Edit: This applies only to FCC-issued call signs, such as US call signs. If you have information about how to do it in other countries, feel free to post in the comments!
My wife got a letter in the mail today. I’m sure some of you have received similar letters. It informed her that her license is going to expire soon, and contained a self-addressed envelope, a 605 form, and instructions for how she can mail it in to get her license renewed, all for a low fee!
Now, don’t get me wrong. I actually have a lot of respect for the organization who sent the letter, and I don’t mean to criticize them — I am in favor of supporting them, and I appreciate the reminder letter. I do wonder how many people receive these letters and think it’s the only way to renew, though.
Edit: In response to some comments I’ve read about this post on various social media sites, let me clarify something. I have no problem with organizations helping to renew licenses, and I don’t have a problem with them doing it for a fee. In fact, some people have found the below process annoying enough that they’d prefer to do it that way. Others have indicated that they couldn’t manage to get logged in, with the same result. Also, these are great organizations who provide a valuable resource to hams without easy internet access or computers, and thus are worth supporting in their own right.
My main purpose in this blog post is not to keep people from supporting these organizations, but to make sure people are educated about the options and the fact that it can actually be done for free.
If you are having trouble with the below steps, or if you just want to support one of the great organizations who serve the Amateur Radio community, here are the ones that I am aware of that you can use to renew your license using such things as 605 forms, stamps, envelopes, etc =]
In truth, it’s actually very easy to renew your license directly with the FCC — and it’s complete free! The hardest part may be to figure out what your FRN password is, but worst case this may require a 15 minute phone call to the FCC (which I have done, and it is really painless).
So, as long as my wife’s license needed to be renewed anyway, I decided to create a walkthrough for you all, just to try to take the “mystery” out of the process.
We start from the same system we use to request an FRN. Incidentally, the process below is pretty much exactly what you’ll need to do to make any changes to your license as well, such as updating your address.
You can get to the ULS with this easy to remember URL: http://fcc.gov/uls
Here is where we will start. To log in to your account, click the “LOG IN” button.
In order to log in, you will need to know your FCC Registration Number (FRN) and your password. If you don’t know your FRN, don’t worry — all licensees have one, and it’s on your license. Don’t have your license handy? Still no problem — you can look it up!
Many of you (like my wife) may have forgotten your password, or even not know if one was ever set, for example if you’ve been paying someone else to renew your license. Click “Contact Tech Support” if you don’t know your password.
I’ve never used the “Set Personal Security Question” option — it’s possible that may require you to wait for them to mail you something. If you don’t mind waiting, that may be the option for you. You can also call them if you’re in a hurry. The phone number is Phone: 1-877-480-3201.
Once you have logged in, you’ll see a screen like this one:
Note that the license shows that it is eligible for renewal. You can log into this system even if your license isn’t within 90 days of expiring, but you’ll only be able to update the license (see the link on the right?), changing your name, address, or other contact details.
To proceed, click the “Begin the renewal process” link.
As you can see here, the first page is pretty basic. It reviews what we already know, and it gives us the option to update our Licensee name and address. This is a good point to stop and make sure your address is correct! If it isn’t, check that box and you can change it. If it is, just click “Continue”.
The next screen asks if we are exempt from application or regulatory fees. If you don’t know you are, chances are you aren’t, so leave these at “No” and click Continue.
The next screen is a long one, and may be intimidating. Basically this is just saying the same things that the Form 605 you signed when you got your license (or possibly when you last renewed) says. At the bottom you get to type in your name for the digital signature.
Note that you do not need to fill anything in for Title. Review the text (or not, as you feel comfortable with), fill in your name (thus “signing” the document) and click “Submit Application”.
The final screen is the Confirmation screen, which shows that the application is submitted. You’re done!
A few final notes at the end. If you have a vanity call sign, there will be a fee that you will be required to pay as part of this process. Also, some of you may decide you’d rather support the organization that sent you your reminder letter — after all, many of us would probably forget to renew without their help! However you do it, make sure it’s an informed choice and not just someone tricking you into thinking you need to pay more than you do.
By Nerfd.net - RF News & Info | Renewing or updating your license online — for free! January 23, 2015 - 00:46
[…] by taxilian [link] […]
By Renewing Your License | Lincoln County Amateur Radio Club - N7OY January 23, 2015 - 14:07
[…] http://localhost:8080/2015/01/renewing-or-updating-your-license-online-for-free/ […]
By El Watanabe January 25, 2015 - 18:15
Thanks for the info I am a year away but this is a good lead for what I need to do and it looks painless and stress free.
By Carol May 24, 2018 - 12:16
Thank you for the detailed instructions!!! Thanks to you it was easy and, with several family members needing to renew, saved us quite a bit. Thank you!!!!
By KX1G January 26, 2015 - 07:29
Thanks! Been 10 years since I did this, so the refresher is appreciated. Maybe the League will get the hint and publish something along these lines for members.
By Robert R. Smith WB6ODR February 1, 2015 - 08:59
Thanks, I found the renew process less painful than I remembered. If memory serves me correctly, I used to be able to print a copy of my license or did they send it to me?? I have a special frame for my license and some previous copies of my license. How does one now get a copy of your ticket for display at a promotional station for instance.
73, Bob Smith
By kd7bbc February 1, 2015 - 17:30
For the time being, the FCC will still send you one. You can also change your preferences in your ULS record (somewhere, I haven’t looked yet) to make sure you get a paper copy of your license after they change that on Feb 17.
Another trick is to print a “reference copy” of your license, which you can do by going to your ULS entry (fcc.gov/uls, search for your license, click on it) and selecting “Reference copy” in the top right. This will open a PDF of your license with a “Reference Copy” watermark attached.
By BH4UMN May 7, 2015 - 22:56
I need your help.
there is a mistake in my license information.
i want to change the license name from ‘XIZNHUA’ to ‘XIANHUA’,how should I do?
By kd7bbc May 7, 2015 - 23:13
If this is a US license you can use these instructions and just select “change name” in the appropriate menu. If it’s not a US license then I don’t know :-/ Good luck!
By Don Cook August 7, 2016 - 17:11
I have all the paper work but do not have the mailing address i do not want to send it online
By kd7bbc August 16, 2016 - 13:56
As far as I know if you want to submit the paperwork directly instead of renewing online (which is faster and far more secure) you’ll have to go through a VEC such as W5YI, ARRL, Laurel, GLAARG, etc.
By EDWARD L. MACCHIONE SR. October 1, 2016 - 12:07
ALL I’M TRYING TO DO IS RENEW MY AMATEUR RADIO LICENSE. I ALREADY HAVE A FRN NUMBER AND A FILE NUMBER. IVE BEEN TRYING TO REGISTER TO GET SOME PLACE TO FILL OUT A FORM OR SOMETHING THAT WILL JUST LET ME RENEW THE LICENSE. THE LAST TIME, A WEEK AGO, I RE-REGESTERED AND CHANGED MY PASSWORD AND I STILL AM GETTING NOWHERE.
By kd7bbc November 15, 2016 - 21:46
Sorry you’re having so much trouble :-/ I recommend you contact the FCC to request assistance with that. Alternately you could contact W5YI-VEC at this link who will do it for you for a small fee so you don’t have to deal with the FCC’s system.
By Fred L Finster. WB7ody October 6, 2016 - 22:16
Federal Communications Commission. As of Date: October 6, 2016
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554
1-888-CALL FCC (225-5322)
1-888-TELL FCC (835-5322)
By Stuart Scott, AE7SS May 5, 2017 - 10:02
I went to the FCC site to renew. I received a page saying that the license expires in 2027 rather than the 2017 on my printed license, indicating that the renewal has taken place.
Am I done now?
By kd7bbc May 5, 2017 - 11:14
Most likely so; if you look up your license at http://wireless2.fcc.gov/UlsApp/UlsSearch/searchLicense.jsp and it shows that you expire in ten years then you are definitely done. I’d verify just to be safe — but if it doesn’t show that give it 24 hours to update and check again. If it still doesn’t show the update then you probably need to try something else.
By Thomas A. Coss June 6, 2017 - 20:40
I do believe I have to renew my license next year. I will have to look that date up On Line because I got sick, went into the hospital and lost my license! I just hope I will still have a computer to do this On Line and that I have all the INFO needed to renew it! Im thinking that maybe if I call the ARRL in Newington, Connecticut they might be able to help me in doing it the right way. I did it a long time ago on line at QRZ.com for FREE and it was very easy but now I see something about them charging a FEE to do it. Well I still have about a year to see just what I have to do! Thanks, 73, and Take Care!!!
By kd7bbc June 21, 2017 - 10:06
The only question would be if you can figure out your password — if not you may need to call the FCC to get it reset. You can look up your license on the ULS (fcc.gov/uls) to get your FRN number.
By Steven July 27, 2017 - 10:02
Thank you for this. I was looking for a step by step on how to renew my license and this helped me figured out how to do it.
By FiftyStar Liberty September 28, 2017 - 02:11
If you update information, for instance a phone number, will the FCC automatically send you an updated paper license, or do you have to request a paper license?
If I need to order my updated license (non-vanity, the automatically issued license), is there a fee? If so, how much does it cost?
If I need to order a new paper license, can I do this the same day I updated my information? (From reading the text, it seems to suggest that you cannot make more than one request within a certain period of time.)
Under the new rules, are we required to have a paper copy of our license? If not, is a screenshot on our phone or computer of our license, or page showing our license, sufficient for the requirements of having a copy on our person?
The FCC site could be a tad more informative, which would alleviate many questions and concerns! If the information pertinent to a license holder came up for the holder of a license (or licenses), without a lot of extraneous information that doesn’t apply (they could have a link should someone need other information, fir instance, someone has a HAM license, and is applying for an aircraft, ship or other license.) I would think most HAM operators are likely to hold only their amateur radio license, that some would have other types of licenses (although not a majority?)
Either way, there is a lot of information on the site that doesn’t pertain to your average license holder, and when looking up to see if one is exempt from fees, there seems to be links that go into other links that lead to articles that don’t apply to many people (and not to many organizations either!)
I also don’t understand why there’s not a space under phone numbers for a home and a cell phone number, yet a space for a FAX number? and email? I don’t think this page to update our information has been updated in more than 10 years! I understand that this would require a little bit of code in the program as it has to plug data into searchable databases, yet having contact information that is used most widely today is incredibly useful, such as a cell number for texting, voice, etc.
Having other contact information such as Skype, Facebook, Twitter, VOIP, message center numbers (some use in lieu of a phone) ought to be able to plug into the databases as well, IMHO.
As long as there is a place for contacting a licensee, it would seem that one wouldn’t have to put all their information in there, yet today so many people use different types of communications, other than a phone & a FAX machine (or eFAX), that having that info, especially for those using it for contacts, QSL cards, etc., that it would be helpful. Clubs and those wishing to contact HAMs in their area, for instance, for CERT and other disaster response (before OR especially after a mass disaster has struck, having such information could save time & perhaps lives, certainly concern and time hoping to hear from someone, or being able to get info to those relaying messages from, to or for a disaster area. Offering this info shpuld, of clurse, be voluntary, AND there are those who choose not to have any communications, other than HAM radio, which is fine!
Anyhow, I think if the FCC updated their site, made it far more efficient, and with a tad more important info, and less that doesn’t pertain to a licensee, that many of us wouldn’t spend SO much time reading books of information that doesn’t apply to us, following links that go off into things that have nothing to do with us (or in at least onr case, to a page that no longer exists (& if memory serves me right, their site had the same page missing10 years ago!)
OR even should the FCC need to contact a licensee.
Too much to ask? Hmmm…
By kd7bbc September 28, 2017 - 11:33
Heh. Well, I can answer a few of your comments… most of them, however, you’d have to take up with the FCC =]
I don’t believe there has been an actual requirement to keep a paper copy of your license for many years; there is an argument that can be made that you should have one so you can prove you hold the license, but showing a copy on your phone or looking it up in the ULS would be sufficient in any case. The only argument I’ve heard that I feel has merit for why you would need a paper copy is if you’re out in the middle of nowhere with no internet or cell coverage and someone wanted proof… but even that seems a bit far-fetched.
At any rate, there may be a limit to how often you can request that they send you a paper copy, but you can print one off as many times as you want, so I don’t see that as being an issue. As to the rest of your comments — personally, I’d just as soon have the FCC keep things as simple as possible. It’s worth noting that there are very few cases when the FCC does need to contact you, and I’ve never heard of them doing it by any means other than mail except in super extreme (think large fines) situations.
By John W Hays January 23, 2018 - 17:24
I just renewed my vanity call today…and NO FEE REQUIRED.
By kd7bbc January 23, 2018 - 18:54
Yep, that change went into effect about a year ago. Awesome for all of you with vanity call signs! I thought about shortening mine at one time, but it’s kinda cool to have my original call still as well =]
By Rosie December 14, 2019 - 20:20
AWESOME! That’s what I was looking for. I have to renew next April. Was wondering if I had to pay a fee for my vanity sign. I got it just a couple weeks after I got my original call sign. Whew. Thanks for posting this!!!
By Pierre B Bartholomey August 6, 2018 - 16:08
I have a new address, telephone number and email address. How do I make this changes?
Amateur Radio License KD4GKQ
By kd7bbc September 20, 2018 - 22:23
You can make the changes in the same ULS interface — just look around for the change address options, you’ll find it!
By Brian McCarty November 13, 2018 - 16:06
Thanks, I wasn’t sure how to answer the fee questions (since renewing is free), but I answered “no” as instructed and at the end I was told that no fee would be charged (as expected). Thankfully I remembered my password (though I had to look up my FRN)
By Doyle Byford November 13, 2019 - 15:34
Thank you for the detailed write-up. I just applied for a renewal online a few minutes ago and saw the requirement for a signature. It wasn’t clear to me that filling in my name was a digital signature, so I searched on the web and found your explanation which stated that it was a digital signature. I’ll check back with the FCC tomorrow to verify that the license has been renewed. Thank you again for your helpful page.
By Ellen January 17, 2020 - 11:53
Hello! Thank you for the wonderful instructions! I went through this today and wanted to let you know there was an additional web page during the renewal process. I tried to grab a screen capture, but it would not let me return to the page after I had gone to the next step.
The new page falls in between the following two paragraphs in your instructions, and the page basically asks if you want to edit the information they will present to you on that page:
You write this:
The new web page appears here.
Then you write this:
Thanks again for your instructions on this process!
By Tom Hank August 15, 2022 - 22:30
Accessing the FCC License Management System is the easiest way. In particular, you are not charged to renew your license.