Whenever someone takes an exam from the VE team I work with, we require that they have an FRN — FCC Registration Number. Why? Simply put, without an FRN, we would have to collect your Social Security number. This should probably worry you — it certainly worries us.
We require everyone to provide an FRN because we don’t want the responsibility of keeping your SSN safe.
EDIT: Some VEs have responded to this article asserting that their teams do not keep copies of the 605 form (the form your SSN goes on) and thus consider this to be unimportant for their applicants. They are missing the point; the SSN still goes through a lot of hands that aren’t known to the applicant, and in addition even if the VE team doesn’t keep copies of the 605 form, the VEC does.
I have spoken with the staff of several of the VEC companies, and I trust them as much as I would any corporation (more than almost any other, likely), but even the best intentioned make mistakes. That which isn’t in their archives cannot be lost, stolen, or otherwise compromised.
When should you get one
If you are planning to take a ham radio license exam, you should get an FRN number. If the test session does registration using HamStudy, you will get one as part of the registration process (and you may have gotten here from there). Either way, get one now.
NOTE: If you got here from HamStudy.org session registration, ignore these steps and scroll to the end to see what the FRN number looks like when you’re done, then go back to your registration on HamStudy.org. That process is *far* easier and just as secure.
First, you’ll see a question about what type you are registering as. Select “An Individual” and click “Continue”
You will now be presented with a dauntingly long form asking for all your personal information. The good news is that this is a secure website run by the FCC, so it’s as secure as it can be. Fill out all fields with a red asterisk (*) by them as well as the Social Security Number field.
The main “gotcha” on this form is the password. It has to be at least 6 characters long, and it has to have characters from at least 3 of 4 groups — those groups are Uppercase letters, Lowercase letters, Numbers, and Special Characters (like @#$%^*&?, etc). Anything else will be rejected with an error at the top:
Once you have completed filling out the form, it will look something like this:
At this point, you should click “SUBMIT”. If all goes well, you’ll see the following:
There on the second line of the main text, you will see your FRN number. Here it is again with the FRN number highlighted:
Congratulations! Print this for your records and take it with you to your test session.
Some people may not see the screen above. They may see this screen instead:
What this means is that for whatever reason, you already have an FRN number. Some possible reasons you might have an FRN and not remember include:
- You have a pilots license
- You have another type of license from the FCC (such as a GMRS license)
- You have previously held a ham radio license
- You have previously registered for a FRN and just forgot (this happens more than you’d think)
Whatever the reason, you have two choices. The first is to say “Submit” and get another one. I don’t really recommend this unless you have first tried the second option, which is to look it up.
You can look up your FRN number here. I generally recommend you look it up by Contact Name and State. Quite by accident (okay, not really, I fiddle with things a lot) I discovered that hardly any of the “required” fields actually are. For example, you can look up my FRN number like this:
Now, unlike radio license information, FRN information is not all public. About all you’ll see is the name, FRN number, and date. If you aren’t sure it’s your number you should probably just create a new one.
Hope this helps you all!