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Amateur Radio Service


Call Sign Systems

Vanity FAQ


Q: Section 97.3(a)(11) of the Commissions' Rules states that the FCC will issue public announcements detailing the procedures of the vanity call sign system. Where are these announcements?
A. These announcements are posted on the Amateur home page and releases sections. Note, however, that much of the information in prior public announcements has been superseded by the rules adopted by the Commission in the Report and Order in WT Docket No. 09-209, 25 FCC Rcd 16351 (2010), discussed below.
Q: What does the vanity call sign system offer me, an amateur operator?
A. The system offers you the opportunity to request a specific call for your primary station and for your club station.
Q: Is a military recreation station eligible for a vanity call sign?
A. No. Section 97.19(a) of the FCC's Rules states that military recreation and RACES stations are not eligible to request a vanity call sign.
Q: May the same call sign be assigned to more than one station?
A. No.
Q: Can I obtain more than one vanity call sign for my primary station?
A. No. Section 97.19(a) provides for only one vanity call sign for each operator/primary station license grant and Section 97.5(b)(1) of the FCC's Rules limits you to one primary station license grant.
Q: Can we obtain an additional vanity call sign for our club station?
A. No. A club requesting a vanity call sign after Feb. 14, 2011 may hold only one vanity call sign grant. A club that has been assigned more than one vanity call sign must surrender all of the vanity call signs it has been assigned before it can obtain another vanity call sign.
Q: Our club needs multiple call signs to identify different stations in a system we have put on the air. How can we obtain more than one call sign for our club to use?
A. A club station may hold as many sequentially assigned call signs as it needs.
Q: How were the rules for the vanity call sign system developed?
A. In the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993, Congress authorized the FCC to assess and collect a fee for an amateur station vanity call sign. The rule making proceeding that developed the vanity call sign system was PR Docket No. 93-305, In the Matter of Amendment of the Amateur Service Rules to Implement a Vanity Call Sign System:
(1) Notice of Proposed Rule Making, 9 FCC Rcd 105 (1993). The FCC proposed to amend the amateur service rules to establish a vanity call sign system. Comments were solicited.
(2) Report and Order, 10 FCC Rcd 1039 (1995). One hundred and nine comments confirmed the ardent desire of many amateur operators to select the call signs for their stations and their willingness to pay a fee for this service. A major concern of the amateur service community was that the vanity call sign system be fair and equitable. Specifically, many commentors suggested using a method of priority with respect to filing applications for vanity call signs. Rules for the vanity call sign system were adopted, incorporating several suggestions from the commentaries. These included starting gates, a two-year period during which a vacated call sign is not assignable, filing priorities to former holders and close relatives of former holders.
(3) Memorandum Opinion and Order, 10 FCC Rcd 11135 (1995). The FCC acted on four Petitions for Reconsideration, making several minor revisions to the rules. These including limiting assignability of call signs designated for Regions 11, 12 and 13 to licensees having a mailing address in the specific state, commonwealth or island of those regions. Also included was the requirement that, in the case of a close relative applying for the former call sign of a deceased licensee, the applicant must hold the requisite class of operator license. Additionally, an amendment was included to allow clubs to obtain the call sign of a deceased member, in memoriam.
(4) Second Memorandum Opinion and Order, 11 FCC Rcd 5283 (1996). The FCC acted on four Petitions for Reconsideration seeking reconsideration of the minor amendments adopted in the first Memorandum Opinion and Order. Three petitions were denied. The fourth petition was granted in part and denied in all other respects. The amendment adopted clarified that a renewal application for a vanity call sign is timely filed when received "on or before" the license expiration date.
(5) Report and Order in WT Docket No. 09-209, 25 FCC Rcd 16351 (2010). The FCC amended the rules for the vanity call sign system in order to promote processes that are more equitable and administratively efficient. The Commission amended the rules to clarify the date on which the call sign associated with a license that is canceled due to the licensee's death becomes available for reassignment, and to clarify the exceptions to the general rule that a call sign is unavailable to the vanity call sign system for two years after the license terminates. It also limited many vanity call signs a club can hold, and how many clubs can have the same license trustee.
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Provisions and Request Types

Q: What are the provisions under which I may request a vanity call sign for my primary station?
A. There are three provisions for primary stations:
  1. request-by-list
  2. former holder, and
  3. close relative of former holder now deceased (A "close relative" includes the spouse, child, grandchild, stepchild, parent, grandparent, stepparent, brother, sister, stepbrother, stepsister, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, or in-law of the person now deceased or of any other deceased former holder of the call sign. An "in-law" is limited to a parent, stepparent, sibling, or step-sibling of a licensee's spouse; the spouse of a licensee's sibling, step-sibling, child, or stepchild; or the spouse of a licensee's spouse's sibling or step-sibling.)
Q: What are the provisions under which our club may request a vanity call sign for our club station?
A. There are three provisions for club stations:
  1. request-by-list
  2. former holder, and
  3. in memoriam.
Q: How can I make a list of call signs that are not assigned to some other station?
A. Make a preliminary list of call signs you prefer. The Amateur Station Call Sign Systems page explains the prefixes and suffixes for the nearly 15,000,000 possible call sign combinations. Next, access the amateur service data base. It lists over 700,000 call signs that are currently assigned. Strike from your preliminary list those call signs already assigned. Then rearrange in your order of preference the call signs remaining on your list. Even where a call sign does not appear on the database, it may not be assignable. For additional information on the assignment status of call signs, contact the private contractor authorized to search license and application information in the FCC's archived records. The current contractor is:
Best Copy and Printing, Inc.
Portal II
445 12th St. S.W., Room CY-B402
Washington DC 20554
P: 202-488-5300
P: 800-378-3160
F: 202-488-5563
Q: How can I access the FCC Database?
A. You can query the FCC's database on the web by accessing the application or license search utilities of ULS. These can be accessed from the Universal Licensing System home page. Once on the ULS home page, click on the button labeled 'Application Search' or 'License Search'.
Note: When conducting a license search, use the option for 'General Search'.
Note: Amateur Radio Information can be accessed by searching on radio service codes 'HA' - sequentially assigned call signs and 'HV' - vanity call signs. Both can be selected during the same search.
Q: Can I download the FCC Database?
A. Yes. The FCC application and license databases can be downloaded from the web. The FCC makes the entire application and license databases available for downloading. These files are refreshed once each week on the weekend. In addition, to the complete databases, the FCC provides daily incremental updates (transaction files) to the entire database.
Once on the web page provided above, click on the desired option: 'Download the ULS Databases' or 'Download ULS Database Transaction Files'. Documentation regarding the databases files and table structure are also available on the web page containing the files.
Q: All of the call signs I would like to have are currently assigned. But some of them are nearing expiration. If the current licensee does not renew, how soon after the license expires will the call sign become assignable?
A. A call sign becomes assignable under the request-by-list provision two years following license expiration, surrender, revocation, set aside, cancellation, void ab initio or death of the grantee. If, however, a license is canceled due to the death of the licensee more than two years earlier, the call sign remains unavailable for thirty days following the staff action canceling the license. When the holder dies, the call sign becomes assignable under the former holder, close relative of former holder now deceased and in memoriam provisions as soon as the license status shows Expired or Cancelled.
Q: What is the reason for the two year delay?
A. In the Report and Order in PR Docket 93-305, 10 FCC Rcd 1039 (1995), persuasive comments showed that a two-year period is necessary before a call sign again becomes assignable in order to avoid confusion in over-the-air station identification, to maintain accuracy in the licensee database, and to accommodate QSL bureaus. Further, the commentors believed that it would preclude "trafficking in licenses" where a licensee, in exchange for some type of consideration, vacates a desirable call sign so that another licensee could immediately apply for it before its assignability becomes known generally. A two-year interval, moreover, makes the assignability of vacated call signs consistent with the assignability of a deceased person's station call sign, or a licensee's expired station call sign.
Q: I want to request the call sign of a close friend who died more than two years ago. But his license status still shows active in the database. What should I do?
A. The license grant has not been cancelled in the database because the FCC has not received proper notification of the person's death and the expiration date has not been reached. To notify the FCC of a licensee's death, submit a signed request that includes a death certificate or dated obituary that shows the person named in the operator/primary station license grant has died. Such a request may be submitted electronically as a pleading associated with the deceased licensee's license, or sent to: FCC, 1270 Fairfield Road, Gettysburg, PA 17325-7245. No action will be taken during the last thirty days of the post-expiration grace period on a request to cancel a license due to the licensee's death. After you confirm that the license status has been changed to cancelled in our licensee database, file your request promptly. The call sign will not be held for you.
Q: A call sign that I want expired on January 1, 2000. What is the earliest time I can file for this call sign under the request-by-list provision?
A. Provided the call sign is assignable, the earliest your application could be filed is 12:01AM EDT January 2, 2002.
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Supporting Documentation

Q: What supporting documentation is acceptable in order to request a call sign under the former holder, close relative of former holder now deceased, and in memoriam provisions?
A. Your supporting documentation must be sufficient to withstand a challenge to your assertion from another party. Documentation of close relationship to deceased former holder can be critical.
Q: Should I send my supporting documentation to the FCC address in St. Louis or Gettysburg?
A. Neither place. Do not send your supporting documentation to the FCC unless and until you are specifically instructed to do so. You should place your supporting documentation into your station records so that you can quickly respond to a request for verification from the FCC. The autogrant system does not include any review of any document attached to Forms 159 or 605.
Q: I do not have the license document showing that my late father once held the call sign that I am requesting. Is that license grant in the FCC database?
A. License data currently in ULS will remain available. If data was purged prior to conversion to ULS, you can use the services of the FCC's copy contractor, whose addresses and phone number are given in the "PROVISIONS" section, above. If the license document is no longer available, other documentation, such as a Callbook listing, may be accepted as evidence that your late father was assigned this call sign.
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Club Stations

Q: What is the purpose of a "club station" license?
A. A club station license makes it possible for members of an amateur radio club to have a station operated under a unique call sign. It conveys no operating privileges. An individual may serve as the trustee for only one club station license grant; individuals who served as the trustee for more than one club as of Feb. 14, 2011 may continue to serve as the trustee of those clubs, but may not be designated the trustee of any additional clubs.
Q: What are the requirements for a club station license grant?
A. Section 97.5(b)(2) of the FCC Rules states that a club must have:
  1. A name,
  2. A document of organization,
  3. Management,
  4. A primary purpose devoted to amateur service activities consistent with the FCC Rules,
  5. At least four members,
  6. A license trustee designated by an officer of the club, and
  7. The trustee must hold an amateur service operator license grant.
Q: How can I obtain a vanity call sign for our club station?
A. First, apply for a club station license grant by filing with a Club Station Call Sign Administrator (CSCSA) (text). After the license has been granted, your club station license trustee may file an application for the vanity call sign under the request-by-list provision for the class of operator license your trustee holds.
Q: We have obtained a Group A vanity call sign for our club station. Can we replace our license trustee, who is an Amateur Extra Class operator, with a person who holds another class of operator license?
A. Yes. Section 97.5(b)(2) of the FCC Rules authorizes an officer of your club to designate as the club station license trustee a person holding any class of amateur operator license.
Q: For which call signs is our club station eligible?
A. Your club station has the same request-by-list provision eligibility as does its license trustee. It may also have eligibility under the former holder and in memoriam provisions. An "in memoriam" request is a request that the call sign that was assigned to the station of a deceased former holder of the call sign be assigned to the club. The deceased former holder of the call sign must have been a member of the club during his or her life.
Q: Can the club station license trustee apply for a call sign that was formerly assigned to his primary station?
A. Yes, but only under request-by-list provision. The former holder provision applies only to a call sign formerly assigned to the same club station for which the vanity call sign is being requested.
Q: I want a vanity call sign and I also want to retain my present call sign. Is there some way that I can get a vanity call sign for my primary station and move my present call sign to a new club station?
A. After two years, your club could file under the request-by-list provision. In the meantime, the call sign you vacate is assignable to other licensees who may qualify for it under the former holder, close relative of former holder now deceased and in memoriam provisions.
Q: Our club has decided to disband. Is there a special provision for me, as a member of the club, to obtain immediately the club station's call sign for my primary station?
A. No. When the license status shows expired or cancelled on the database, the call sign is assignable immediately under the former holder and close relative of former holder now deceased provisions. It becomes assignable in two years under the request-by-list provision.
Q: How do we request that our club station license be cancelled in the database?
A. Submit your request to a CSCSA who will file the cancellation on your behalf.
For help filing applications or application-related questions, Technical Support.
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