License Plate

How-to: Texas Amateur Radio Operator License Plate

This is the process for anyone considering getting his or her Texas Amateur Radio Operator specialty license plate.

Aside from the obvious, meaning your car is registered in the state of Texas and you are, in fact, a licensed Amateur Radio Operator and the registered owner of the vehicle, the process is quite simple – almost trivial – and costs you nothing.

First, you will need to download and complete form VTR-53, available here.

As you will notice the form allows you to get identical Amateur Radio Operator plates on up to three vehicles, with the requirement that the vehicles all 3 need to be registered to the same licensed Amateur Radio Operator.

You will also need a printed copy of your current Amateur Radio Operator license from the FCC. Recently the FCC stopped issuing paper licenses, but through the FCC Universal License website you can log in and download a PDF of your license.

If you currently have so-called “Handicap” license plates on your car, you will need include a copy of form VTR-214 to ensure your specialty plates include the International Symbol of Access. The appropriate form is available here.

Once the form(s) are completed, they need to be submitted to your local Tax Assessor-Collector’s Office, temporary tags and a new registration sticker will be generated on the spot, and within a few weeks you should receive your new specialty license plates in the mail.

There is no fee associated with the plates, but if you already have one (or two) vehicles with Amateur Radio Operator plates you may need to pay the difference to “sync-up” the registration renewal date on the current vehicle to match the renewal date on the other car(s).

Before you elect to get ham radio license plates for your own vehicle(s), consider the pros and cons of having them.

There are several advantages in having radio operator plates on your vehicle:

  • A fun form of specialty plate and the number is easy to remember (your call sign)
  • Helps other hams identify you
  • Opportunity to discuss amateur radio with a curious public
  • Possibly give you more credibility when driving into a disaster area
  • Likely at lower cost than any other form of vanity plate

And some disadvantages:

  • Makes it easier for the public to locate you if they want to, if you are sensitive to this issue (alternative is to give the government a PO box instead of a street address)
  • Negative publicity for ham radio if you are a bad driver
  • Potentially makes vehicle contents more attractive to thieves
  • You need to get new plates if you change your call sign