US Coast Guard Tattoo Policy (Latest USCG Regulations for 2023)

For many US patriots, the job of a US Coast Guard (USCG) is more appealing than any other military service. After all, it is the only branch of the armed forces whose primary mission is to save lives.

The Coast Guard is one of the five branches of the US armed forces and is responsible for maritime safety, law enforcement, and search and rescue operations. Coast Guard members are trained to perform a variety of roles, including operating small boats, enforcing maritime laws, and responding to natural disasters.

If you’re a tattooed person and are considering joining the ranks of USCG, you should probably get accustomed to the current US Coast Guard tattoo policy.

So, can you have a tattoo in the Coast Guard? Let’s find out.

Highlights of the current US Coast Guard tattoo policy

Coast Guard Tattoo Policy – All You Need To Know

Like all branches of the military, the Coast Guard has some rules about tattoos that need adhering to. The latest changes to the policy are from 2022 and further relaxed the existing restrictions.

As you can see in the image below, there are just a few body parts where tattoos are not allowed – but only if they don’t meet certain requirements.

Guidelines for tattoo placement amongst the Coast Guard
Guidelines for tattoo placement amongst the Coast Guard

The current tattoo guidelines for Coast Guards are a far cry from what they used to be – in a positive sense.

Right now, even all of the “prohibited” body parts can pass if the tattoo is small enough and put in a specific zone.

Compared to the previous versions of the Coast Guard tattoo policy, the most notable changes include:

    • allowing one small tattoo in the head area (behind the ear). Previously, no head tattoos were allowed. The said tattoo can’t be bigger than 1 inch in any dimension.
    • allowing up to 2 tattoos per hand. Previously, no hand tattoos were allowed at all. The first type of hand tattoo is a tattoo between the first knuckle and fingertip on the top or side of the finger. The second type of allowed hand tattoo is one located between the wrist and the first knuckle closest to the wrist
Hand tattoo guidelines for Coast Guard

Hand tattoo guidelines for Coast Guards. Credit: DHS
  • allowing chest and back tattoos – as long as they can be covered by a crew neck t-shirt. Previously, chest tattoos were frowned upon.
Coast Guard ear policy update

The allowed placement of a tattoo in the ear area. Credit: DHS

On top of the changes mentioned above, all US Coast Guards can have full-sleeve tattoos as long as they don’t extend past the wrist bone.

The current changes in the US Coast Goard tattoo policy are extremely welcome and appreciated by those who want to pursue a career in this branch of the military.

The ever-growing popularity of tattoos means that more and more patriotic Americans are getting inked – and the USCG is now more open to tattooed members than ever before. Quite frankly, it needs to be this way in order for the military to stay relevant and attractive to potential recruits.

Capt. Anthony Williams, Acting Director of Military Personnel, said:

“We see the importance of evolving our service policy to reflect the times in which we live. As a service, we support our members in their ability to express themselves while at the same time maintaining a sharp and professional military appearance to the public we serve.”

Some Types of Tattoos not Welcome

Having the tattoo in the right area is the first step to getting it approved – but it’s not the only one.

So, what tattoos are not allowed in the Coast Guard?

Tattoos that are considered “offensive” are not allowed in any branch of the military – including the Coast Guard.

Quoting the official website of the USCG (, no tattoos that represent racism, discrimination, indecency, extremist/supremacist philosophies, lawlessness, violence, or sexually explicit, are allowed.

In other words, if your tattoo can be associated with any of the listed values – you’re out of luck (and rightly so).

Coast Guard Tattoo Waiver

If you already have a tattoo that doesn’t meet the current policy guidelines, don’t fret just yet.

You can always apply for a waiver – and if your case is compelling enough, you might just get it.

US Coast Guard in action
US Coast Guard in action

Coast Guard waivers are granted on a case-by-case basis and are decided by a commanding officer. Your chances of getting a waiver are pretty good – as long as your tattoo is not gigantic and is not on the list of those that are “offensive”.

If you’re planning on joining the Coast Guard, but have some tattoos that don’t meet the policy requirements – go ahead and apply for a waiver. The Coast Guard is said to be a bit more lenient when it comes to waivers than some of the other branches of the military.

Coast Guards & Tattoos: FAQ

We’re pretty sure that by now you have a pretty good idea of what the Coast Guard’s stance is on tattoos. And we certainly hope that you meet the requirements of the current tattoo policy in the Coast Guard.

But just to reiterate – here are some of the most frequently asked questions related to the subject.

Can I be a Marine with tattoos?

Yes, you can! In case you decide that Marine Corps is what you want to go for, you should know that their tattoo policy is pretty similar to the Coast Guard’s.

Which military branch has the strictest tattoo policy?

Moving on with the times, all divisions of the military have become more lenient when it comes to tattoos. So, it’s hard to say which one has the strictest policy as are all heading in the right direction and continue to relax the restrictions.

Can you have a full sleeve in the military?

Yes, most military branches already accept full-sleeved tattoos as long as they don’t extend past the wrist bone. An example of another one in favor of sleeves is the US Air Force and the US Space Force.

Will the military pay for tattoo removal?

No, the USCG will not pay for tattoo removal.

How much does it cost to get a tattoo removed?

The cost of tattoo removal can vary greatly depending on the size, location, and age of the tattoo. Most tattoo removal treatments start at $200 and can go up to $500 or more per session.

Can you get a waiver for a neck tattoo in the military?

Yes. And in fact, you can get a tattoo waiver for any tattoo that doesn’t meet the current policy guidelines.

When can I expect the next changes in the Coast Guard’s tattoo policy?

All military branches need to continue adapting to the ever-changing trends. The last few years have seen at least a couple of policy updates per branch so we have no reason to believe that it will change (definitely not for the worse).

One of my hidden tattoos is offensive. Should I disclose it?

If you have a tattoo that could be considered offensive but is hidden – you should definitely disclose it. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Final Word

As you can see, the Coast Guard has a pretty clear and concise policy when it comes to tattoos.

And even though they might be a bit more lenient than some of the other branches, it’s still important to make sure that your tattoos meet their standards.

We hope this article was informative and helped you understand USCG’s tattoo policy a little better.