Air Force Policy On Tattoos

So you’re thinking about joining the Air Force but you’re so tatted up that you’re not sure if you will be allowed to join. The Air Force policy on tattoos is pretty simple. One rule is that the tattoo cannot take up any more than 1/4 of any exposed body part.  This can be kind of confusing since you might not have a clear definition of what an exposed body part is. Is my arm a body part, is my finger a body part, I mean how vague can you possibly be. Well let me clear this up of you just a little bit.

Here is a list of what is considered a body part.

  • Upper arm (from shoulder to elbow)
  • Lower arm (elbow to finger tips)
  • front torso
  • back
  • upper leg (knee up to waist
  • lower leg (knee down to toes)
  • neck
  • head

 That pretty much covers the body parts, so if you have tattoos on those body parts and they cover more than one quarter of those body parts than you may not be qualified to join the Air Force.


One important thing to remember

Is that if you have ink on some of these body parts you could be disqualifed regardless of how much it covers. If you have ink from  the bottom of your neck up, you cannot join. A rule of thumb is that if you can see your tattoo over your shirt collar than you need to get it removed or you cannot join. I’ve seen people get laser surgery to get tattoos removed and I’ve also seen people cover them with flesh colored tattoo’s both are acceptable as long as the flesh color tattoo is not noticeable. If you cover you tattoo with a flesh ink and you can tell that your beautiful red rose is now just a flesh colored rose than it is not acceptable.

If you don’t have any tattoos but are thinking about getting one

I would personally recommend waiting until you graduate from Tech School before doing so.  Getting one before hand is only going to cause issues that you don’t really need to deal with.  If you are that hard headed that you can’t wait I strongly urge you to make sure that you keep it above the elbow, above the knee and of course below the neck line.  You want to avoid having tattoos that will be exposed in uniform.

First hand experience though, after you join the Air Force you can pretty much get as many tattoos as you want. I’ve seen people with blatant tattoo violations. You have to understand though that the rules are the rules and if you decide to break them you run the risk of being called out and if pushed far enough you could have to get them removed. One way to avoid this is to ensure that all tattoos are concealed in uniform. That means I would not go out and get a full arm sleeve, you are just asking for trouble.


I personally have several tattoos but they are all above my elbow and my knee. Most people will never know that I have so many tattoos until I take my shirt off.


The last thing to remember regarding tattoos


And this rule is not flexible at all and I have witnessed people being discharged or forced to have their tattoos removed for violating this policy. You cannot have any tattoos that are gang related, offensive, or displays a bad image on the Air Force.  Again this is a bit vague but only to those people who want to try to push the limit.  Basically you can’t have any racial slurs, derogatory comments, gang affiliated signs, etc.

If you try to join the Air Force and you have one of these types of tattoos you will be barred from entry. If you get one while you are in and it is never seen in uniform than you probably will be ok. So if you want to go out and get F$#% the world written on your ass, than be my guest. Whatever floats your boat. But be warned if you go to the Dr for an exam and the doc sees the tattoo and decides to report it. You could be forced to have it removed.

That about sums up the Air Force Tattoo policy.  I love tattoos myself and sometimes wish I could go and get a full sleeve, hmmm maybe when I retire. Oh well. If you would like a general overview of all the Air Force requirements click here.

If you want me to look at a tattoo for you, upload a picture of it on the forum at the following link and I will give you my best guess as to whether it will disqualify you or not.

You can also click that link to download a tattoo calculator that will help you determine if your tattoo is disqualified or not.


  1. Just wanted to let you know that tattoo vanish is a great tattoo removal method. I’m getting my tattoo removed to join. Its a faster method than laser removal and better them flesh ink. Flesh needs to be redone and hard to match skin tones. I wanted to know, i have a religious symbol the size of a penny on my wrist. Should i get it removed or can it stay?

  2. MSgt Reed says:

    Never heard of that before, but if it works then thanks for sharing. The tattoo you described should not be an issue. Good luck to you

  3. Air Force Hopeful says:

    What about a tattoo on the calf it does take up a big chunk but I read that the 25% rule is exempt to the PT uniform which is the only way my tattoo would be visible…someone also said that they would make me wear long pt pants. Is that false?

  4. I have a tattoo located at the top of my back that creeps up my neck an inch or so. My recruiter had me put on the AF Blues to document for a waiver. The tattoo was not visible at all, however, now he says I need to meet with him to take more pictures. I’m feeling extremely discouraged right now. Do you think I’ll be okay?

  5. MSgt Reed says:

    short are not a requirement. So yes you could wear long pants. You will find once you’re in the tattoo policy is a little more lenient. Really it comes down to whether someone feels like enforcing it on you or not. But to play it safe and avoid any headache you could wear long pants. I haves seen many leg tattoos in PT shorts though.

  6. MSgt Reed says:

    I don’t think it is an issue. If I had to guess I would imagine they want to see what the tattoo is. They know it is not visible in uniform but they still need to see if it is an appropriate tattoo or not. I wouldn’t worry, unless of course it is an offensive tattoo

  7. i have a half sleeve from my elbow down to my wrist an its for my brother who was killed. Im wondering if i can still get in with or would i have to get it covered. I dont have a problem wearing long sleeves during PT or PC. None of it is gang related or drugs or dishonoring the USAF. Do you think i could still get in with it (not racial but i am black an its a little faded)

  8. MSgt Reed says:

    That would not be acceptable. It covers too much (more than 1/4 of an body part) sorry but you can’t get in with a full sleeve

  9. I have a tattoo that’s in the inner right side of my bicep that says willpower , when my shirt is covering the tattoo you can only see “will” or even less then that depending on sleeve length . im into joining the airforce would this give me any problems? I posted a link to see the tattoo

  10. MSgt Reed says:


    You’re fine with that tattoo. They will ask you what it means and why you got it. As long as you don’t say something crazy you should be ok.

    Good luck

  11. I recently called to have a preliminary evaluation to see if i could qualify to join, and i was just told if my shirt covered my tatto. My tatto is on my upper right arm to about 3 1/2 inches before it hits my elbow. My shirt does cover my tatto ( since it can’t be visible at work). Since i havent found a picture of what is considered to be acceptable, im still unsure if my tattoo is ok.

  12. I was previous navy and wanted to do afrotc. I had a waiver for my neck tattoo when I joined the navy. Its just a Celtic knot, would that be waived? I also have a shamrock with my sons name under it on the inside of my wrist, hopefully that won’t be either.

  13. MSgt Reed says:


    Based off your description it sounds like your tattoo is fine. Of course I don’t know what it looks like so I can’t say for sure.

  14. MSgt Reed says:

    From my experience a neck tattoo has always been a no-go for the Air Force. Talk to a recruiter but I’m certain you need to have it removed.

  15. I have a cross smaller than a dime on the right hand below my pinky finger. Will that get me disqualified?

  16. MSgt Reed says:

    As long as it doesn’t stand for anything inappropriate (upside down cross, devil worshiper) you’re fine

  17. I have a small word on my ring finger that says loyalty . You cant really notice it when its closed. I was wondering if this would disqualify me from being able to enlist. Please help because I know that the marines are much more strict with any hand tattoos .

  18. MSgt Reed says:

    Your tattoo is fine.

  19. I have a couple of tattoos but the I have one that I’m a bit concerned about. It’s on my upper arm, it’s not shoulder to elbow length, but more of in the middle of it and it’s not half a sleeve. It is nothing innapropriate as well. Will this probably disqualify me from joining?

  20. MSgt Reed says:


    I would need to see a pic to give a better answer. but if it covers less than 1/4 of your upper arm you should be fine.

  21. Joseph Sanchez says:

    Hey I have two tattoos on my chest but they both hit the bottom tip of my collar bone. Will that be acceptable?

  22. MSgt Reed says:

    not sure without seeing pics but as long as it is less than 1/4 of your chest you should be fine.

  23. Haley Moore says:

    I’m planning on joining and I really want a tattoo (it would be my first one) of an arrow on my upper arm, it would probably end two or three inches above my elbow. Is it a good idea? Everyone tells me to wait but I’m stubborn.

  24. MSgt Reed says:

    Nope, bad idea. Just wait.

  25. Just wanted to reiterate the whole nothing above the collarbone part. I have a tattoo behind my ear that says “Allons-y!” and I have to get it removed before I can even think about signing up for any branch. I’ve also got a heartbeat wrapped around my wrist that is a bit iffy.

  26. I have tattooed across my upper chest
    “Without you I am nothing”
    Does this disqualify me to join the Air Force?
    If so, is it possible to get a waiver?

  27. Is it above your collar bone? how big is it? can’t reallly say without seeing it. post a pic on the forum and I can give you a better answer. Post the pic at this link

  28. Johnybinfantry says:


    Thank you for you service and your doing a great job with this post, they leave a lot up in the air and your perspective is great, I am prior service and have been out for awhile , I am trying to join the Air National Guard (still need meps physical), I have a tatoo on my bicep it goes all the way around, it consists of a skull with a car engine piston through it with flames and a checkered flag, and some playing cards with #13, while you cannot see munch when I have a tee shirt on, when I measure from shoulder to elbow it is more then 1/4 of the space, or is it 1/4 of the space shown with the short on? Thx for the feedback

  29. I have a tattoo of the day my Pa died in Roman numerals on the inside of my left arm, below my elbow. Would it be okay? My uncle is in the Air Force reserves. We talk all the time about me joining only active duty instead of reserves, and he hasn’t mentioned anything to me about not being able to join with it. I also talked to a recruiter via email and told him about it. He did not give me a yay or nay.

  30. You should be fine if you can’t see it in uniform. as long as it doesn’t take up 1/4 of any exposed body part, which to me it sounds like it does not.

    However be prepared to be questioned on the meaning of your tattoo. #13? is that a gang reference? that sort of thing.

    Good luck

  31. It depends on how big it is. if you can post a pic in the forum I can help you better. Can’t take up more than 1/4 of any exposed body part (below the elbow is exposed)

  32. Do you have an email address that I can send the picture. I can’t get it to work on the link.

  33. Johnybinfantry says:
  34. Johny,
    Your tattoos are fine. They will be covered in uniform.

  35. You are now able to upload pics to the forum, everything is working fine. There is also a tattoo calculator there you can use as well.

  36. What if the tattoo cover the top of my arm – from my wrist to my elbow. Is that good to go?

  37. I have seen many many people in the USAF with neck tattoos. I am currently cross training to another career field and someone in my class has a neck tattoo that is visible when she wears her blues or when she has her blouse off. Several women at my home unit have neck tattoos as well.

  38. so your entire arm from your elbow to your wrist is covered? no that would be disqualifying.

  39. Hey Stefanie,
    I wouldn’t doubt it. I’ve seen alot of disqualifying stuff. Some people manage to squeeze through the cracks. Thanks for coming and sharing. Feel free to offer advice anywhere you see fit.

  40. I have a tattoo that is on the lower end of my neck. It says Love Live Laugh. While wearing the uniform, my tattoo is not visible. I have already taken the asvab and my scores get me in, however I am having issues with the tattoo. So, I have gone as far as getting it removed; I have done three session with little fade. I thought if the tattoo was not visible I would be okay, but it seems not to be the case. Any suggestions, comments?

  41. You can’t have any tattoos above your collarbone. So yeah, you would just have to keep on going to the laser place until it was completely gone. Trust me I’m getting one removed from my finger and It hurts like a #$%@@.

    Good luck.

  42. I have a half sleeve on my upper arm of a phoenix that stops an inch away from my elbow (on the upper side), and it does not go all the way around to the inside of my arm. Would this disqualify me?

  43. I’m currently in AF….. I got a chest tattoo that you can’t see in PT uniform or in my sand tee. It’s slightly visible in short sleeve blues, is that okay? It’s not offensive, racial, or frowned upon

  44. By short sleeve blues I mean no tie.

  45. MSgt Reed says:

    It’s not exposed so it shouldn’t be a problem.

  46. MSgt Reed says:

    Well I’m sure you’ve seen a lot worse. I know I have. I have all kind of tats that are covered when I’m in uniform. Rarely will you ever be forced to wear short sleeve blues and even if you do, you can always opt to wear a tie with it. However if you decide not to and take the chance of some one seeing it, then it could raise an issue. I would keep it hidden if I were you.

  47. MSgt Reed says:

    Wear a tie….

  48. I have a tattoo on my left forearm of a cardinal with my grandmothers name and it is about 6-7 inches away from my wrist, starting from the elbow. also i have a chest piece with a scripture and and two roses. I was wondering is this possibly eligible?

    link 1:

    link 2:

  49. MSgt Reed says:

    those are both very close. I can’t say for sure. Head over to the forum and download the tattoo calculator. Punch in the measurements and see what it says. You will have to get final approval from recruiting though of course.

  50. I have a tattoo sleeve that stretches from below my shoulder to wrist. could i be able to join if the long sleeve shirt would cover it. it is a ocean theme and not derogatory in any way

  51. MSgt Reed says:

    No, it the elbow to the forearm is an exposed body part. I have a really good write up in the forum. check it out

  52. I am thinking about joining the ANG. But I would like to get a tattoo of bird with flowers on my ribs is this going to be ok to join

  53. Hi! My husband is already currently in the Air Force and I was wondering if it would be okay if he got “til death” on his ring finger. We were thinking about doing that together as a couple tattoo for our anniversary. But he’s hesitant because he doesn’t know if it would be against the rules or anything?

  54. MSgt Reed says:

    Yes that would be fine.

  55. MSgt Reed says:

    I got a ring tattooed on my finger, and it wasn’t an issue. Except for the fact that we got divorced, lol

  56. I have a tattoo on my right arm, it goes from my shoulder to my elbow, at the bottom, inner biceps it has words, right above elbow. Could I join with this

  57. Austin,
    all depends how much is exposed in uniform. post a pic in the forum.

  58. Alan ulloa says:

    I’m planning on getting this Tattoo, I currently have one in my inner bicep, but it doesn’t go under my elbow, nor that close to the top of it, & it’s just a name written down which of is my Grandmothers. the tattoo might be smaller then this, but just to make sure I won’t have any problems.

  59. I have a tattoo of a gun on my side. Is that ok? I know it’s covered in uniform but I have been told could be offensive.

  60. MSgt Reed says:

    Post all tattoo pics in the Forum. There is a section there dedicated to tattoos.

  61. MSgt Reed says:

    It could be a problem. Might be considered gang related. What does it mean?

  62. I got it because my dad was in law enforcement for a long time and taught me to shoot. Going to the range has always been our father/daughter time. It is just that… a symbol of our one on one time together doing what we like to do. I am unable to post a pic of it because of the computer I am currently on but I will as soon as I get a chance. It is just a simple revolver.

  63. MSgt Reed says:

    ok if you do post it, post it on the forum. But I think if you tell them that story it will be fine.

  64. Alan ulloa says:

    I’m planning on getting this Tattoo, I currently have one in my inner bicep, but it doesn’t go under my elbow, nor that close to the top of it, & it’s just a name written down which of is my Grandmothers. the tattoo might be smaller then this, but just to make sure I won’t have any problems. Could you please reply

  65. MSgt Reed says:


    The short sleeve shirts don’t all come down to the elbow (unless you buy them big) this could be exposed. you will have to take pics in a short sleeve blues shirt and your recruiter will have to send it up for approval. it looks long but it may be fine depending on how much sticks out the bottom.

  66. Brittany Molly says:

    I want to get a shoulder tattoo that covers my whole shoulder and part of my upper back. Would that be okay?

  67. MSgt Reed says:

    I will always recommend that you avoid getting any tattoos until after you join.

  68. Trish Lindsey says:

    my tattoo is on my fore are roughly half a finger away from my wrist is that ok or no

  69. I ahev a japanese sympol on the back of my neck would that disqualify me ?

  70. MSgt Reed says:

    all depends on how big it is. Post a picture in the forum

  71. MSgt Reed says:

    Yes it would disqualify you.

  72. Yet another LT says:

    There is a lot of great information on here, very nicely done MSgt Reed. It can be very confusing to try and understand the regulations when you haven’t been staring at them for years. One thing I noticed looking through though, and that is using the 25% rule. If the body-part is not exposed in any uniform combination, then there is no 25% rule (however the gang/nudity/bad AF image is still applicable). As a basic rule, put on a t-shirt and some shorts, anything that is covered can be 100% tattoo’d up without being an issue (don’t go over the collar bone). Technically speaking, you can have full leg sleeves as well, but I would wait until after you join so you do not have to try and fight technicalities with a recruiter (Reg states that it can’t cover more than 25% of any exposed body part in any uniform combination exept the PTU).

    On a side note, I have started to see a number of full sleeve tattoos. As MSgt Reed has said, it’s your life and you can feel free to take your own chances after getting in, but that is against the regs.

  73. Thanks a lot LT.

    Yep the 25% rule only applies to exposed bodyparts. I have a person in my Squadron with full arms and legs. Leadership knows all about it. They say the PT uniform does not count as a uniform in regard to tattoos since he can wear long pants and long shirt.

    It gets harder everyday to know what is right anymore.

  74. My son has a chest tattoo (no religious affiliation or anything bad) one tiny section might stick out past a v neck. What are your thoughts? Do different recruiters have different opinions?

  75. MSgt Reed says:

    R Kohl,
    It’s not really about an opinion. The standard is the standard. If the tattoo does not extend above the collar bone your son will be fine.

  76. Good afternoon MSgt Reed,

    I’m a 21 year old male thinking about joining the air force very soon, I’ve yet to speak to a recruiter, however I have stumbled upon this tattoo issue and was wondering how mine held up. I have a half sleeve that covers from the top of my shoulder down to about an inch above my elbow. It does not go below my elbow and I have no other tattoos. I’ve attached links with pictures of it.

    I’d obviously be willing to cover it up as long as I need to while I am in the Air Force.

    The tattoo is a half sleeve of peace, love, and music and I have no others.

    I tried to give you an idea of what it looks like with a V-neck and what it looks like by itself.

  77. MSgt Reed says:

    JB, post your tattoo pics in the forum. Thanks

  78. dominique says:

    Ok, i have multiple tattoos, but all of them can be covered when i have on clothes. I have a little piece of a star that sticks out on both arms when i have a t shirt on and i wanted to know would i get in trouble for that or would they think its gang related. cause its not. The stars just have my initials in it. I really want to join and hope that this doesn’t be a problem.

  79. MSgt Reed says:

    dominique, they won’t think it a gang tattoo as long as you tell them that it’s not. Not sure what that link was going to but it didn’t work. If you want to post a pic, please post it on the forum. Thanks.

  80. dominique says:

    Is it a limited number you can have when enlisting

  81. MSgt Reed says:

    No there is no number limit

  82. Hey MSgt Reed, Thanks for your fine detail in all these posts. I don’t feel convicted by my spirit or concious that it is a bad idea, but i’m getting a hebrew scripture tattoo from the Holy Bible on the inside of my bicep. It will be above my elbow because I still want to be proffesional joining the proud USAF. Anyway, because the tattoo is regarding my beliefs in Christianity, that won’t be any affect on them letting me in, right? The question seems a little ignorant but I would rather be safe than sorry in this case. This is my first tattoo. Thanks man!

  83. Hi, Im in the Air Force Rotc and i wanted to get a small tattoo right below my elbow, a passage from the bible to be exact, it covers less than 1/4 of the exposed area. Should I get it or probably wait until I commission?

  84. I have a tattoo that very very barely exposes a small black line in the dress shirt they had me wear. Its a toss up right now and my recruiter says that its so close she’s going to see her commander. I’m just wondering whether I should keep hope or just let my dream go. Thanks for all you do

  85. MSgt Reed says:

    Josh, a religious tattoo is fine. Only offensive tattoos would be prohibited. Thanks

  86. MSgt Reed says:

    you should definitely wait. I haven’t seen many officers with exposed tattoos. Officers are held to a higher standard. I would not do that if I were you.

  87. MSgt Reed says:

    Always keep your hopes up. Obviously I don’t know what your tattoo looks like or what is exposed but your recruiter will do what she can. One rule of life is it’s never over til it’s over. Good luck to you.

  88. I have a tattoo just below my wrist that says “obla di obla da” (like the Beatles song- life goes on). The words themselves are only about 1inch x 3/4 inch total, so it’s pretty small, but would that be an issue? I am not completely worried, reading the comments above, but I do want to know if that would pose a major issue…

  89. Hannah,
    Your tattoo should be fine.

  90. i have a flower on my right forearm will this disqualify me from joining ?

  91. Hey i have a letter D with angel wings on my right hand between index and thumb. It’s about the size of business card. think my tattoo wouldn’t pass. What do u think

  92. I tried to upload a photo but it wouldnt let me. I want to join the Air Force. My tattoo is a heart, wings, and clouds with the words each day is a gift on my chest. it goes up to my collar bone but not on my neck. when i have a button up shirt on you cannot see it. If i unbotton it down a couple where i believe the AF blues without a tie would be you can see it. what do you think?

  93. Dae,

    I have no idea. it would depend on how big it is.

  94. autumn, upload it in the forum

  95. Dee,
    it shouldn’t be a problem.

  96. the uniform covers it but its not large but its noticeable .

  97. I have xxx neck tattoo and shoulder to Elbow both of shoulder tattoos and elbow to hand left hand can I join air force . Which tattoo do I need to remove?

  98. Hey sergent , I have a 21yr.old daughter that’s tring to join navy she has three hearts behide ear we will get them removed .will she get in then? They also said she can’t get in being a single . Mom what can I do to help her get in ?

  99. I am 20 and have my heart set on the Air Force, but I have a small heart tattoo under my ear, could I get it waved or would I have to get it removed?

  100. i have a spider tattoo and the web goes 1/2 inch above my collar bone but any type of shirt i wear you can’t see it. Plus i already went to MEPS and passed with it will i be okay?

  101. Dae if the uniform covers it how is it noticeable. Just refer to the rules. 1/4 of any exposed bodypart. if it is not bigger than that then you are good

  102. Zaw,
    you would have to remove all the tattoos that cover more than 1/4 of an exposed body part and any tattoo above your collar bone regardless of size. Neck, forearm etc. Tattoo removal isn’t cheap and it takes a long time, good luck to you.

  103. Sheryce,
    She would no longer have the tattoo issue but yes single parents can not join. She could join the reserves, get married or whatever else it would take to not be a single parent anymore. No recruiter will ever tell you to get married or to give up your child, those are personal choices and can not be made for the sole intention of joining the Air Force.

    Good luck.

  104. Kirsten,

    there is no waiver for tattoos.

  105. AJ Malone,

    If you already went to MEPS than what are you worried about? you already made it through.

  106. Hello, i need your expert opinion on the process I’m going through. So i went to the local air force recruiter office, and he look at my tattoos and punch in numbers into the tattoo calculator and it was below 25%.Then a couple weeks later i was sent to take the real Asvab test and passed the AFQT requirement. Then i had to write on the tattoo form , where my tattoos are placed , and the meaning of it. He told me he had to send it somewhere, to get approved. My question is who approves, it and what are the chances it will get approved, since i have gotten this far. and how long does it usually take. I’m just very nervous, anxious, and worried.

  107. Lexus,
    The people at your recruiters operations office approves it. Kind of like a headquarters office. If it passed in the calculator then it should pass at operations because they use the same calculator. I wouldn’t worry.

  108. I have a tattoo on the left side of my neck. Its three letters which are my grandmother’s initials. My recruiter took pics but is doubtful. Why do you think??

  109. I am planning on joining the reserves, but I haven’t spoken to a recruiter yet. I am worried about my tattoo. It is a small bird and initials behind my ear about the size of a quarter. Do you think that will be a problem?

  110. Hi! I recently got a feather in my forearm. So basically from the bend of my arm to my wrist how ever it’s only on one side. Would do you think it’ll disqualify me?

  111. Torino,

    It’s not going to happen. Seriously, no way will a neck tattoo be approved. just being honest

  112. Rebecca,

    Yes this will be a big problem, it will disqualify you from joining and there are no tattoo waivers.

  113. Kayla,

    Possibly, depends if it takes up more than 1/4 of your forearm which it sounds like it does.

  114. I have a quarter sleeve tattoo of throned roses. It starts at the top of my shoulder blade to about 3-4 inches above my elbow. Is that suitable?

  115. spann,

    Yes thats fine

  116. I’m strongly considering joining once my husband comes back from his tour in afganistan in a few months, We are wanting to get our initials on our ring fingers and ditch the rings, we aren’t really jewelry wearers anyhow, he’s army and thinks it will be fine, but how does AF stand on this? I would wait until it was healed fully before talking to a recruiter, and their is makeup that covers tattoos completely, would this be a problem?

  117. MSgt Reed says:

    adrienne it wouldn’t be a problem. It’s far less than 1/4 of your hand. Good luck.

  118. nikijohnson4 says:

    MSgt Reed,

    I’ve thinking about the AF for a long time currently now ready to meet with the recruiter, take the ASVAB etc but was kind of shot down when the recruiter immediately told me I wouldn’t qualify. I have a total of 5 tattoos foot, hip, right side, top back and left side. The first 4 named a dollar bill will cover up. The left side starts from my lower shoulder blade down to the top of my butt. It’s the biggest one however it only covers 1/4 of my back. None of these tattoos can you see when wearing clothes and shoes……you wouldn’t be able to see them in or out of uniform.

  119. Nikjohnson,

    Not sure with out seeing them. If the recruiter says it’s disqualifying it probably is, because trust me they are not in the business of trying not to recruit people. However if you feel they are within standards, you can request that he take pictures send them up for review.

  120. I was thinking about getting a tattoo on my upper leg. It is religious but not discriminating in any way. Not sure if it will keep me qualified. ???

  121. and when you say it can’t take up 1/4 of an exposed body part. Is the body part being the upper leg (knee to hip) around the entire leg?

  122. MSgt Reed says:

    That tattoo would be fine. It’s not an exposed body part

  123. I was told that any tattoo on the hand was automatic disqualification, but after reading this I’m not sure what to believe. I have my last name on the side of my left ring finger. Most people dont even notice it.

  124. erika copeland says:

    hey MSgt Reed, i want to get a wing tattoo, but it’s not a normal wing across the back tattoo, it follows the anatomy like actual wings, i want to know if this tattoo is allowed, i have a link here for you.

  125. I want to get a tattoo in memory of my little cousins on my calf I was wondering if it would be acceptable to have and if I would have to wear pants?

  126. Jnich09,
    According to the regulation that wouldn’t be disqualifying. It is on an exposed body part though. Who told you it was disqualifying?

  127. Erika,

    Nice tattoo but I would definitely not get that before you joined. That thing is huge.

  128. ela,

    A calf tattoo would be fine, but I would refrain from getting a very large one. It would be exposed when you wear pt shorts.

  129. The recruiter that I talked to. He said that I would need to get it removed before I could go any further in the process.

  130. Jnich09,

    Did he say it was too big? I would ask him to show you the AFI, is this his decision or did he send it up for approval?

  131. If I get a half sleeve tattoo with a chest piece is it to much?

  132. sadieelise says:

    I have an infinity sign tattoo on the outside of my pinky finger, smaller than a dime as well, will that be acceptable?

  133. MSgt Reed says:


    That should be fine

  134. Dear MSgt Reed, I have a baby on the way and decided to try to get into the airforce for a better life for my soon to be family.I have a tattoo on my arm elbow to wrist that says walk by faith. After recently being rebaptized. Would that eliminate mychances?

  135. This was his decision. It was the first time we’ve ever talked. All he said was that I couldn’t have any hand tattoo.

  136. MSgt Reed says:


    that doesn’t sound good. let the recruiter take a look, but it does sound disqualifying.

  137. MSgt Reed says:


    You need to get a second opinion, Your tattoo does not sound disqualifying at all. The only thing I can think of is maybe there is something else that is disqualifying about you. Sometimes a recruiter will not want to put forth the effort if they know you are disqualified for other reasons.

  138. I have a religious tattoo on my right thigh that’s as long as my hand. Would that disqualify me from joining the air force?

  139. abarben09 says:

    Hello MSgt Reed

    I am looking into the air force and the only thing that concerns me is my tattoos. I have tattoos on the inside of both of my lower legs

    Leg 1 :

    Leg 2 :

  140. MSgt Reed says:

    Your upper thigh is considered one body part. The tattoo would need to cover less than 1/4th of your upper thigh. The size of a hand seems less than 1/4th but I’m not sure how big your thigh is.

  141. MSgt Reed says:


    That looks a little too big, I could be wrong though. If you show those pics to your recruiter he could send them up to have them reviewed.

  142. hi MSgt Reed, i got a call from the airforce yesterday, and i was really happy but they told me i was disqualified after i mentioned my tattoo. Its not that big and its an infinity symbol with the words stay strong and a feather that turns into birds. The tattoo is on the far right side of my chest and goes from my chest and reaches up a little on my shoulder it is not visible with a a crewneck shirt. They didnt even really let me explain they just said that i was officially disqualified unless i got it removed and i could try the army or marines or navy.. its roughly the size of my hand. I was just wondering if its okay, before i go and get it removed..

  143. I have birds that go from the right part of my chest to my shoulder. The recruiter I talked to said as long as it’s not visible in the dress blues button up, it should be fine. MSgt Reed, will it be okay or not, seeing as how the recruiter told Xynthia that she was disqualified??

  144. xynthia,

    If it goes above your collar bone it is disqualifying. If you think they are mistaken, I would recommend visiting a recruiters office and showing them in person. Tattoo removal is a slow, painful and expensive process. Good luck

  145. Dana,
    Your recruiter is right, I’m not sure what the deal is with Xynthia, the recruiter should take a look before disqualifying someone for a tattoo.

  146. willatmiami says:

    MSgt Reed, hi and quick question , would a tattoo on the pinky saying promise affect me joining the air force? its on the outer side of the finger too. almost 2 inches wide and less than a half inch on height. basically just my whole pinky

  147. willatmiami says:

    also on my left hand by the way

  148. Williatmiami,

    According to the reg it needs to be less than 1/4 of any exposed body part, the hand being a body part. You should be good to go.

  149. I have a heart smaller than the size of dime tattoo inside the upper part of my ear lobe. Its barely noticeable. Ive worked at my job for almost 2 years and people just started noticing it. will I be okay?

  150. MSgt Reed says:


    No that tattoo would be in clear violation. No tattoos above your collar bone.

  151. I have a tattoo on my lower left leg and one on my left footbut they do not connect is that appropriate to get in?

  152. charlymejia_ says:

    I’m looking to get a tattoo on my chest, ‘Believe in yourself’ it’s one of those chest pieces it’s approximately 8 inches in length and 2 inches in height, i do have a small tattoo on my left pectoral but if I wear a shirt you can’t see the one I have or if I got that chest piece you wouldn’t be able to see it either

  153. MSgt Reed says:

    depends on how big it is. It can’t be bigger than 1/4 of your lower leg.

  154. MSgt Reed says:


    I would not get any tattoos if I were you. Why go through the trouble of being worried about whether you can join or not if you don’t have to. Just wait until you join.

  155. mzjwalker says:

    How long after I get the tattoo on my ear removed do I have to wait to join?

  156. How do I attach a photo of it?.

  157. MSgt Reed says:


    As long as the tattoo is gone, you can join

  158. CSJackson says:

    I was wondering if my tattoo will pass. I’ve been wanting to join the USAF and I’m almost done with school. My tattoo is from the bend of my arm to about 3 inches above my wrist. I got it due to my cousin drowning. If I need to I’ll post a picture.

  159. CSJackson,

    It sounds like that tattoo is over the size limit for an exposed body part.

  160. I have a question, does the tattoo policy only apply to exposed body parts meaning Arms, legs and colarbone up? If I have a large nondiscrimnating rib tattoo would that disqualify me even though it’s not visible?

  161. I’m sure you’ve answered this in previous responses, but there are so many, I’ll ask anyways. 1/4 of exposed, meaning if I get a tattoo on my thigh, above my knee, it would be okay seeing as it is not an exposed body part?

  162. Ongendus,

    Yes it only applies to exposed body parts as you mentioned.

  163. Dana,
    That is correct

  164. Hello MSgt Reed,
    I would just like to get a clarification on my tattoos, are these okay?
    1. A religious piece that goes between my shoulders (not visible with a shirt on)
    2. A small wrist tat that can be covered with a watch.

    I am also planning on getting a couple more:
    1. A piece on my left bicep (not visible with a normal t shirt)
    2. A word inside my left arm (may be barely visible with a t ahirt)
    Will any of these hurt my chance? And should I just wait on getting the last two? And from what I understand, it is easier to get away with them after I am in?

  165. zack_echols says:

    I was considering joining the Air Force but have a tattoo on my inner bicep and is above my elbow and says God Holds My Time with a clock and hand would that disqualify me?

  166. officialrizk says:

    I have a tattoo on my inner lip say NJ for new jersey, is this bad?

  167. Hello MSgt Reed, same deal pretty much, have one on my right forearm, including a pic. but from what iv read, its probably too big. will greatly appreciate your input though.

  168. Hello MSgt Reed,
    I have a concern about the tattoo policy,
    I have my first and only tattoo that I’ve had since late March of this year that I’ve drew up as my own design.
    My tattoo isn’t gang related, offensive, sexual themed or any of the above slurred content. Me and my friend went to the us army recruiting office and one of the recruiters immediately pointed out my tattoo and said that I would be disqualified quick because of it, and that I couldn’t cover it up with my hand. I was thinking about going to an air force recruiter but I’m a bit nervous about what they might say. I have a link of my picture of my only tattoo, would my tattoo be okay or not? And last question. My height is 5’3″, what should the appropriate weight be for my height in order to qualify?

    Thank you.

  169. Kortneylynn says:

    So I have been thinking about joining the AF. But I have a forearm tattoo for my little sister who has cystic fibrosis. Could I use tattoo cover up or is there no where for me to join cause of it?

  170. I’m a 34yr old male I have a total of 8 tattoos 4 on the left 3 on the right one of my chest can I join?

  171. I’m a 34yr old male I have a total of 8 tattoos 4 on the left 3 on the right one of my chest can I join?I have one on my upper left shoulder inner and outer left forearm one on my chest one on my upper right shoulder and 1 on my inner and outer forearm


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