A Vanity call sign is a special Amateur Radio call sign specifically chosen by a person or club who is currently an Amateur Radio licensee (similar in purpose to Vanity license plates on cars). Vanity call signs usually include alphabetical characters of personal significance (e.g., licensees initials, parts of names, hobbies, etc), or sometimes are simply chosen because they are shorter calls, or sometimes they have double or triple duplicate characters.
A Vanity call sign is a call sign that the licensee wants assigned by the FCC for use in place of an existing call sign (or for an Amateur Radio club, it is a call sign assigned to replace the existing FCC-assigned club license call sign).
Newly licensed individuals and newly licensed clubs cannot get a Vanity call sign as their first call sign. A Vanity call sign can only be obtained in exchange (traded in) for an existing call.
There is a two year waiting period after the cancellation of a call sign before it is available to be applied for as a vanity call sign. However, there are exceptions to this two year waiting period. Please see "FCC Rules" section below.
The first step is probably the most fun, choosing what call sign you’d like to have. Many people choose a call sign with their initials in it. You certainly may have other ideas on what constitutes the right call sign for you. Of course, you must choose a call sign that is not assigned, which you can check by doing a search on the FCC ULS web site.
If you have an FCC radio license, you have an FRN. It was probably assigned to you when your license was first issued. Think of this as your user name for the ULS web site. To find your FRN, search for your call sign on the ULS page.
Next you need to log into the ULS, which will probably be the most difficult part of the process — select the Online Filing login option. You’ll need your FRN and your password for the site. Hopefully, you just found your FRN but you may not have a password assigned yet. If not, you’ll need to follow the Forgot Your Password? instructions on this page.
Once you get into your record on ULS, you should see a blue menu box near the right edge of the page titled “Work on This License.” This menu box includes a Request Vanity Call Sign selection. Continue past the ‘Applicant Questions’ page (answer ‘no’ to each) to the ‘Select Eligibility’ page. Select your category, most commonly Primary station preference list unless you are requesting a vanity call formerly held by you or a close relative. Continue to the next page to provide a list, in order of preference, of vanity call signs you would prefer to be assigned. Continue through the remaining self-explanatory steps of the application process after you have entered your set of preferred call signs.
Follow the FCC instructions on how to pay the $35 application fee.
This should get your application into the FCC for your call sign. It will probably take a few weeks to get action from the FCC, so be patient.