RAF tattoo policy: new relaxed rules come into force

The new rules will see the RAF have similar policies to the army and the navy.
Were you unable to apply before because of your tattoos? (Photo: Shutterstock)Were you unable to apply before because of your tattoos? (Photo: Shutterstock)
Were you unable to apply before because of your tattoos? (Photo: Shutterstock)

In a bid to appeal to a wider pool of applicants, the Royal Air Force (RAF) has relaxed its rules regarding tattoos.

Recruits have never been able to display body art in the RAF before.

What are the rules now?

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Before, the restrictions on tattoos meant that any visible tattoos would disqualify an applicant. Now, recruits will be able to display ink, provided it’s appropriate.

Neck tattoos on the back and sides of the neck are now acceptable, provided they aren’t visible from the front whilst in uniform.

Cosmetic eyebrow tattoos will also be allowed, as long as they are “natural in shape and colour”.

The rules now allow small finger tattoos, as long as they could be covered by a ring.

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Regarding the change of rules, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said, “The new policy allows for tattoos in areas that were not previously permitted and provides that there is no requirement to cover any tattoos regardless of the occasion.”

However, tattoos that are considered to be either obscene or offensive are still banned.

Why the change?

The decision to reevaluate the strictness around tattoos brings the RAF more in line with other military factions, like the army and the navy.

Last year the navy made the decision to allow hand tattoos, and the army guidelines state that tattoos on the hands and back of the neck are allowed.

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A spokesperson for the MoD said, “The revised policy aims to strike the right balance between broadening the pool from which we recruit and maintaining high standards of appearance.”

“Individuals can re-apply if tattoos are in accordance with the new RAF tattoo policy,” the MoD spokesperson added, regarding those previously branded ineligible to join the RAF.

This decision also comes off the back of a 2018 report which shows that Britain’s armed forces were “critically understaffed”.

Sky News reported, “Around 2,400 more engineers are needed, most of them as weapons engineers in the Royal Navy, 700 intelligence analysts and 800 pilots - especially in the RAF.”

What disqualifies you from the RAF?

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While the rules regarding tattoos have been relaxed there are still other factors that will make you ineligible for the RAF.

The RAF outlines these factors on their website, which include:

- Piercings that don’t close up when removed, such as stretched ears

- If you have been, or currently are, a member of a hate group

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- If you’re waiting to appear in court, or if you have unspent convictions - this must be declared upon application as you can be excluded from certain roles

- Drugs, solvent and steroid abuse can also disqualify you, but each application is accessed individually

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