Operating Amateur Radio Overseas

This page was created following a request for information from one UK-based Essex Ham member:

“I’m off to the US on a business trip tomorrow. I have my radio packed and full license printed, but I’m trying to find concrete proof that I can operation in the US.”

The answer is “yes”, and we’ll explain why.

Out first port of call to double-check was the RSGB’s Operating Abroad page, which did contain some useful information, but not a concrete answer. This page will hopefully fill in some of the gaps:

Operating under CEPT

CEPT is a European organisation dealing with telecommunications. They are responsible for the document that allows UK amateurs to operate overseas – This is called “CEPT Recommendation T/R 61-01

The UK is a member of CEPT, as are quite a number of European countries. T/R 61-01 allows a full licence holder to operate in a CEPT country, subject to conditions. You can find a list of CEPT countries in the PDF here: CEPT Recommendation T/R 61-01

CEPT Operating Rules

  • CEPT TR 61-01 allows for temporary use whilst visiting (typically a maximum of 3 months).
  • You must have a copy of your UK licence (bearing the CEPT logo) with you when operating
  • You must adhere to the licence conditions (power, band plan, etc) of the country you’re visiting
  • You must start your callsign with the country prefix listed in the CEPT document – So, operating in France, you would call as “F stroke M0QQQ”

Operating in the US

Ahh – But the US is not a CEPT country!

Some countries, outside CEPT, have agreed to the T/R 61-01 conditions, in the interest of harmony with other radio amateurs. The following note is found in the Ofcom Guidance for Licencees PDF:

“Some countries that are not members of CEPT have also agreed to apply Recommendation T/R 61-01. All of the countries that have agreed to apply Recommendation T/R 61-01 (whether or not they are members of CEPT) are listed on the CEPT website.”

The CEPT site can be found here: CEPT website – This is a list of countries, and the page also contains a PDF of CEPT T/R 61-01

Confirmation from the US ARRL

The US equivalent of the RSGB, the ARRL, gives some solid guidance on their Foreign Licenses operating in the US page:

“Foreign amateurs who wish to operate in the US and are not US licensees or citizens may do so in one of three ways:”

Holders of a UK Full licence are covered under the first point:

“If the country of which you are a citizen and an amateur licensee has entered into a multilateral operating agreement with the US, CEPT or IARP, no additional permit is required – simply bring your CEPT or IARP documentation when you visit the US. Identify your station by the US call district identifier, such as W3/G1ABC. Use “W” and the number of the FCC call letter district in which you are operating followed by a slash and your home call sign (plus any other CEPT or IARP requirements). Amateurs must be a citizen of the country in which they are licensed. Check these links for a list of the US call districts shown graphically or for a text listing. And make sure to check the current information with the FCC. This is intended for short visits.”


Permanent Overseas Licence

We’ve been asked by a resident in Spain how they can get a UK licence to use in Spain.

The only way to operate overseas on a UK licence is to get a Full UK licence. This requires you to pass the Foundation, Intermediate and Full exams (in that order). The Foundation & Intermediate exams include practical sessions. There are options to do all 3 exams in one day, notably at the annual RSGB conference, otherwise, it’s a case of using local UK clubs to do the practicals and take the exams.

Once all three are passed, you’re issued with a Full UK licence. A UK Full licence holder can then operate temporarily whilst visiting overseas in CEPT countries, or if the country is a CEPT member, you can apply for a reciprocal licence using something called a UK HAREC (Harmonised Amateur Radio Examination Certificate). The HAREC proves that the person has completed the required exams to qualify for a licence in other CEPT countries. The UK Full licence includes a HAREC by default. You’d use a UK HAREC to ask the overseas regulator to issue you with a licence.


Other Guidance

  • Citizenship: We’ve read that it’s advisable to carry proof that you are a citizen of the country from which you got your licence. A passport would do nicely.
  • Customs: The RSGB site notes: “There is usually little problem with customs. It certainly helps to be able to show that the equipment was purchased abroad and is not being exported. Unfortunately, neither a reciprocal licence nor operation under CEPT regulations is deemed an exemption from customs formalities.”
  • Bands Plans & Licence Conditions: See www.iaru.org/member-societies.html for a list of bodies in each country – Copies of paperwork can be obtained from the national society in the target country


Hopefully, that helps. Any comments or suggestions, please add them below.


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