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Tattoo parlours 

Licensing information for tattooists and operators  


You can now renew your licence

From 1 July 2017, minor amendments to the licensing provisions in the Tattoo Parlour Act 2012 come into effect, meaning tattoo parlour operators and tattooists can now renew their licence. For more information see the How do I renew a licence section on this page.

Body art tattooing businesses and tattoo artists who operate in NSW have to be licensed with NSW Fair Trading.

It is an offence to perform a body art tattooing procedure for a fee or reward or operate a body art tattooing business without an appropriate licence. Heavy penalties apply. 

Individuals and businesses that perform cosmetic tattooing procedures only are exempt from these licensing requirements.

Who needs a licence? 

Anyone who performs body art tattooing procedures for a fee or reward, or who runs a body art tattooing business in NSW needs to be licensed.

A ‘body art tattooing’ procedure is a tattooing procedure performed for decorative purposes. A ‘body art tattooing business’ is a business, which carries out body art tattooing procedures, whether or not the business also carries out other activities.

If you are a self-employed individual who runs a body art tattooing business and performs tattooing procedures at that premises, you do not need a separate tattooist licence. If you hold an operator licence as the nominated premises manager, then you are not considered to be a self-employed individual and you will be required to hold a tattooist licence to perform tattooing procedures.

If you operate from more than one location, you must have a separate operator licence for each location.

You do not need a licence if you only perform cosmetic tattooing procedures. This includes procedures performed:

  • for the purpose of providing eyeliner, eyebrow or any other permanent make-up effect, or
  • by a medical practitioner for a medical reason (eg. to hide, disguise or correct a medical condition or post-operative outcome).

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How much does a licence cost? 

A tattooist licence costs $759 and an operator licence costs $2,270. Each licence is valid for 3 years.

Current licence holders can now renew their existing licence prior to date of expiry. Renewal of an existing tattooist licence will have a fee of $719 and a renewal of an existing an operator licence will have a fee of $2,230.

If your application is refused on the ground of an adverse security determination made by the Commissioner of Police the licence fee will not be refunded. If you withdraw your application, you may apply for a refund of the licence fee, less the processing component of the fee.

For more information about licence fees please go to the Fees page on the Fair Trading website.

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How do I get a licence? 

To apply for either a tattooist or operator licence you must: 

  • be at least 18 years of age and an Australian citizen or resident 
  • not be a controlled member of a declared organisation
  • consent to a National Police Check 
  • provide certified copies of three types of approved identification
  • lodge the completed licence application form and pay the prescribed fee
  • attend a police station to have your finger and palm prints taken, when requested.

Applicants for a tattooist licence must also provide details of their previous, current, existing or upcoming employment as a body art tattooist, including any employment as an apprentice.

In addition to the above criteria, operator licence applicants must also: 

  • provide a declaration about all close associates, including:
    • if a close associate is an entity or organisation, you must consider whether the individuals involved in the entity are also close associates. If they are, you must ensure you list those individuals in your declaration as well. 
  • provide, or have your individual close associates provide, certified copies of three forms of identification directly to Fair Trading
  • ensure all individual close associates sign a Close Associate Consent form and consent to a National Police Check.

If an organisation has nominated you to be the premises’ manager, your application form must provide the details of the entity and the individuals involved, in addition to a letter which nominates you as the premises’ manager.

Read more information about the specific requirements by downloading the application form from the Forms page on the Fair Trading website.

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How do I renew a licence? 

To renew your existing licence you must hold a current licence and comply with the information requirements in the renewal application. You must also submit your application to renew (insert name of form) before your current licence expires. If you fail to do this, you will not be able to renew your licence and will instead have to reapply.

Renewal applications are emailed to all licensees at least 60 days before you licence is due to expire. If you have not received your renewal application by email, please call Fair Trading on 13 32 20.

When submitting your renewal application you must include the information listed below, depending on the licence type.

Tattooist licence renewals

  • Signed renewal form
  • Payment details
  • Information relating to changes to contact details.

Operator licence renewals

  • Signed renewal form
  • Payment details
  • Information relating to changes to associates of business or address details
  • Information relating to any prohibition orders in place.

If you do not renew your licence before the expiry date and comply with the renewal requirements, you will be required to reapply for a new licence. Restorations do not apply.

If you previously held a licence that has now expired, you can apply for a new licence.

Duration of a licence 

Once your licence is granted it will remain in force for a period of 3 years, unless it is surrendered or cancelled sooner or it otherwise ceases to be in force.

If your application for a new licence is granted, you will be issued with a new licence number.

What is a close associate? 

A person is considered to be a close associate if they:

  • hold any relevant power or financial interest in the parlour, and this power or interest provides them with significant influence over the management or operation of the parlour
  • hold any relevant position in the parlour
  • be engaged as a contractor or employed in the business. 

A close associate may be an individual or a corporation or other entity (eg. a partnership or trust). For the full definition please refer to Section 4 of the Tattoo Parlours Act 2012 (the Act).

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Why are close associates important? 

Under the Act, the Commissioner of Police must make a security determination about the applicant and consider all the people who may affect the business, including all close associates. Their written consent and identification documents are required to ensure that each individual is correctly identified to enable the NSW Police Force to make a security determination.

Secure information obtained about close associates (including the results of the National Police Check) will be treated confidentially and will not be disclosed to third parties, such as the applicant, except where required by the law.

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Declarations by close associates  

Close associates are required to complete a declaration and provide certified copies of three forms of approved identification so that National Police Checks can be conducted. This information can either be provided to the applicant to submit with their application or the close associate can provide it to Fair Trading directly. The application will not be considered without the declaration and identification documents.

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How do I lodge my application? 

New licence applications can be lodged:

Licence renewal applications can be lodged:

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What happens once my application has been lodged? 

Once you lodge an application, Fair Trading will:

  • check to make sure it is complete. If there is an issue, we will contact you for clarification.
  • refer all completed applications to the Commissioner of Police for a security determination for new licence applications. As part of this process, you will be required to make an appointment to attend a police station to have your finger and palm prints taken and to verify your identity documents. You will receive a list of police stations you can attend.

Please note, it may take some time for the security determination to be completed. Fair Trading cannot determine an application until notified of the outcome of the security determination. If your application is approved, you will receive a letter advising you when you can collect your licence card from your nominated Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) registry or Service NSW Centre. You must provide identity documents acceptable to RMS when collecting your licence.

If your licence is being renewed, you will need to comply with the information requirements in the renewal application. Renewal applications are posted to licence holders approximately 60 days before the licence is due to expire. If you do not receive the renewal application by mail, please contact Fair Trading on 13 32 20.

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What if my application is unsuccessful? 

If your application is unsuccessful, you will receive a letter advising you of the outcome and if relevant, the reasons for the decision. If you disagree with the decision, you may apply to the NSW Civil and Adminstrative Tribunal (NCAT) for a review. Visit their website for more details

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What if I work from home? 

If you conduct a body art tattooing business, even if it is not at a formal tattoo parlour, you are required to hold an operator’s licence.

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Do interstate artists need a licence? 

Yes, interstate artists working in NSW must apply for a licence in the same way as NSW residents.

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Mutual Recognition 

The Mutual Recognition Act 1992 (MRA) entitles people holding an occupational licence or registration in one state or territory to an equivalent licence in another state or territory provided the work is licensed in both.

Not all states and territories license tattoo artists. If applying for a tattooist licence in NSW under mutual recognition you must complete both the application for a tattooist licence and the Notice for Registration of Equivalent Occupation. You can download these from the Forms section of the Fair Trading website.

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What about tattooing shows and interstate or international visitors? 

Individuals or organisations wishing to hold tattooing shows where body art tattooing procedures will be performed, must apply for a permit. A tattooing show permit may be issued for a maximum of 7 days with a maximum of two permits per person per year. To apply for a tattooing show permit you must:

  • be at least 18 years of age and an Australian citizen or resident
  • not be a controlled member of a declared organisation
  • complete a tattooing show permit application providing information about yourself and the proposed show including:
    • your name, residential and postal addresses, date and place of birth
    • the address at which you propose to conduct the show
    • details of any licence you may hold or have held under the Act
    • the tattooists who will perform at the show (if known at the time of making the application but no later than 14 days prior to the date of the show).
    • a declaration ensuring that all participants will comply with legislative requirements in relation to body art tattooing, including health and local government requirements.
  • provide details of the organisation and evidence that you have been nominated by the organisation to be the event manager, if you are applying on behalf of an organisation
  • lodge your application and pay the prescribed fee.

REMEMBER: You are required to provide the Secretary with the personal details of the body art tattooists who will be performing at the show no later than 14 days prior to the date of the show.

The permit holder is required to maintain a written list of the details of the authorised participants performing at the show at all times the show is open to the public. The written list must be produced to an authorised officer on demand. The permit holder must ensure that no body art tattooing procedures are carried out by persons who are not authorised participants as heavy penalties apply.

Authorised Participants

Body art tattooists who live in NSW or in another Australian jurisdiction, or normally reside in another country do not need a licence under the Act to be able to carry out body art tattooing at a show, provided these requirements are met.

The body art tattooists who perform at the show are known as "authorised participants". An individual is an "authorised participant" of the show if:

  • the personal details of the individuals have been provided to the Secretary by the permit holder for the show at least 14 days before the commencement of the show, and
  • the individual is not an unsuitable individual, and
  • the individual has not, in the previous 12 months, been an authorised participant of more than one other show. 

An individual ceases to be an authorised participant of a show if:

  • the Secretary gives written notice to the permit holder stating that the individual is not to be an authorised participant of the show, or
  • the individual becomes an unsuitable individual, or
  • the individual notifies the Secretary that they are no longer an authorised participant, or
  • the individual has performed body art tattooing procedures at premises in respect of which an operator licence is in force on more than 31 days in total.

Visiting overseas body art tattooists

If you live outside of Australia and wish to visit NSW to perform body art tattooing procedures for a fee or reward at a show, then you can do so, provided you do it as an authorised participant of a show. As an authorised participant, you can also carry out body art tattooing procedures at the premises of a licensed tattoo parlour operator for a period of up to 31 days a year. However, to do so, a person must ensure that they:

  • are not an Australian citizen or Australian resident, and
  • the performance of a body art tattooing procedure for fee or reward is not in breach of any visa condition of the individual, and
  • they have not, in the previous 12 months, performed body art tattooing procedures at premises in respect of which an operator licence is in force on more than 31 days, and
  • when performing body art tattooing procedures at any such premises, they carry the following documents and promptly produces them if requested to do so by an authorised officer:
    1. the individual’s passport.
    2. written evidence that the individual is an authorised participant in a show upon request.

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Licence conditions  

Under the Act, a licence is granted subject to specific conditions. However, Fair Trading may impose additional conditions on a licence. All licensees must not sell, rent out or lend their licence to anyone. Operators must also:

  • make business financial records available for inspection by an authorised officer upon written request 
  • notify NSW Fair Trading of any changes in relation to their staff members, close associates or any other licence details, including if a licence has been lost, stolen or destroyed
  • display the certificate of licence at the licensed premises in a visible location
  • include their licence number in any advertising
  • keep a log book of all procedures performed on the premises. The log book must include the: 
    • date/s when the procedure was performed
    • full name and licence number of the tattooist who performed the procedure
    • amount charged, method of payment and receipt number (if any).
  • keep all records in English at the licensed premises at all times, which must be readily accessible by an authorised officer upon written notice.
  • The maximum penalty for not complying with a licence condition is $2,200.

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Anyone operating a body art tattooing business or performing body art tattooing procedures without a licence or permit, or not covered by the transitional arrangements that apply will be breaking the law and may be subject to penalties.

The maximum penalties for operators are:

  • $11,000 in the case of a corporation and in the case of a continuing offence, $11,000 for each day the offence continues
  • $5,500 in any other case and in the case of a continuing offence, $5,500 for each day the offence continues.

The maximum penalties for tattooists are:

  • $5,500 for a first offence.
  • $11,000 for a second or subsequent offence.

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Additional enforcement powers  

The law also allows the NSW Police Force to enter tattoo parlours or premises suspected of being used to perform body art tattooing procedures with sniffer dogs to check for drugs, firearms and explosives.

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