A Summary of Restructuring Upgrade Possibilities
We emphasize that no one will lose any current Amateur Radio privileges as a result of the FCC's "restructuring" order of December 30, 1999. There is no need to upgrade if you are happy with your current privileges, and no one's license class will be "downgraded" if that individual chooses not to upgrade now or later. Also note that there are no automatic upgrades. All who claim prior test element credit (eg, with a Certificate of Successful Completion of Examination or CSCE) must present their credit(s) to a VE team at an exam session and pay the appropriate processing/application fee, if required.
Below is a summary of some of the upgrading possibilities afforded by the FCC's Report and Order of December 30, 1999.
Upgrading to Amateur Extra Class Withhout 13 or 20 WPM Morse Code Testing
- Advanced: With no further code testing, to be ready to upgrade to Extra on/after April 15, you must pass Element 4B now and present your Element 4B credit to a VE team on/after April 15. Or, take Element 4 on/after April 15.
- General: With no further code testing, to be ready to upgrade to Extra on/after April 15 you must pass Elements 4A and 4B now, thus getting your Advanced upgrade before April 15. Then, take your Advanced upgrade and your Element 4B credit to a VE session on/after April 15. You also can take both Element 4A and 4B credit to a VE session on/after April 15. You also may pass Element 4 after April 15 (Element 4A cannot be bypassed; if Element 4B is not passed in this scenario before April 15, on/after April 15 the Element 4A credit previously earned would have no value toward any future upgrade under the new system).
- Technician Plus or Technician with 5 WPM or higher Morse code credit: To be ready to upgrade to Extra on/after April 15 with no further code testing you must pass Elements 3B, 4A and 4B before April 15, then take this credit to a VE session on/after April 15. Or, you must pass Elements 3 and 4 on/after April 15. (Technicians able to document passing the Technician/General written examination before March 21, 1987, can present this proof as credit for Element 3B before April 15, or as credit for Element 3 on/after April 15).
- Technician (no Morse code credit): To be ready to upgrade to Extra on/after April 15 you must pass Element 1A, the 5 WPM Morse code test, and you must pass Elements 3B, 4A and 4B before April 15, then take this credit to a VE session on/after April 15. Or, you must pass Elements 1 (the 5 WPM Morse code test), 3 and 4 on/after April 15, to qualify under the new system.
- Novice: To be ready to upgrade to Extra on/after April 15, you must pass Elements 3A, 3B, 4A and 4B before April 15, then take this credit to a VE session on/after April 15. Or, you must pass Elements 2, 3 and 4 on/after April 15.
Other Upgrade Examples
- Technician Plus or Technician with 5 WPM or higher Morse code credit desiring to upgrade to General: With no further code testing, you must pass Element 3B before April 15, then take this credit to a VE session on/after April 15. Or, you must pass Elements 3 on/after April 15. Grandfather credit is also acceptable, per above.
- Technician desiring to gain Novice/Tech HF privileges: You may pass the 5 WPM code test at any time, before or after April 15, 2000.
- Novice desiring to upgrade to General: You must pass Elements 3A and 3B before April 15, then take this credit to a VE session on/after April 15. Or, you must pass Elements 2 and 3 on/after April 15.
- Novice desiring to upgrade to Technician with HF privileges: You must pass Element 3A before April 15, or pass Element 2 on/after April 15.
Frequently Asked Questions about Amateur Radio Restructuring
No! All current license classes and privileges will remain the same, and all licensees will be able to renew their licenses indefinitely. (The sole exception is for those who obtained a Technician license or exam credit prior to March 21, 1987--see question 4, below.) The primary difference is that the FCC will stop issuing new Novice and Advanced class licenses after April 15, 2000. Beyond that, current Technician and Technician Plus licensees will be lumped into a single Technician licensee FCC database. When renewed, current Technician Plus licenses will be stamped simply "Technician." Technicians who have passed Element 1, the 5 WPM Morse code examination, will enjoy current Tech Plus HF privileges, but the burden of proof of having passed Element 1 (5 WPM or any higher Morse code element) will be on the licensee. The current "no-code" Technician license will continue to be available after the new rules go into effect, however. It will continue to offer the present VHF/UHF privileges.
I currently hold a Tech Plus license. Can I take the current General class written examination (Element 3B) right now, then apply for an upgrade to General after April 15, 2000? I'm a little confused on this point.
Yes. The FCC has told the League that current Tech Plus licensees holding a Certificate of Successful Completion of Examination (CSCE) for Element 3B on April 15, 2000, may apply for a General class upgrade. The present Element 3B examination has 30 questions; the new Element 3 test will have 35, so the advantage to test before April 15, 2000, is slight. CSCE holders must attend a Volunteer Examiner session, complete Form 605, attach a valid CSCE, and pay the required application fee ($6.65 for the ARRL-VEC), if the VEC you use charges a fee. To be valid on April 15, 2000, your CSCE will have to be dated on or after April 17, 1999. A CSCE is only good for 365 days.
Yes. The FCC has told the League that current Advanced licensees holding a CSCE for Element 4B on April 15, 2000, may apply for an Amateur Extra class upgrade. See question 2, above. The advantage here is that the current Advanced licensee will face a slightly shorter 40-question examination under the current licensing regime to get a CSCE for the current Element 4B. The new Extra class Element 4 will contain 50 questions (and is expected to contain many of the present Advanced class question pool technical questions). To be valid on April 15, 2000, your CSCE will have to be dated on or after April 17, 1999. A CSCE is only good for 365 days
I got my Technician license under the old system prior to March 21, 1987, and I now hold a Tech Plus license as a result. I understand that I'm now eligible to upgrade to General without having to take an additional examination. Is this correct?
Yes. Holders of a pre-March 21, 1987, Technician class license or CSCE who now hold at least a Technician license may claim credit for a new General class license after April 15, 2000, without additional testing. This is because under the old system, the written examination for Technician and General class was identical; the only difference was that Technicians had to pass a 5 WPM Morse code test, while Generals had to pass a 13 WPM Morse code test. The upgrade is not automatic, however. You will have to apply through a Volunteer Examiner test session, complete Form 605, attach documentary proof of having completed the requirements for a Technician license prior to March 21, 1987, and pay an application fee, if any, to the VEC involved. Additional information and clarification: There has been some confusion and misinformation about what pre-1987 Technicians need to qualify for a General class license starting April 15, 2000. General applicants must present valid credit for Elements 1, 2, and 3 at a volunteer examiner session. Those who held a Technician license, now expired or otherwise, prior to March 21, 1987, may claim Element 1 (5 WPM Morse code) and new Element 3 (current Element 3B, General exam) credit. Those who held a Technician license, now expired or otherwise, prior to February 14, 1991, may claim only Element 1 credit, as may anyone who has ever held a Novice ticket. The FCC rules provide Element 2 credit only for individuals who are currently licensed (or within the two-year grace period for renewal) at least at the Technician level. This means that before applying for a General license, a former amateur licensed as a Technician prior to March 21, 1987, and no longer licensed or within the two-year grace period for renewal, also must obtain Element 2 credit. To currently qualify for the Technician license (which conveys Element 2 credit) requires passing a 65-question two part exam (Novice and Technician). Starting April 15, Element 2 will be a single 35-question exam.
Obviously, if you have an original or a copy of your Technician license issued anytime prior to March 21, 1987, that would suffice. Other documentary evidence could include an original CSCE for Element 3 issued prior to that date; an FCC verification letter of having held a Technician license prior to March 21, 1987; a document from the FCC's contractor, ITS Inc; or possibly a Callbook listing dated prior to March 21, 1987, indicating your license class as Technician.
The FCC says to send any requests for verification of a pre-March 21, 1987 Technician license in writing to FCC, 1270 Fairfield Rd, ATTN: Amateur Section, Gettysburg, PA 17325. The request must include name, address, telephone number, date of birth, call sign issued at that time, and when the Technician license was granted (if exact date is not known, give the approximate timeframe). The FCC asks those inquiring to include any information that may be helpful in researching these requests, but it does not need to know details of the examination session, such as where the test was administered or who gave it. "These requests must be researched on microfiche, so they will be very time-consuming," an FCC spokesperson said, adding that no one should expect an overnight response. You also may contact ITS Inc. For a fee, ITS will research prior licensing records and should be able to provide you with the necessary documentary proof. ITS recommends calling them at 717-337-1433 to place an order for "verification of a pre-March 21, 1987, amateur license." E-mail requests are not recommended. The verification letter you receive will be on FCC stationery and stamped with the FCC seal. The ITS Web site is http://www.itsdocs.com/.
Absolutely not, although this rumor has been making the rounds on the Internet and on-air discussion groups. You will continue to be an Advanced class licensee and have Advanced class privileges after April 15. Again, no one loses any privileges, and all license classes stay the same.
A session search engine is available on ARRLWeb. Also, feel free to contact local VEs or ask local clubs for information on testing sessions in your area.
I now hold a General class ticket. Since there won't be any more Advanced tickets issued after April 15, can't I just take the current Amateur Extra written examination (Element 4B) and use the CSCE to get my Amateur Extra when the new rules are effective
Nice try, but, the answer is no. If you're going to take your examination before April 15, 2000, you must complete both Element 4A (instant upgrade to Advanced) and Element 4B, then take your CSCE for Element 4B to a VE session on or after April 15 to apply for your Amateur Extra ticket (this means filling out Form 605 and paying the application fee, if any, to the VEC). And yes, in this example, it means you would need to appear at two test sessions. You also could just wait until April 15 and take the single 50-question Extra class written test.
The National Conference of Volunteer Examiner Coordinators Question Pool Committee has released revised Amateur Radio examination question pools into the public domain. The revised questions, covering the new Elements 2, 3 and 4 that become effective April 15, 2000, now are available on ARRLWeb. The QPC expects that the Element 4 question pool will remain valid from April 15, 2000, until June 30, 2002. The Element 2 question pool will be good until June 30, 2003, and the Element 3 question pool will be good until June 30, 2004. The five-digit numbering system used in past question pools continues to be used in the new question pools. Graphics have been integrated, but the revised pools remain a work-in-progress with minor revisions still possible. Current Novice, Technician, Advanced and Amateur Extra graphic sheets remain available and valid. Starting April 15, examinations for Elements 2 and 3 will contain 35 questions; examinations for Element 4 will contain 50 questions. Applicants may continue to use the current Extra Class License Manual, available from the ARRL. New study guides will be developed to reflect the new testing regime. Likewise, those wanting to take Element 3B to upgrade from Tech Plus to General should study the current General Class License Manual, available from the ARRL.
Only if you also pass the 20 WPM Morse code examination. Otherwise, you'll have to apply after April 15, 2000, when the new rules become effective. Remember, your Element 4B CSCE must be dated on or after April 17, 1999, in order to be valid on April 15, 2000. A CSCE is only valid for 365 day
Unfortunately, no. In its comments to the FCC, the ARRL had proposed that the FCC upgrade all holders of Novice and Tech Plus licenses to General class as a one-time action to permit "refarming" current Novice/Tech Plus HF subbands for higher-class licensees. The FCC did not adopt this recommendation in its Report and Order of December 30, 1999, however.