It was a lot more difficult than I’d expected, but I finally received official approval from the ARRL’s DXCC desk for my TI7/K2DBK operation earlier this year. I’ve been holding off writing about it until I had resolution, one way or another, hence the delay in writing this.The issue had to do with the licensing authority in Costa Rica. Here’s the story as I understand it.
A couple of years ago, the organization responsible for issuing all radio licenses in Costa Rica was reorganized. That organization, SUTEL, apparently revised the laws regarding all radio services in Costa Rica, but somehow they neglected to revise the rules pertaining to amateur radio. In fact, they didn’t include rules about amateur radio at all after the rules revision. As a result, they had no way to issue or renew any amateur licenses, regardless of whether those licenses were for residents of Costa Rica or for visitors. As I understand it, this was an oversight, not an intentional removal of the amateur service from Costa Rica. Previously, for a US amateur to operate from Costa Rica, you’d have to fill out some forms and pay a nominal fee at the SUTEL offices in the capital city of San José and you’d walk out with your license. Unfortunately, after the laws were revised, there simply wasn’t a way to get a license.
I didn’t know any of this earlier this year when I decided to operate from Costa Rica. My concern was that you had to physically go to the SUTEL office in San Jose to get your license.
The location where we stay in Costa Rica is in the northwest portion of the country near the city of Liberia, and it’s a pretty significant drive to San Jose. (The green marker is where I was staying, the blue is San Jose.) Although Costa Rica isn’t a very large country, a multi-hour drive through a country where I didn’t speak the language (and where were weren’t planning to rent a car) just didn’t seem very appealing. What I thought I would do is to post to a couple of the DX lists to ask if perhaps there was a way to get a license online, or perhaps to see if there was someone in Costa Rica who could do the paperwork for me in advance, and mail it to me either at home or where we were staying. I got back multiple responses, both from US hams who’d recently operated from there as well as a couple of hams who live in Costa Rica, all of whom told me about the situation with SUTEL.
Among those responses were a couple that said that based on conversations between the ARRL and the Radio Club de Costa Rica there was a working agreement in place so that for amateurs from countries that had reciprocal operating agreements in place with Costa Rica (the US does), that as long as the visiting amateur is in the country legally (a copy of a passport stamp can be used to prove this) and they held an appropriate US license (I hold an Amateur Extra class license). they can operate legally from Costa Rica. The only other requirement is to use the appropriate regional prefix, which for my operation was TI7, indicating the Guanacaste region. Based on that, I operated as I’ve previously described, and assumed that I’d have no trouble having my operation officially approved for DXCC credit (for others, of course) and getting a Logbook of The World certificate, necessary to upload my QSOs to that system. As I said, it turned out to be a bit more of a challenge than I’d expected.
To be continued…