Amateur Privileges and Bands in Mexico

Mexican flag

Updated 17 September 2004

NOTE:  The following information is taken from the amateur radio regulations documents currently in effect in Mexico, translated into English and summarized.  Although I have taken care to provide this information accurately, this is not an official document.  This is provided only as a convenience for amateur operators who wish to obtain a permit and legally operate in Mexico, but do not wish to read the regulations documents in Spanish. 
In Mexico, there are four amateur license classes (Clase 1, Clase 2, Novato, and Restringido - translated to Class 1, Class 2, Novice, and Restricted).  Here is a summary of the four classes: 

Class 1
Privileges on all amateur bands, 1250 watts on all HF bands plus 50 MHz, 500 watts on 144 MHz and above.  Licenses are valid for 5 years, and are renewable. 

Class 2
Privileges on all amateur bands, 500 watts on all HF bands plus 50 MHz, 200 watts on 144 MHz and above.  Licenses are valid for 5 years, and are renewable. 

Phone privileges on 7.050-7.100 MHz and 144-148 MHz, CW on 7.000-7.050 MHz, 150 watts for CW/SSB, 45 watts for FM.  Licenses are valid for 2 years, and are not renewable. 

Phone privileges on 7.050-7.100 MHz and 144-148 MHz, CW on 7.000-7.050 MHz, 50 watts for AM/SSB, 45 watts for FM.  Licenses are valid for 1 year, and are not renewable. 

In addition to written exams offered for each license class covering regulations and electrical/radio theory, Mexican amateurs are required to pass a 10wpm Morse exam to obtain a Class 1 license or a 7wpm exam to obtain a Class 2 license.  There is no Morse requirement listed in the Mexican amateur regulations requiring Novice or Restricted licensees to pass a Morse exam, even though those license classes provide HF privileges. 

Many foreign amateur operators will receive either Class 1 or Class 2 permits, valid for up to 6 months unless they have permanent residency or some other immigration status in Mexico which could allow a permit to be valid for up to a year or more.  In addition, amateurs from some countries (among them, the USA) will receive permits that specifically forbid operating in contests, as part of a DXpedition in Mexico, or from a Mexican island.  If your intention is to do any of those activities, indicate that on your application when you file it - and wait until you have the permit from Mexico City in hand to ensure those prohibitions are not written into your permit, or to see if specific permission was put into your permit for those operations. 

USA amateurs and classes of Mexican permits
For USA amateurs, here is a "conversion chart" that shows how each class of USA amateur license is treated by the Mexican authorities: 

This information comes directly from Moises G. Ramirez Rodriguez, the Director of License Issuance for CoFeTel in Mexico City.  There was no mention if CoFeTel will allow someone with a Technician license and proof of passing a 5wpm Morse exam to obtain a Class II permit.  A safe assumption for USA amateurs would be to obtain at least a General class license before applying for a Mexican permit.  This ensures you will receive a permit with access to all bands (Class II), even if the power limitations are lower than those with the Mexican Class I permits and licenses and (generally) lower than what you would have in the USA. 
Mexican amateur bands
These are the amateur bands in Mexico: 

Mexican regulations do not specify which modes are allowable in certain bands or sub-bands, but on 3 bands (144, 220, 430 MHz) the regulations specify which frequencies may be used for repeaters and which frequencies may be used for simplex operation.  Satellite operation is permitted, although the regulations indicate that the operator must obtain special permission to use 435-438 MHz for satellite operations.  Do NOT attempt to use repeaters in the 440-450 MHz range when in Mexico.  This portion of the 70cm band used to be available to amateurs, and there may still be amateur repeaters operating in this range in parts of Mexico in addition to repeaters across the USA border, but that portion has officially been transferred from the amateur service. 

Station identification, when in Mexico...
Foreign amateurs operating in Mexico will need to place the proper Mexican prefix before their call, based on location.  Article 36 of the November 1988 regulations states that station identification is to be done either in Spanish or with international phonetics at least every 15 minutes, along with stating your location.  Once you have the XE permit in hand from Mexico City, you must use the callsign as indicated on the permit, regardless of your location in Mexico. 

For example, your permit shows XE2/WW1XYZ and you are in Mexico City - part of the XE1 call area.  You would identify as XE2/WW1XYZ/XE1, and mention your location (Mexico City, or Ciudad de Mexico in Spanish).  With your permit, you may operate from anywhere on the Mexican mainland and the Baja California peninsula, but must obtain special permission before operating from any Mexican island and using the XF prefixes. 

Traveling to Mexico with amateur radio equipment...
Holding a Mexican amateur permit - or license - provides no special privileges when entering Mexico with amateur equipment.  DO NOT BRING EQUIPMENT INTO MEXICO IN THE ORIGINAL PACKAGING!  The original packaging will draw attention to you by a Customs inspector, who may choose to assess an import duty/tax or simply confiscate the equipment.  You may wish to keep a list showing each item along with its model and serial numbers, and other documents like a Customs registration from your home country (or copies of sales receipts for each piece of equipment) to show you own this equipment when going to Mexico.  A Customs registration certificate/document might be useful to make the case that you will be taking those items back with you, if there is any question about your intentions with the equipment. 
WD9EWK/VA7EWK - Mexican (XE) ham-radio permits