Information for Canadian Amateur Radio Operation in Foreign Countries
George Gorsline, VE3YV
RAC International Affairs Officer
One of the most common questions I receive is: “How do I operate in another country?” While the overall framework for Amateur Radio is part of international treaties and regulations set by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and updated at World Radio Conferences, each country sets its own rules and criteria for Amateur Radio operation within its territory. As a result, there are at least six possible answers to this question depending on where you intend to visit. In all cases, this applies only to temporary operations by visitors, usually limited to three, six or 12 months. Longer stays or permanent residence will likely require obtaining operating credentials in that country. Some general guidelines on operating internationally are provided below.
Start early: check to see what the appropriate process is for the country you intend to visit. The most popular destination for Canadian Amateurs is the United States which requires no paperwork at all. For many countries in Europe and some in Latin America, an international permit, similar to an international driver’s licence is required. Other countries require that you apply directly to their telecommunications regulator for permission to operate. It could take several months to work through their procedures via mail. Or it could be that a brief set of email exchanges is all that’s needed to arrange a visit to the regulator’s offices upon your arrival to present your paperwork, pay a fee, and walk out with your operating permission.
Always have your Canadian Passport and your Amateur Radio Operator Certificate with you as proof that you are a qualified operator. For dual citizens, in most cases you may not operate on a Canadian certificate in your other country of citizenship (e.g., a dual Canada/US citizen may not operate in the US on a Canadian Certificate and vice versa).
Permanent Residents of Canada generally need to be licensed in their country of citizenship and follow the processes for that country to operate outside of Canada.
Canada and the United States have a Reciprocal Operating Agreement, a treaty in effect since 1952. Under this treaty, visiting Amateurs may operate in the host country in accordance with their rules and regulations. No special permits or paperwork are required, although proof of citizenship (passport or enhanced driver’s licence) and your Amateur Certificate should be available should authorities ask to see it. As this treaty pre-dates modern ITU conventions, the prefix is appended to the issued call sign.
Examples: a Canadian Amateur would use VA3RAC/W4 in the US 4th call area. A US Amateur would sign as K8HI/VE3 in Ontario.
The main difference for Canadian Amateurs operating in the US is that, unlike Canada, the US has a mandatory band plan which specifies modes and sub-bands. Canadians in the US must operate in accordance with FCC Part 97 Rules using the appropriate modes within their designated sub-bands. For detailed information see http://www.arrl.org/band-plan.
Most visitors want to operate using VHF or UHF mobile (typically 50 watts or less) or portable using handhelds. All levels of qualification may operate just like at home, identifying as in this example: “VE3YV mobile W3 near Erie PA”. Note that US rules require identification every 10 minutes.
Your operating privileges in the US are the same as those you are authorized for in Canada, but not to exceed the privileges of a US Extra class operator. Therefore, for example, you cannot operate phone in the “foreign phone” sections of HF bands, only on those sub-bands where US Amateurs are authorized to operate. Similarly, US Amateurs operating in Canada must abide by the rules in “RBR-4 – Standards for the Operation of Radio Stations in the Amateur Radio Service”. Specifically, a US Amateur who has a Morse code qualification may operate in accordance with the provisions applicable to the holder of an Amateur Operator’s Certificate with Basic, Morse code (5 wpm) and Advanced Qualifications.
A US Amateur without Morse qualification would operate in accordance with provisions applicable to the Amateur Operator’s Certificate with Basic Qualifications, which can be summarized as no operation below 30 MHz, input limited to 250 watts and commercially built equipment.
CEPT is an organization of European telecommunications authorities which works to harmonize radio regulations though out the European Union (EU). This includes a specific treaty T/R 61-01 which allows Amateurs to operate in other countries.
In addition to most, but not all, European countries, Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Peru, Israel, South Africa, and the Netherlands and its overseas territories have also signed as participants. T/R 61-01 is periodically updated and the latest version is available at: http://www.erodocdb.dk/docs/doc98/official/pdf/TR6101.pdf
Please note that some signatory countries may have further restrictions. For example, Aruba requires an equipment inspection, call sign assignment, and annual fee. Some countries require proof of Morse proficiency for HF operations. In addition to the footnotes in T/R 61-01, check with the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) society or country regulator to be sure.
Amateurs with Advanced qualifications may apply for a CEPT permit, valid for one year. Applicants may apply to RAC, which issues the permits on delegated authority from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), our regulator. Fees for the permit are $20 or just $10 for RAC members. To apply, complete the online application form at: http://wp.rac.ca/operating/cept-permits/
At this time, holders of Basic and Basic with Honours qualifications are not eligible for a CEPT permit.
International Amateur Radio Permit
An International Amateur Radio Permit (IARP) is issued under an agreement of the Inter-American Telecommunication Commission (CITEL). As with CEPT permits, the IARP is valid for one year and applicants may apply to RAC, which issues these under delegated authority from ISED. The booklet-style permit requires a passport-sized photo. Fees are $35 with $10 discount for RAC Members.
IARP participating countries are: Canada, Argentina, Brazil, El Salvador, Panama, Peru, Trinidad & Tobago, United States, Uruguay and Venezuela. Advanced qualifications may be required to operate below 30 MHz.
To apply, complete the online application form at: http://wp.rac.ca/operating/iarp-permits/
Australia and New Zealand
Based on information provided by the Wireless Institute of Australia (WIA) and the New Zealand Amateur Radio Society (NZARTS), Canadian Amateurs may operate for up to 90 days in either country without special permission. For more information visit http://www.wia.org.au/licenses/licensing/visitorlicence/ or http://www.nzart.org.nz/info/visitors.
Canada has bilateral treaties with several countries to recognize each other’s Amateur qualifications. This allows a Canadian Amateur to apply to operate in that country without an examination. Since regulations vary, Amateurs should contact the regulator or the IARU society in the specific country for further information. These countries include: Chile, Haiti, Columbia, Honduras, Iceland, Guatemala, Brazil and Venezuela.
For other countries, contacting the regulator and/or the IARU society is a good place to start. The following web resources may be helpful:
For IARU society contact information: http://www.iaru.org/member-societies.html
For general information: http://www.arrl.org/reciprocal-permit. Note that this is for US Amateurs and some information may not apply to Canadians.
Operations in international waters (those areas outside of national jurisdiction) are controlled by the vessel’s “flag”, the country in which it is registered, and also by the ITU region where the vessel is located. In addition, the ship’s master must give permission for the operation.
Operations in or over the Great Lakes outside Canadian waters are mobile operations as described in the United States summary.
Further information and Updates
Although the information above has been checked for accuracy, changes will occur over time and errors do creep in. If you have any updates, changes or questions, please contact George Gorsline, VE3YV, RAC International Affairs Officer at or use the contact form on the RAC website at http://wp.rac.ca/executives/ addressed to the International Affairs Officer.
Reciprocal Operating Arrangements
(This information was compiled from RIC-3 - Information on the Amateur Radio Service)
Canada has concluded agreements or arrangements with the following countries for reciprocal operating privileges:
Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Bermuda, Bolivia, Botswana, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Japan, Malta, Mexico, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Poland, Saint Lucia, Senegal, Slovenia, Spain, Surinam, Trinidad and Tobago, United States of America*, and Venezuela.
Canadians should contact the responsible administrations well in advance in order to obtain the necessary documentation.
* Canadian citizens holding a Canadian licence may operate in the territory of the US without having to obtain a permit. For more information click here.
Canadians who wish to operate radio apparatus in countries that participate in the CEPT Recommendation T/R 61-01 or that recognize the International Amateur Radio Permit (IARP) can obtain permits from the Radio Amateurs of Canada, Inc. prior to leaving for those countries.
If you would like more information on CEPT and IARP permits for Canadian Amateurs, please click on the links below:
Countries Permitting Third-Party Traffic
Q - I will be visiting a country which does not have a third party radio traffic agreement with Canada, but I will have internet communications with Canada. Can I ask a Canadian Radio Amateur to relay a message for me by radio?
A - Yes, you can. The Canadian Radio Amateur becomes the originating station for the radio traffic and can send it in the normal fashion and in accordance with the regulations. The Canadian Amateur has the right to refuse traffic if he/she is not satisfied that message is suitable for transmission by Amateur Radio or is not satisfied with the identity of the requester.
To facilitate acceptance of your request and possibly a return message, it is recommended that you identify yourself and your location fully when requesting a relay by radio.
Canada has concluded agreements or arrangements with the following countries to permit the transmission by Canadian Amateurs of international communications on behalf of third parties:
Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Israel, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, United States of America, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
Forbidden Countries List
The forbidden countries list was dropped by Industry Canada. (see RIC-3 - Information on the Amateur Radio Service)
Operating Privileges in Canada for Foreign Amateurs
US Amateurs visiting Canada can operate their stations in Canada, using their US call sign with a Canadian call area suffix, under the Canada-US Reciprocal Agreement. Amateurs from CEPT member countries holding CEPT T/R 61-01 licences or permits can operate temporarily in Canada. Foreign Amateurs holding IARP permits can also operate temporarily in Canada. Amateurs of some other countries can apply for temporary authorization to operate in Canada (see list above). Amateurs who are licensed by other administrations participating in the CEPT or IARP programs must apply for the appropriate permit in accordance with the provisions stipulated by their home administrations.
However, Amateurs who establish residence in Canada should apply for a Canadian certificate with Canadian call sign, and must first pass the Canadian certificate examinations for Basic Qualification plus other Qualifications required for the privileges desired. Citizenship of Canada is not required.
Class 1 CEPT
Holders of a Class 1 CEPT licence will be granted the same operating privileges in Canada as Canadians holding Basic, 5 words per minute Morse, and Advanced Certificates.
Class 2 CEPT
Holders of a Class 2 CEPT licence will be granted the same operating privileges in Canada as Canadians holding a Basic and Advanced Certificate.
Class 1 IARP
Holders of a Class 1 IARP will be granted the same operating privileges in Canada as Canadians holding Basic, 5 words per minute Morse, and Advanced Certificates.
Class 2 IARP
Holders of a Class 2 IARP will be granted the same operating privileges in Canada as Canadians holding a Basic and Advanced Certificate.