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How are Amateur Radio operators “authorized” in Canada?

Amateur Radio in Canada is regulated by a federal government department called Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED; formerly Industry Canada). 

The first level of authorization is the Amateur Radio Operator Certificate with the Basic Qualification. Passing (70%) a multiple choice exam of 100 questions will provide you with your own call sign and allow you to operate on all Amateur Radio frequencies above 30 MHz. These are most often used for relatively short-range radio to radio communications that can be extended to greater distances using “repeaters” operated by other Radio Amateurs.

The next level of authorization allows Radio Amateurs to use all of the Amateur frequency bands including those allowing direct communications with other Radio Amateurs over much greater distances.

There are two ways to achieve these greater operating privileges: by passing the Basic exam and also by demonstrating the ability to send and receive Morse Code at 5 words per minute or by scoring a higher mark on the Basic exam. The “Basic with Honours” qualification is awarded to persons who get 80% or higher on the 100-question, multiple choice exam. Today the majority of candidates who pass the Basic exam achieve Honours and are able to use all Amateur Radio bands immediately.

The Advanced Qualification added to your Basic Qualification will allow you build and operate your own transmitting equipment, sponsor a club station, run higher power and operate your own repeater station. To earn this qualification requires passing a 50-question multiple choice examination on radio theory.

The examinations may be taken in any order but station operating privileges require a Basic Qualification. Candidates for the examination for Basic, Morse Code or Advanced qualifications are examined by an accredited examiner.

Accredited Examiner Search

The following information has been provided by the department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) and can be found at:

Amateur Certification — Fact Sheet – Spectrum management and telecommunications

Amateur Certification — Fact Sheet


Traditionally, Amateur Radio operators were issued two separate authorizations; an Amateur Radio Operator Certificate and a radio station licence. The Amateur Radio Operator Certificate was issued for life and had no fee associated with it, while the radio station licence was issued on a yearly basis and a licence renewal fee was charged.

Effective April 1, 2000, Industry Canada – now Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) – combined these documents into one authorization, the Amateur Radio Operator Certificate. This certificate is the sole authorization required to operate Amateur Radio apparatus in the Amateur Radio service.

Although it is no longer necessary for Amateurs to renew their licence annually, they are required to inform ISED of any changes in their mailing address.

How to Obtain an Amateur Radio Operator Certificate

All administrative activities for Amateur Radio, e.g. the issuance of Amateur Radio Operator Certificates and call signs, changes of mailing address and requests for special event or special prefix call signs, are carried out from a central location: the Amateur Radio Service Centre.

If you are the holder of an Amateur Radio Operator Certificate issued before April 1, 2000, you may obtain a new certificate with a call sign by completing an application form at:

If you are not currently an Amateur Radio operator but wish to become one, please consult the Radiocommunication Information Circular 3 (RIC-3)Information on the Amateur Radio Service.

Certificate Examinations

There are two means by which an individual may obtain the Amateur Radio Operator Certificate with Basic, Morse code, and Advanced Qualifications.  They may:

  1. be examined by an Accredited Examiner; or
  2. be examined at the local district office of ISED.

Accredited Examiners

Accredited Examiners are available in many areas throughout Canada to provide both Morse code and written examinations on behalf of Industry Canada. They may be contacted through Amateur Radio clubs, technical schools or the Amateur Radio Service Centre.

Information regarding the Accredited Examiner program can be found in the Radiocommunication Information Circular 1 (RIC-1)Guide for Examiners Accredited to Conduct Examinations for the Amateur Radio Operator Certificate.

How to Obtain a Call Sign

Complete the Application and Report for Amateur Radio Operator Certificate and Call Sign, which is available from the Amateur Radio Service Centre.

Please note that a call sign in the Amateur Service can only be issued to a person who holds an Amateur Radio Operator Certificate with Basic Qualification.

When completing the section, “Personal Choice of Call sign”, please consult the Amateur Radio Operator Certificate Services website to confirm what call signs are available. This will increase the chances of your being assigned the call sign of your choice. If you do not indicate your choice of call sign, or if none of your three choices are available, you will be automatically issued the next available call sign.

Available Call Sign Search

The call sign will be issued using a prefix based on where the applicant resides. Prefixes currently used for assignment are in accordance with the following table: 

VE1 VA1Nova Scotia
VE2 VA2Quebec
VE3 VA3Ontario
VE4 VA4Manitoba
VE5 VA5Saskatchewan
VE6 VA6Alberta
VE7 VA7British Columbia
VE8Northwest Territories
VE9New Brunswick
VE0*International Waters
VY1Yukon Territory
VY2Prince Edward Island
VY0Nunavut Territory

*VE0 call signs are only intended for use when the Amateur Radio station is operated from vessels that make international voyages.

The application must be sent by mail, fax or email to the Amateur Radio Service Centre.

For detailed information on the Call Sign Policy and Special Event Prefixes, please refer to RIC-9.


A fee is not required for the issuance of an Amateur Radio Operator Certificate in accordance with the following:

  • to issue an initial station call sign and Amateur Radio Operator Certificate with Basic Qualification;
  • to issue a replacement certificate due to loss or damage;
  • to issue a replacement certificate with a new call sign, due to a change in address to a new province or territory; and
  • to issue a replacement certificate as a result of obtaining an additional qualification such as Morse code, or Advanced.

A fee of $60 is required for the issuance of an Amateur Radio Operator Certificate in accordance with the following: 

  • to change an existing call sign (including changing to a two letter call sign);
  • to issue a call sign to the station of a club or other organization;
  • to issue an Amateur Radio operator an additional station call sign; and
  • to issue a special event or special prefix station call sign.

How to Operate your Amateur Radio Station

Please refer to the Regulation by Reference (RBR-4)Standards for the Operation of Radio Stations in the Amateur Radio Service.

International Agreements

The Radiocommunication Information Circular 3 (RIC-3)Information on the Amateur Radio Service, provides information on various international agreements and arrangements related to amateur radio operation.

Canada has negotiated a number of reciprocal operating agreements that allow Canadian Amateurs to operate their stations while temporarily visiting other countries, and also allow foreign visitors to operate in Canada on a reciprocal basis.

Amateur Radio Service Centre Contact Information

For additional information, please contact the Amateur Radio Service Centre: 

Amateur Radio Service Centre
2 Queen Street East
Sault Ste. Marie, ON
P6A 1Y3

email address:  
Telephone: 1-888-780-3333 (Toll free)
Fax number: 1-705-941-4607

Helpful Links

Here are some helpful links which have some additional information you need to get started in Amateur Radio:

Amateur Radio Operator Certificates Frequently Asked Questions

Amateur Certification – Fact Sheet

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