Joining the Military or Aspiring to Be Promoted? Your Tattoos Could Have an Impact.

Each US military branch has its own appearance policies and tattoo policy that dictates the type, size, and location of allowable tattoos. However, all military tattoo policies are consistent regarding the content of allowed tattoos. Tattoos in the military cannot feature vulgarity, nudity, graphic violence, or any sentiments that could be considered racist, elitist, or anti-government. If the content of a military tattoo is in question, the decision is made by the soldier’s commanding officer.

Below is a brief overview of tattoo policies in the military by branch.

Army Tattoo Policy

The Army tattoo policy was updated and relaxed in 2015 but is still one of the most strict in the military. It prohibits any tattoos on the head, face, neck, wrists, hands, or above the t-shirt collar. Essentially, any visible body tattoos are prohibited. The only exception is one ring tattoo per hand where a regular ring would lie. Leg tattoos must be two inches below or above the knee, and cosmetic Army tattoos must be conservative and are only allowed on women.

US Army Tattoo Policy

Navy Tattoo Policy

The Navy tattoo policy, updated in 2016, is the most lenient in all the branches. Navy tattoos can be anywhere on the body except the head, face, or scalp. The Navy is the only branch that allows tattoos on the hands. Although Navy tattoos can be located anywhere, those located on the torso must not be visible through Navy dress whites.

US Navy Tattoo Policy

Air Force Tattoo Policy

The United States Air Force tattoo policy is almost as lenient as the Navy policy, except it prohibits tattoos on the hands. Those serving in the Air Force can have full sleeves as well as large pieces on their backs and legs and are allowed one single-band ring tattoo on their hand. The Air Force tattoo policy, which was updated in 2017, is the same for enlisted members and officers.

US Air Force Tattoo Policy

Marine Corps Tattoo Policy

The Marine tattoo policy is the strictest in all the armed forces. Marine tattoos must be entirely covered by the standard physical training uniform, and no tattoos may appear on the head, neck, wrists, knees, elbows, or hands, although one ring tattoo under 3/8 of an inch in width is allowed. Visible tattoos must not exceed the size of a Marine’s hand and must end two inches above or below the elbow or knee. Marine tattoos for officers must not exceed four visible tattoos when the Marine is in his or her standard PT uniform.

USMC Tattoo Policy

Coast Guard Tattoo Policy

The Coast Guard tattoo policy states that Coast Guard tattoos on the chest cannot be located more than one inch above the v-neck undershirt in the Tropical Blue uniform. Hand tattoos are limited to one ring tattoo per hand that cannot extend past the first knuckle. This means neck and large upper chest tattoos are not allowed under Coast Guard tattoo rules. Sleeves are permitted under Coast Guard tattoo policy.

US Coast Guard Tattoo Policy

National Guard Tattoo Policy

The US National Guard is an important branch of the United States Armed Forces. The National Guard and Air National Guard are reserve forces, which means that those that serve do so on a part-time basis while also holding civilian jobs. Removery often sees clients who plan to join the National Guard but have tattoos that violate their tattoo policy.

US National Guard Tattoo Policy

CIA Tattoo Policy

There is a misconception that those who want to join the CIA cannot have tattoos. However, unlike tattoos in the military, tattoos on CIA agents or recruits are not regulated.

FBI Tattoo Policy

The FBI requires its agents and other employees to look professional and has high standards for how they present themselves, but there is no official FBI tattoo policy. Speak with a hiring manager before getting a tattoo if you want to join the bureau. Click here for more information on joining the FBI.

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