia, I was issued VK2IQX however in New Zealand, I was ZL/WØCH.
The United States and Canada
have signed a reciprocal licensing agreement whereby Canadian or US
amateurs are free to operate within the boundaries of the other nation
without any additional permits. Operation must be in accordance with
the rules and regulations of the host country. For US amateurs, the
only license document you will need is your FCC license. Simply cross
the border and operate using the portable designator for the Canadian
province you are located in. Example: W8XXX/VE3 if in Ontario.
Note that a passport or similar document will be needed to cross the
Canada Operating Links:
CEPT Nations (Most of Europe and some European Overseas Territories)
The European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) is an international association of European nations. They have signed an agreement whereby radio amateurs from member nations can operate in other member countries without seeking a special license or permit.
The US, although not a member of CEPT, has become a signatory to the amateur radio operating agreement to allow its licensees the privilege of operating from within CEPT countries.
Note that there are two classes of CEPT licenses which determine your operating privileges based on your US license class. Class 1 requires knowledge of the international Morse code and carries all operating privileges. US Technician Plus or higher qualify for a Class 1 CEPT license. Class 2 does not require knowledge of code and carries all operating privileges above 30 MHz. US Technician (no-code) licensees qualify for Class 2 CEPT licenses. Novice licenses are not recognized by CEPT nations.
Under the CEPT agreement, US amateurs can operate from CEPT countries without formal licensing requirements if they carry the following documents:
a. Original of FCC issued license document
b. Proof of nationality (Passport)
c. A copy of FCC Public Notice containing CEPT information in three languages, English, French and German.
A list of CEPT countries and more information
on reciprocal licensing is available at the following links:
International Amateur Radio Permit (Some Central and South American Countries)
Several Central and South American countries are signatories to the CITEL (Inter-American Telecommunication Commission) Agreement, whereby amateurs can operate from member countries without seeking a special license. A United States citizen is required to obtain an International Amateur Radio Permit (IARP), which according to the CITEL Agreement, may be issued by a member-society of the International Amateur Radio Union. The ARRL is the IARU member society for the US.
Participating IARP countries are: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, El Salvador, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, United States of America, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
The IARP permit describes its authority in four different languages and is available from the ARRL.
Per the ARRL's web site, there are two classes of IARP's. Class
1 requires knowledge of the international Morse code and carries all operating
privileges. For US licenses, Technician Plus, General, Advanced or Extra class
US licensees will qualify for Class 1. The Class 2 IARP does not require knowledge
of Morse code and has all operating privileges above 30 MHz. For US licenses,
the Code-Free Technician will qualify for the Class 2 permit. Note that this information does not seem to have been updated since the US dropped the Morse code testing requirements.
Novice licensees can not qualify for an IARP.
US Overseas Possessions
If your destination is a US possession that the FCC has licensing jurisdiction, your existing US amateur license is your authorization to operate. Examples of these locations are Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, although there are several more. Be sure to investigate the frequency allocations assignments as they may be different than the mainland US.
Other Countries and International Web Resources
There are resources available on the Internet to assist you in obtaining information on licensing in non-CEPT or non-IARP countries. The first place to start searching is the ARRL's web site which is a valuable tool in learning about the licensing requirements for many countries.
Secondly, many countries have national amateur radio organizations similar to the ARRL which can provide information and assistance to visitors. Also, there are some governmental sites that explain licensing requirements.
Some non-CEPT or non-IARP countries require formal application forms to be processed and fees to be paid, while others will accept a letter of application. Be sure to apply early and allow for delays. Also, when submitting your application, include your E-Mail address. Some communications authorities use E-Mail if they have a question concerning your application and may even issue license documents via E-Mail.
Forward to Part 3 - Getting There and Suggestions for Foreign QRP Operating
Back to Part 1 - Planning Your International Trip
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Updated June 15, 2016