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Can A Felon Get A Ham Radio License?

Can A Felon Get A Ham Radio License

Those that run ham radios view them as more than just a hobby. They are often useful during emergencies. They enable communication when other options are down.

It takes some research to fully fathom this radio skill. Until recently, it was also a must to learn Morse code.

Anyone can have a ham radio and listen to it. But to broadcast requires a license.

Those with criminal records may want to take up this interest. But can a felon get a ham radio license?

It can be a great social activity to engage in. There are many enthusiasts from around the world. Likewise, from outer space. People may also just want to be of help in times of crisis.

Whatever the drive behind it, those that are felons should know if allowed. Any action they take that is illegal may result in re-arrest. Even if done in ignorance.

Let’s begin by defining what ham radios are used for.

What Is a Ham Radio?

It is also called amateur radio. A ham radio provides access to a specific radio frequency spectrum. This spectrum is used for various uses such as:

As said, just about anyone can access these frequencies and listen to messages. But to broadcast requires one to have a license.

In the U.S., licenses are issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). This is a federal authority.

So what is the licensing process?

How to Get a Ham Radio License?

Three levels of ham radio licenses exist. They include:

1 Technician Class – This basic license allows users to transmit up to 200 miles.

2 General Class – Grants access to high frequency (HF) radio bands. Requires the applicant to already have a Technician Class license.

3 Amateur Extra Class – This is the peak level of license that grants extra privileges on certain HF radio bands.

Firstly, to be granted any of these licenses, a person must undergo testing. The exams are not organized by the FCC. Even though they are the only licensing body.

can felon get a ham radio license

Plus, it is advisable to undertake some training before the exam. You can study online or attend classes.

Exams are administered by volunteer examiners. These can be previously licensed radio operators. There must be at least three volunteer examiners.

Contact the American Radio Relay League to find out how to arrange for a test. You will be need to pay a small fee to sit the test.

You may sit the Technician and General license tests on the same day. However, if you opt to sit the General license test another day, that will attract extra fees.

Secondly, besides passing this exam, applicants must submit completed paperwork. This is forwarded to the FCC.  Amongst the documents is Form 605.

Mainly, Form 605 is of concern to felons as it does ask about any felony convictions. This query was added in 2017. It must be answered by all candidates applying for amateur radio licenses.

It is not just when taking exams that candidates should answer this query.

This should also be answered when:

1 Renewing a license

2 Changing call-sign

3 Changing their name

4 Updating their address or other contact info

The FCC has its ways of how to find out if someone is a felon. Always answer truthfully.

Can A Felon Get a Ham Radio License?

Just because a felony question is asked does not disqualify them. Many felons have confirmed having got this license.

Those that answer yes to this query are allowed to take the license tests. However, they need to wait a while longer to have their application evaluated by the FCC.

The FCC gives applicants that answer “yes” 14 calendar days to provide details about this offense. It is vital to be detailed in this response. It will be used to decide if an applicant has the character to own a commission licensee.

can felon get ham radio license

Some key details to include are:

  • The place and time of the offense
  • Date of conviction
  • Plea taken
  • Penalties imposed, and if completed
  • Any rehabilitation or other effort to remedy the wrongdoing

This account is a separate document sent after the application has been submitted. Volunteer examiners are only to have the applicants answer the felony question. All other clarifying responses are sent directly to the FCC.

What’s more, your responses can be shown online. If you prefer it is kept private, ensure you request confidentiality. Include this request with your other explanatory submissions.

The query must always be answered. Be it for new applicants, modifications, renewals, or changes.

Also, the felony should also be divulged even if there is a pardon or sealing of records. Only overturned convictions may be excluded.

Moreover, always answer honestly. Giving false data to a federal agency can be considered fraud. This can lead to criminal charges and prosecution.

Do not worry about what shows up on a background check. At the federal level, they will find it all out.

The FCC will consider each application and supporting submissions. They will either grant the license or have the application designated for a hearing.


Getting a ham radio license is achievable for many felons. As long as you can prove it is in the public’s interest. And given your past misconduct.

This can be a handy hobby to take up. It has the potential to help you connect with interesting people from far away. It can also help people in times of emergencies.

However, having a felony can be a barrier. Chances are if you make a good case you will get approved. But many testimonials confirm this can take a while.

Many felon applicants have had to wait several months for approval. You will need to be patient and hope for the best.

If all else fails, consider other possible hobbies. Look up can a felon go on a cruise or check out other travel options. Domestically or overseas.

Consider learning new skills you can add to your resume or volunteer. All these activities can also be of value to you and others.

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