W3BE'S BE Informed!
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BE Informed No. 1.24

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Where Is

My License?

 John B. Johnston W3BE

Q. After I moved to a different call sign prefix QTH, I promptly filed for a change of address. It’s been several weeks now, but I haven’t received a new license. Where is it? I’ve been told the FCC doesn’t mail out licenses anymore. True?

A. It not exactly that. But, you will have to take action if you want to obtain a paper authorization the next time that you renew, upgrade, relocate, or change your name. Our regulator no longer routinely mails a document to you whenever your license grant is so modified. It deems your grant stored in its license database as your “official electronic authorization.”

   To view the public information about your grant with your Internet-connecting device, access the ULS License Search page and do an exact match search for your call sign. When it shows up, click on your call sign. Your name, mailing address, 10-digit FRN number, operator class, status, and expiration date should appear. You and everyone with a computer can access and print copies of this public information.

   To view your password protected information, go to the ULS home page and proceed with your ONLINE FILING LOG IN. Enter your FRN number and your personal password. You should arrive at your License Manager home page. From here, you can print out a Reference Copy of your license grant.

   Don’t remember your password? Then click on the “Contact Tech Support” link, click the “Reset Password” button and follow the prompts for resetting it.

Q. I want a paper license by mail directly from the FCC. Can I get one?

A. Yes, you can receive a watermarked "OFFICIAL" copy by mail from our regulator for future modification actions as they occur. But they won’t be nearly as elaborate as they have been. To make this happen, while viewing your license grant page, make certain that your Set Paper Authorization Preferences is showing "Yes” to Receive Paper Authorizations. If not, change it to that setting and click on the screen “Save” button. The default setting is “No.” You can also request by phone (877 480-3201) or in writing that you want paper licenses mailed.

   There may still be a temporary link “Change your paper authorization preferences here” superimposed upon a green bar across the top of your License Manager home page. If not, use the permanent link “Set Paper Authorization Preferences shown in the navigation bar on the left side of the License Manager page.

Q. Must I have a paper copy of my license in my possession whenever I am operating a ham station?

A. No. Having your grant showing in the ULS is the prerequisite. Regardless of your paper/no paper choice, your permissions are – and have been for years - codified in the rules. Firstly, there is Section 97.5 Station license required. It says in pertinent part: (a) The station apparatus must be under the physical control of a person named in an amateur station license grant on the ULS consolidated license database or a person authorized for alien reciprocal operation by §97.107 of this part, before the station may transmit on any amateur service frequency from any place that is: (1) Within 50 km of the Earth's surface and at a place where the amateur service is regulated by the FCC; (more)

   Secondly, there is Section 97.7 Control operator required. It says: When transmitting, each amateur station must have a control operator. The control operator must be a person:(a) For whom an amateur operator/primary station license grant appears on the ULS consolidated licensee database, or (b) Who is authorized for alien reciprocal operation by §97.107 of this part.

   Always rely upon the ULS. It will show your most current license grant. It should be more dependable than any paper copy. Even if authentic, paper copies may not always be current.

Q. When I did a presentation to our ham club on paperless licensing, the reaction from the group was, "Nice that it's on the ULS, but I would feel 'naked' without having a paper copy in my possession." Then, I got a question I wasn't really sure how to answer: When you apply for your State license ham plates or a CEPT license, isn’t the "OFFICIAL" watermarked license necessary? If so, why would you want a "Reference" copy other than taking that copy to a VE for an upgrade license exam session?"

A. Thanks for your good and timely observations and for helping hams learn about our regulator’s new process. The presence of the Internet and the availability of the ULS to anyone with an access device are making the age-old reliance on documents passé. Change rarely seems to come easy.

   Section 97.505 requires our VEs to give specified element credit to an examinee holding certain license documents. So, the "OFFICIAL" watermarked license document appears to be the appropriate answer to your license upgrade question.

    The ham vehicle license plate requirement, moreover, would depend upon the requirements of your State department of motor vehicles. Maybe your State authority requires a copy of your watermarked "OFFICIAL" document, or maybe it will accept a printout of the public information concerning your grant as shown on the ULS. It might just take your word for it or even consult the ULS directly via the Internet.

   As to the “CEPT” issue, subject to the regulations in force in the country visited, a U.S. citizen holding a General, Advanced, or Amateur Extra Class amateur radio service operator license grant from the FCC is authorized to utilize temporarily an amateur station in a European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) country that has implemented Recommendation T/R 61-01. While operating an amateur station in a CEPT country, a ham visitor from the U. S. must have in his or her possession a copy of a FCC Public Notice, proof of U.S. citizenship, and evidence of the FCC license grant. These documents must be shown to proper authorities upon request. So, the issue here is which type document - if any - the authorities in the CEPT country visited accept as “evidence of a FCC license grant.”

   In either event, such requirements are not codified in our regulators’ rules. They must come from the State authority issuing the vehicle license ham tag or from the authority in each CEPT country visited.

   One reason for having copies of your watermarked "OFFICIAL" document on hand is the posting necessities for tele-command. Another reason is Section 97.315 (b)(3). It provides an exception to FCC certification of external RF power amplifier manufactured or imported for use at an amateur station when the amplifier is sold to an amateur operator for use at that operator’s station. Having a copy of the buyer’s watermarked “OFFICIAL” document may protect the seller. In yet another circumstance, a foreign regulator might insist upon you showing a watermarked "OFFICIAL" document when applying for a guest or reciprocal permit.

   In still other circumstances, it might be easier to just show some sort of document to the uninformed rather than try to explain to them about our regulator’s modernized official electronic authorization process.

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June 23, 2015

Supersedes all prior editions