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Vanity Application Process

The following strategy is recommended for obtaining a vanity callsign:

  1. Learn the rules about what callsign FORMATS are available to you:


  2. Research which callsigns are actually available:


  3. Learn about the FCC's vanity application process:

  4. File an application for the callsigns of your choice (see The Story of Zero). Follow the FCC Obtaining a Vanity Call Sign Obtaining a Vanity Call Sign instructions. Note that your application will be posted to the ULS at the end of the first Federal workday after you filed (officially, the receipt date).

    If you find that you made a mistake:

    Note that applicants occasionally file one application without paying, and then file a second application with payment. If you do this without then deleting or withdrawing the first application, both applications will be dismissed: the first one for non-payment, and the second one as a duplicate!

  5. It does not matter what time of day you file, so long as AT THE EXACT TIME OF FILING, the FCC Universal Licensing System shows you hold the proper class of operator license appropriate to the callsign(s) you are applying for. Except for duplicate applications (which will be dismissed), vanity applications with the same receipt date will be processed in a random order, WITHOUT REGARD TO CONTENT, ORDER, TIME OF FILING, OR ANY OTHER FACTOR (see ULS Vanity Callsign Filing Procedures Vanity Callsign Filing Procedures). Note that the practice of filing duplicate (multiple same-day) applications from the same applicant, in order to increase the chances of being granted a desireable callsign, has long been considered to be an unfair practice by most of the amateur community, and is now a violation of US Title 47 CFR §97.19(d)(1).

    Note that you can pay online by credit card either at the time of filing, or later. If you filed online, you may want to delay paying for a couple Federal workdays days to verify that your application has been entered correctly (see the following step), and if you are applying for a popular callsign, in order to view any competition for your chosen callsigns. The FCC license (not application) fee is:

    As of 2015-09-08 $0.00
    As of 2014-09-11 $21.40
    As of 2013-08-23 $16.10
    As of 2012-09-04 $15.00
    As of 2011-09-09 $14.20
    As of 2010-08-17 $13.30
    As of 2009-09-10 $13.40
    As of 2008-09-25 $12.30
    As of 2007-09-17 $11.70
    As of 2006-09-06 $20.80
    As of 2005-09-08 $21.90
    As of 2004-08-10 $20.80
    As of 2003-09-09 $16.30
    As of 2002-09-09 $14.50
    As of 2001-09-10 $12.00
    As of 1999-09-10 $14.00
    As of 1998-09-14 $13.00
    As of 1997-09-16 $50.00
    As of 1996-05-31 $30.00
  6. Wait until a Federal workday has passed, and then use the FCC's FCC Universal Licensing System to check on the status of your application: Search for your present callsign; any pending applications from you are shown there. Once your application shows up (typically on the day after the receipt date), verify that it appears correct.

  7. If you have applied for a callsign that you need to cancel because the previous holder has been deceased for more than two years, NOW is normally the time to fax or otherwise send the FCC the notice of death (see Silent Key Callsign Harvesting). Note that the FCC must RECEIVE AND PROCESS your notice BEFORE your application is processed. If it appears that the FCC will not process your notice before the FCC "batches" your application (see below), you may want to amend your application (e.g., add another vanity callsign to your list) using the FCC Universal Licensing System; this will reset the "receipt date" to the date of the amendment.
  8. If you filed your application online but did not pay for your application at the time of filing, now is the time to pay. You must pay the FCC within 10 calendar days of the receipt date of your application (see below). Use the FCC secure payment site secure payment site.

  9. Valid applications are normally processed on the following schedule:

    1. Applications are considered "received" on the first Federal workday on or after the day the FCC (or their bank, if you file a paper application with a payment) actually receives them (for online applications, up until 23:59 ET). This means that applications filed on a Federal holiday or weekend are considered to be filed on the next Federal workday.
    2. The FCC waits 10 calendar days to receive everyone's payments. During this time, the FCC enters into their computer all paper applications (some forwarded by the FCC's bank).
    3. The FCC waits seven more calendar days (presumably for everyone's payments to clear the bank, if necessary). Even if you immediately pay online and there are no other applicants, the FCC still waits a total of 17 days.
    4. On the first Federal workday after 17 days beyond the receipt date, the FCC batches for its nightly processing, all vanity applications with that same receipt date.
    5. Early the next morning, between 00:00 & 02:00 ET, that batch of vanity applications with that same receipt date are processed. Duplicate applications are dismissed, and the remaining applications are then processed in a random order (without regard to content, the order or time of day that the application was received, or any other factor). Successful applications are immediately recorded with the current date as the date of license grant. At this point (around 02:00 ET) you can verify in the FCC Universal Licensing System if your application has been granted, and if so, immediately start using your new callsign. Your new license grant will usually show up here within minutes of being granted. Note that it will not show up in most other non-FCC databases until at least the FOLLOWING day.
    6. Note that FCC no longer automatically prints and mails a copy of your license to you, because your true license is legally the data in the ULS (see FCC rules, US Title 47 CFR §97.5(a) & US Title 47 CFR §97.7(a)).

    This table summarizes the above (assuming no Federal holidays):

    Submitted on: Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    Receipt date: Mon Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Mon
    (wait 17+ days)
    Batch date: Thu Thu Fri Mon Mon Mon Thu
    Process date: Fri Fri Sat Tue Tue Tue Fri
    Days of delay: 19 18 18 20 19 18 20

  10. If your application is rejected, you can apply for a refund of the vanity license fee. See the following FCC web pages:

    Send a written request including the following information:

    • Applicant name & address.
    • "Taxpayer Identification Number" (TIN, also known as your Social Security Number).
    • "FCC Registration Number" (FRN).
    • "ULS File Number" for your application. You can find this on the FCC Universal Licensing System (search for your current license, and then click on the "Admin" tab and note the ULS file number for your application). The ULS file number is also on the Form 159 which you filed with your payment (you DID print and keep a copy, didn't you?).
    • Indicate the "Radio Service" (e.g., "Amateur Radio/Vanity").
    • Your present callsign.
    • Check number (if applicable) or method of payment.
    • Date application was filed.
    • Date refund request was filed (when checking status).

    Use one of the following methods of communication:

    U.S. Postal Mail Facsimile (FAX) Electronic mail
    Federal Communications Commission
    Wireless Telecommunications Bureau
    1270 Fairfield Rd.
    Gettysburg, PA 17325-7245
    717-338-2850 ulshelp@fcc.gov

    Expect a two to three month delay in receiving your refund.

For further help, or if you have any problems or suggestions, please use the AE7Q  message board.



If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please use the AE7Q message board. I've spent a considerable amount of time documenting the vanity application process and publicly answering very common questions, so that I don't have to repeatedly answer them.
Private messages on these topics will be rebuffed.

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