Amateur radio licenses are good for ten years, but it’s easy to forget to renew your license, especially if you haven’t been active lately. Fortunately, renewing a license is easy to do, and at least for the time being, free of charge. So, even if you’re not actively using your license, there’s really no excuse not to renew it.
How do you know when your license will expire?
The first thing you need to do is to figure out when your license will expire. There are several ways to do this:
1. Visit the FCC website. The FCC maintains amateur radio license information in its Universal Licensing System (ULS) database. To find your information:
- Point your web browser to https://www.fcc.gov/universal-licensing-system.
- Click on Searching -> License Search, and then type your call sign into the text box. Click the SEARCH button.
If you typed in your call sign correctly, the next page will show you when your license expires:
As you can see, my license expires on July 15, 2026.
2. Look up your callsign on QRZ.Com.
QRZ.com obtains its information from the FCC ULS database, so the data on QRZ.Com should be the same as in the ULS database. Note that to look up this information, you’ll have to have a QRZ.Com account, but registering is free. To find your information on QRZ.Com:
- Point your web browser to https://www.qrz.com/.
- Enter your call sign into the search box at the top of the page and click “Search.”
- When your page appears, click on the “Details” tab. That tab will include the following information:
3. Let the ARRL notify you. If you are an ARRL member, you can have the ARRL notify you when your license is about to expire. Here’s how:
- Point your web browser to https://www.arrl.org/ and then login to your account.
- Click on “Edit your profile.”
- Once your profile page appears, click on the “Edit Email Subscriptions” tab, then click the checkbox, “Notification of license expiration.” The ARRL will then send you an email 90 days before your license is about to expire.
How do you renew your license?
There are several ways to renew your license, once you know when it expires. Note that you can only renew a license 90 days before it expires or within two years after it expires (more about that later).
- Renew via the FCC website. The easiest way to renew your license is by using the FCC License Manager System 90 days or less before your license expires. Point your web browser to https://www.fcc.gov/universal-licensing-system.
- Click on Filing -> File Online, and then sign in to your FCC account. If you don’t already have an FCC account, you’ll have to set one up.
- Enter your FCC Registration Number (FRN) and password into the appropriate text boxes, then click “SUBMIT.”
- On the “My Licenses” page, click the “Renew Licenses” link. You will then be able to select which license you want to renew.
- You will be prompted by the FCC’s system to make a payment of $35 to renew your license for the new 10-year term. The FCC began collecting license fees on April 19, 2022, in accordance with federal law set by Congress. You will have 10 days to make payment to the FCC before it removes your renewal application.
- Renew via mail.
You can renew by mail by sending FCC Forms 605 and 159 directly to the FCC. Download Form 605 for the renewal by going to https://www.fcc.gov/fcc-form-605 and fill it out. You also will need to include Form 159 for your payment. Download Form 159 and its instructions here: https://www.fcc.gov/licensing-databases/fees/fcc-remittance-advice-form-159. Form 159 must accompany your $35 payment for the renewal. Include your check with both forms and mail to: FCC, 1270 Fairfield Rd, Gettysburg PA 17325-7245. Note that it may take the FCC several weeks to process your change or renewal.
Note that you can renew your license even if it has already expired—as long as it hasn’t been more than two years since your license expired. Simply renew using one of the procedures above.
Do I need to take the exam again to renew my license?
A person with an expired license past two years, no matter the class of license held, must take the Technician license again, but they don’t automatically receive the class of license they previously held. They must present proof of the former license to the VEC or VE to get the upgrade to General or Extra after passing the Technician exam.
Also note that since your expiration date is part of the FCC ULS database, and is public information, you may get a letter or an email offering to renew your license for a small fee. While this may be convenient for you, note that you can do it for free. My advice would be to simply delete those emails or recycle those letters.