One Ham's Experience Obtaining A Reciprocal Permit in Costa Rica

A little over a year ago, the new primary Costa Rica government agency in charge of telecommunications regulation, SUTEL, came out with regulations of a sort for Costa Rican hams and foreigners wishing to operate from TI-Land. I gave an overview of those new ham regulations plus links to the manual (in Spanish) and the required forms to fill out (also in Spanish) in a previous posting.


Costa Rica SUTEL hands controlling marionette stringsThe first of several hams to contact me for assistance in obtaining a permit was Brian, VE3BWP. Besides trying to understand who to contact and how to fill out the forms (Brian doesn't speak Spanish), the main problem was that the regs say you must appear in person in San José and Brian's itinerary put them nowhere near the capital.


Remarkably, they accomodated his situation such that his operating permit was waiting for him at his hotel in Guanacaste! Below I've summarized the process that Brian went through and include email addresses of key contacts so perhaps the next ham wanting to obtain a permit will have an easier time of it.

Brian began his adventure with an email to radioaficionados@sutel.go.cr, which explained that he was unable to travel to San José to obtain a reciprocal permit during his short stay. Note that since Brian does not speak or write Spanish that throughout he used Google Translate to translate messages back and forth.


Via email, they requested a copy of his radio license and passport plus his destination and travel dates. They then sent him a form to fill out that gives details of the equipment that he was bringing including the bands and power levels he planned to use. That form is Appendix 1 of the official Costa Rica ham manual.
During this stage of the process, it seems the person in charge is Daniel Castro González, an electronic and telecommunications engineer. His email and phone number are: daniel.castro@sutel.go.cr
+506-4000-0032


You are warned not to expect quick responses to email, which means you have to poll every few days to see how things are progressing. 


Eventually, Sr. Castro informed Brian that SUTEL had approved his application, but further permission was required by the Viceministerio de Telecomunicaciones in MICITT. In Costa Rica, one-stop shopping in any government agency is not the norm unfortunately.


Sr. Castro handed off the SUTEL approval to MICITT (Gerencia de Concesiones y Permisos del Viceministerio de Telecomunicaciones) to Edwin Estrada (edwin.estrada@micit.go.cr) (506)2211-1200). The final approval email, however, came from Hubert Quirós Abarca, Gerencia de Normas y Procedimientos within MICITT. His number is +506 2211-1256. 
The final permit was emailed to Brian on the day he arrived at his hotel. He has no idea if that is SOP or a coincidence, so plan on having email access when you arrive.

Even if you are armed with the information and contact information above, expect this entire process to take several months! Expect no one to speak English (or any other language than Spanish). 

Brian tells me that it took him seven months from start to finish and that he never got a reply unless he sent them a reminder email. Yes, it's ridiculous, but I'd advise you based on personal experience that whining about it to anyone in the government is likely only to make things move even more slowly. 

For better or worse, Ticos tend to avoid confrontation in daily life, so acting like a pushy New Yorker is going to get you nowhere and may result in a "lost" file.

Note, as I outlined in my first post about these new regulations that the regs here require that you keep a bound, sequentially numbered logbook containing the following information:
a. Date and hour in which he establishes the contact.
b. Used band.
c. Station correspondent.
d. Type of emission used.
e. Report of sign “ RS or RST ”. - See more at: http://cloud-warmer.blogspot.com/2013/02/costa-rica-once-again-has-ham-radio.html#sthash.oFa6EXcM.dpuf
  • Date and hour of contact
  • Band and frequency
  • Name of contact
  • Type of emissionRS/RST report
I have strong doubts that anyone will request to see this logbook, by the way.
a. Date and hour in which he establishes the contact.
b. Used band.
c. Station correspondent.
d. Type of emission used.
e. Report of sign “ RS or RST ”. - See more at: http://cloud-warmer.blogspot.com/2013/02/costa-rica-once-again-has-ham-radio.html#sthash.oFa6EXcM.dpuf


a. Date and hour in which he establishes the contact.
b. Used band.
c. Station correspondent.
d. Type of emission used.
e. Report of sign “ RS or RST ”. - See more at: http://cloud-warmer.blogspot.com/2013/02/costa-rica-once-again-has-ham-radio.html#sthash.oFa6EXcM.dpuf
Brian did keep the Canadian Consulate up to speed on what he was trying to accomplish along the way by copying them on all emails to/from SUTEL and MICITT, which is not a bad idea, though no intervention by them was required. He also told me that his operation on the hotel's beach generated a great deal of curiosity from locals who wondered if he was a spy. He couldn't tell if they were joking or not!

Brian also suggests that you bring a hardcopy of your MICITT permission and your ham license with you. Another great idea is to bring a Spanish summary of what ham radio is for onlookers. Ham radio is nearly non-existent in this country, so most people have no idea what it is. Hence, the wild speculation that you are engaged in espionage. HIHI.


Good luck and vy 73!

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Thanks very much for your comment! 73, Casey

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