Canadian VE3 to USA callsign

I'm wondering since I didn't see it mentioned here and couldn't find info on a quick search if anyone has any information or has personally gone through the process (recently) of applying for a US call sign, temporary (I don't think this is required or available - correct me if i'm wrong) or permanent. Also what equivalency is afforded the operator AND part three - Canadian ham's get their vehicle personalized HAM plates for free, is there a similar thing available in the US?

Sorry for run on sentences and questions here a clearer list:

1 - Canadian VE3 ham application for US call sign (illinois specifically) experience / how to?
I currently hold a BASIC w/honours license which is good for life.

2 - I understand that Technician class is closest to BASIC w/honours? correction if wrong please

3 - vanity call sign licence plates free or?

Thats all basically thanks in advance!


There is a lot of information on line about practically EVERYTHING. But I looked for you.

First, the reason nothing would have come up about "applying for a US call sign", is because you can't. Nobody is going to give you an FCC amateur radio license, for any length of time, in exchange for anything except passing the required test elements for the desired license class. That's it. Want the license? Pass the test.

Now, as a Canadian, that really isn't a problem for you. A I read it, our countries have entered into an agreement to basically honor the other countries issued amateur licenses (with certain minor limitations).

From your own RAC:

From an American prospective:

Vehicle license plates are regulated by the individual States. That means there are 50 different answers. Some are free. Most are not. But look, the ARRL has a page for that (Hint: it indicates that in Illinois vanity ham plates are not free - they actually cost $4 extra). There is then an included link with supposedly more information. I will leave it to you to check that out.

Enjoy your time in Illinois. Been through the Chicago airport, but that's it. I am sure there are many places in Illinois I would have appreciated much more than the airport. 


Operating under the reciprocal agreement, you enjoy the same privileges here that you have in Canada. The 'honors' designation gives you HF privileges. But, you must observe the mode subbands in the U.S. - you can't just operate voice in the U.S. CW/Data band like you could in Canada. The Basic is equivalent to a Tech, but the Basic with Honours is effectively an Extra Class here, but you are limited to the Basic with Honors privileges you enjoy at home, so you are limited to 250 watts.

Since Canada adopted regulation by bandwidth long ago, and is therefore plunged into eternal darkness, you will need to enlighten yourself on the benefits of being forced into many different subbands, based on modes and operator class - Chart/Hambands_color.pdf

You might also want to review the ARRl band plan to see the recommended areas for the different modes.

Going the other way, I think U.S. hams are in trouble, because the regulation says that in order to operate HF in Canada, the U.S. ham must have passed a 5 WPM code test. There are no code tests in the U.S. anymore. I guess if the operator can actually do Morse code, and can somehow demonstrate it, that would suffice. I am a 20 WPM Extra, but since the Extra no longer requires a code test, I don't have any easy way to prove it. This is why some U.S> Advanced hams won't upgrade - Advanced and Novice are the only two licenses that always required a code test.

Our powers that be really need to get this treaty updated to fit the modern license scheme. Canadian Basic should equal a Technician, Basic with Honours should be General, and Canadian Advanced should be Extra, with similar equivalence going in the other direction.

If you're going to be a long term resident in the U.S., you should take the exams for a U.S. license and callsign, but then, you will not be able to operate under the reciprocal agreement, which covers 'visitors'. 

ANSWER 3 :: 

Having lived in Ontario (VE3 land) myself for a few decades in the past and now living in the USA, let me tell you how this works exactly.

1. There is no such thing as using your existing license privileges from Canada as a bridge to qualify for the automatic issuance of an FCC license. You must write the FCC exam to get the FCC license just like you are a brand new ham operator. Same thing goes for getting a US drivers license. You must do the driving test to get a US drivers license just like you did when you were 16 years old in Ontario, regardless how many years / decades experience you already have driving a vehicle in Canada before.

2. Under the conditions outlined in U.S./ CAN amateur radio reciprocal agreement, you are only authorized to use your VE3 call sign in the United States providing you are "visiting" the United States on a temporary basis. Extra emphasis on "visitor" and "temporary" should be noted.

(Footnote: It is entirely possible for Canadians to "stay / visit" the United States for a maximum period of 182 days every year. While it might "feel" like you are living here, you are still considered to be a visitor for operating privilege purposes. )

3. However, if you are "living" in the United States, and no longer living in Canada, then you are no longer called a visitor. You are now called a "US resident" instead. Therefore as a resident of the U.S. you can no longer use your VE3 callsign under the terms outlined in the U.S. / CAN reciprocal agreement. This is because FCC requires all "residents" of the United States to obtain an FCC license before they are legally permitted to operate an amateur radio station in the United states. Extra emphasis on "living" and "US resident" should be noted.

4. Your Basic qualification with 5 WPM Morse Code qualification permits HF operation equivalent to a U.S. Advanced Class operator while visiting in the United States on a temporary basis and under the terms of the U.S. / CAN reciprocal operating agreement.

5. Vanity license plates are only available and issued to residents of the United States. Are you a resident of the United States? That is to say, you can only apply for them if you have appropriate identification such as a U.S. drivers license and/or a social security number. You must also have a permanent US street address where you are living for the DMV records database.

Incidentally and just for clarification, there are special "amateur radio" license plates issued to licensed amateur radio operators (you have to show DMV your FCC license as proof) in many states which is not the same thing as "Vanity" license plates. Vanity license plates are typically cute phrases or funny names people put on their license plates, but they have nothing to do with amateur radio callsign license plates. Fees for amateur radio callsign license plates range from being entirely free of charge to an annual fee which varies depending on the state. More specific information and current fees (if any) is available on the DMV website for the state you are applying.


The exam questions for the U.S. tests are published. You could just download all three sets - Technician, General, and Extra, and look them over. If they all seem fairly easy, then you could just go to a test session (referred to as a VE session, for 'volunteer examiner' - the VE sessions are not special tests for Canadians!). If you are otherwise ready for the Candian Advanced, you will probably sail through the U.S. tests once you know our rules and regulations. It is not unusual for experienced hams to take all three tests in one sitting.

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