Renewing or updating your license online — free!

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 =]

  • W5YI
  • ARRL (free for members)
  • QRZ (goes through W5YI, I think, but a great site to support)

Renewing online

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.

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:

ULS Online Systems -- main page

This is the main page for the Universal Licensing System / CORES portal

Here is where we will start.  To log in to your account, click the “LOG IN” button.

Log in

Log in screen

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.

Forgot your password

If you forgot your password, you can reset it by clicking “Contact Tech Support”

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.

Password Reset

This is what the set password screen looks like after you answer your personal security question

Once you have logged in, you’ll see a screen like this one:

CORES License page

This is the license screen for fictional John Doe, NO4CAL.

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.

Renewal page 1

John Doe is given the option to change his name and address

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”.

Applicant Questions

These questions will pretty much always be “No” for any of us.

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.

Certification statement and digital signature

This is the digital signature page

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”.


You should see a confirmation page like this at the end.

The final screen is the Confirmation screen, which shows that the application is submitted. You’re done!

Final notes

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.

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