How the Bureau Works
QSL'ing via the Bureau system is not fast but it is economical. It typically takes between 3 months and 5 years for a DX QSL card to arrive at your letter sorter from a DX station. That time is based on the frequency that the DX stations sends cards through the bureau system and the speed of the countries postal system. In our experience DX'pedition cards seem to come the quickest, generally within 2 to 6 months of the end of the DX'pedition. Rare DX locations generally send cards via the Bureau system only 1 time a year or less as they receive a lot of individual requests for cards. There is no way of actually knowing how quickly or slowly a card will arrive through the bureau system as it all depends upon how quickly after the QSO the DX station starts the cards in the Bureau system, BUT once a card starts the minimum amount of time to reach your letter sorter is 3 months.

The Process:

  1. Each month between 4,000 and 25,000 DX QSL cards arrive at the WØQSL bureau directly from DX Bureaus.

  2. As they arrive the first stop is to the Zero Bureau manager who logs the cards in and notes the total cards that each DX Bureau says they have sent.

  3. During each month these incoming DX cards are then given to a pre-sorter who sorts the cards into the 26 letter groups based on the first letter after the Zero in the callsign.

  4. Once completed the stacks of sorted letter groups are given to the individual letter sorters on a monthly basis.

  5. Each letter sorter accumulates cards for 3 months and then sorts the cards by individual callsigns to be either (a) mailed to the individual Ham if they have supplies on hand and sufficient cards to compose an equitable mailing, or (b) held with a notification to the individual Ham if that Ham has no supplies with the sorter to mail the cards. (NOTE: received cards are generally held for at least a year by the individual sorter if there are no supplies on hand to mail the cards. The sorter will attempt to contact the Ham notifying them of cards waiting and the need to order supplies. This is most efficiently done via your QRZ E-mail but sorters also mail post cards requesting supplies to be ordered when necessary.)

  6. You can expect to receive cards in March, June, September & December if you have sufficient cards arriving each quarter. (NOTE: please realize that all of this sorting and mailing and record keeping is completely voluntary and that the Hams that do it also have personal lives and like to get on the air too, so if your mailing come in the beginning of April or near the end of August please understand that the sorters are balancing their sorting duties with all the other components of their lives.)

  7. If, after a year or so a Ham has not responded to requests for supplies it is assumed that they do not want the cards and they are then returned to the Bureau manager who will destroy them.

To give you an idea of what pre-sorting looks like here is Steve, WØSJS, one of the bureau's pre-sorters with a months cards from June of 2009. This stack represents 18,217 DX QSL cards - guess that's why he looks a little pooped, Hi.

Do's

  • Keep supplies on hand with your individual letter sorter by using our Supply Order form. (NOTE: the envelops we supply from your order are 6 x 9 inch envelopes allowing your sorter to put up to 3.5 ounces of cards in the envelope without going over the quarter inch thickness limit.)
  • Please keep your QRZ E-mail address up to date as that is the primary means that your letter sorter will use to contact you about DX cards waiting or the need to order additional supplies.
  • Please notify the bureau of a change in your callsign. (NOTE: Envelopes should be kept on file for each call sign that you expect to receive cards for.)
  • Notify the Bureau of a change of address.
Don'ts
  • Don't send envelopes. We provide them for you.
  • Don't send any money or stamps directly to any sorter.
  • Don't send domestic US to US cards to the bureau.
  • DO NOT SEND YOUR OUTGOING CARDS TO US. Outgoing cards should be sent to Outgoing ARRL Bureau.
  • Do not expect DX cards to arrive for several months or years after the QSO. Overseas delivery is very slow. Many cards coming from overseas bureaus are several years old.
  • Don't send money to your "portable" bureau. For example, NUØX/1 sends SASEs to the W0 bureau, not the W1 bureau.
  • Don't request special services such as monthly mailings or UPS mailings.