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Flying foreign flags in America and rules you should abide by 2024

Moving to America, there are obviously cultural differences, behavioral differences, day-to-day differences, business differences, and more, but one thing that you'll notice almost immediately is how many USA flags are flying all over the country. From the gas station to the local high school, flags are everywhere! So are you allowed to fly your national flag too?

Coming from Australia, I can safely say that knew very few (if any) people who owned a flag privately, and only my university carried a flag in addition to government spaces.

It was really a bit of a shock for me when I first arrived. I knew the stereotype of Americans being patriotic and loudly proud of their country but I didn't quite expect to be so visually bombarded by flags as soon as you step off the plane.

I've been asked a lot whether it's ok to fly a flag for your home country in the U.S. and what the rules are to do so (if any), so I thought I'd break it down.

What are the rules for flying the U.S. Flag in America?

First things first, you should know the rules of flying a U.S. flag in America, if you're so inclined to do that. There are a number of guidelines set out in the”flag code”:

The “flag code” is the federal law that sets forth guidelines for the appearance and display of the U.S. flag (“flag”) by private citizens.

Congressional Research Office R45945 (October 7, 2019)

But an important thing to note, for those of you who might be worried, is that:

Most of the flag code contains no explicit enforcement mechanisms, and relevant case law would suggest that the provisions without enforcement mechanisms are declaratory and advisory only.

Congressional Research Office R45945 (October 7, 2019)

This means that these are simply guidelines and recommendations, and you can't be charged with a crime if you don't abide by most of these rules. Following these rules is recommended if you want to fly a flag though as a sign of respect in the country you're flying it in!

So what are the rules contained in the US Flag Code?

You can find a comprehensive list of all the rules here but I've summed them up into a shorter, more consumable list to make sure you know a general concept here.

  1. You should display the flag from sunrise to sunset (and if you want to display it at night, it should be lit)
  2. You can fly your state's flag on the same flagpole as long as it's below the U.S. flag, or you can fly it next to it on its own flagpole, at the same height or lower
  3. You can't choose to fly the flag at half-mast, only the President and Governor of your state can do that, so don't lower that one without being told to (interesting sidenote: on Memorial Day you should fly it at half-staff until noon, then raise it until sunset!)
  4. Make sure you're flying the flag the right way up, not upside down, and you should have it attached by the stars end, not the stripes end
  5. It shouldn't touch the ground (but if it does when you're collecting it, that's ok – the whole burning it if it touches the ground isn't true)
  6. Don't edit the flag with names or symbols or any other marks
  7. When storing the flag, it shouldn't be wadded up, it should be folded (into a triangle)
  8. And if the flag is no longer in a state that looks respectful, you should burn it, privately (making sure of your local and state rules for starting fires)

Basically, in short, be respectful, and take a hot second to think about what you're doing.

What are the rules for flying a foreign flag in America alongside a U.S. Flag?

Again, as above, these are guidelines to show that you are being respectful (and would expect the same respect back):

  1. You should have only one country's flag per flagpole
  2. All other country's flags should be flown at the same vertical height
  3. Technically, you should fly the U.S. flag on the left if you're looking at them

That's basically it. Just make sure you're flying them at equal levels and that shows that you're respecting everyone equally!

What are the rules for flying a foreign flag on its own in the USA?

You are absolutely allowed to do this as well. You don't have to fly the U.S. flag if you want to fly your own country's flag.

There are no specific rules in the Flag Code for flying your own country's flag!

I would recommend basically following the same guidelines though: Be respectful, and you'll be fine!

After all this, should you fly your own country's flag in America?

So now you know that it's legal and you are well within your rights to fly your own flag; should you?

You can do what you want! I'm not here to tell you otherwise, but it's always important to consider those around you and consider your own safety.

You should fly your own flag if that's what you want to do, so do it proudly, respectfully, and follow the guidelines above where appropriate.

Josh Pugh

Josh Pugh

Josh is a business founding, digital marketing focused, charity driving, community builder from South Australia, living in New York City. After moving in 2017, Josh realized that there was an opportunity to curate and help the community of expats who moved to the United States – and launched America Josh. Josh is also the President of Variety – the Children's Charity of New York, Secretary at The Mateship Foundation, and Founder & CEO at Fortnight Digital.View Author posts

77 thoughts on “Flying foreign flags in America and rules you should abide by 2024”

  1. To advise someone that it is alright to fly a foreign flag on American soil is ill advised. I take it you have not heard of international law or maritime law, “law of the flag” and “four cornering?” There are foreign ships in American harbors and if you do business with them, you will be under the laws of the flag of the country that flies on that ship. If you have a contract dispute with that captain, you will have to go to that country to settle your dispute. Embassies fly the flag of their country and if you notice, they are fenced and the laws of the flag flying in those ‘four corners’ is the law of the land. Step outside of those fences and shazam, you have a whole new set of laws to abide by.
    Displaying a foreign flag on your land indicates your land is under the control of another country and you could be viewed as a domestic enemy and are harboring enemy combatants and that can cause government types to raid your property.
    You should investigate 4USC, Sec 1-4, particularly Sec 1 and if you have any smarts, you will see that there is an American flag and there is a flag that represents the executive branch of government, and “no Virginia,they are not the same.” Y’all have fun now!

    1. Goodness gracious me.

      Yes, because maritime law is definitely relevant when talking about flying a flag on US soil. Law of the Flag seems to be the only reference to “four cornering” I can find, because it references a site that no longer exists.

      Embassies exist in common parlance as “foreign soil”, sure, but that’s by stipulation of each Government, and a mutual agreement about how laws operate. It’s not a magical allowance that if you put up a fence and fly a flag you become part of a different country.

      4USC 1-4 refers to the United States’ flag. That doesn’t say anything about flying a foreign flag.

      This is crazy!

      1. I ended up here from a very similar conversation lol! I felt that goodness gracious in my soul

        Thanks for this article its been very helpful!!

  2. There is a Chinese ‘compound’ located west of Denver. it is fully fenced with gates and no identifying signs. at one gate is one flag pole there is a CO state flag flying below a Chinese national flag. there is no evidence of a US flag i have a problem with the amount of security and its proximity to Lockeed-Martin. Am i over-reacting to this unusual compound??

  3. How would u from another put up the desecration of ur flag what would b ur response or I hung an American flag there .alot of blood shed for our freedom and rights went into them Flags . Respect the country ur in and remember if we move there then we respect their ways

  4. A very interesting conversation …. thank all of you. I am a collector of flags and flag-like stuff (vexilloids). I presume to call myself a vexillologist, meaning a specialist or maven, (my wife said “nut”) in flags, and I’m sure many of you are vexillologists as well.
    When I moved to our present house, I put up two 25-foot flagpoles, and almost every day (depending on the weather, of course) I fly the Stars and Stripes on pole number one, and a salute to a state, nation or occasionally some other entity with a flag (if I have it in my collection!).
    I downloaded a calendar from the Flags of the World site, so I can fly a state flag on pole number two. Yes, the US flag goes up first and comes down last. On other nations’ flag [official adoption] days, independence days, or other significant national holidays, their flag goes up. I’ve also got seasonal flags, Christmas, Easter, and that sort of specials. State flags go up on admission or ratification day.
    For the Fourth of July coming up as I write this, flag number two will be either the Betsy Ross or Francis Hopkinson 13-star design — I alternate them each year. And I have handful of USA parody flags — not insulting, just different — that I fly on April Fool’s Day, just for a ROTFLOL moment.
    The neighbors get a kick out of seeing them and checking their almanacs or encyclopedias to see what day it is somewhere today. It’s an educational enterprise, in fact.
    I’m also in the process of designing my “personal flag” or “persoflag,” as it’s called. Several big-time vexi;lologists have some very nice ones lo fly (not unlike the President’s flag or King Charles’s, to represent yourself).
    (Vexillology, by the way, is a word created by my friend the late Whitney Smith, from the Latin vexillum.)
    ……..Viva Vex! ………………. Bill Dunning

  5. The comments are amazing, I had such fun reading them. I am in Texas and fly wth I want while being respectful of the flag. Especially during the world cup, having family from England I support and fly the Union Jack and St Georges when appropriate. I, of course fly a beautiful flag with 50 embroidered stars when appropriate also. I have had zero issues. I even flew a Mexican flag on Cinco de Mayo, I know I know Mexico doesn’t celebrate it and it’s just an excuse to party in the US. Great article, fun comments. Peace to all.

  6. Man you sure are getting some heat for getting it correct. The whole burning the flag when it touched the ground was a tradition started in the American Civil War. Having a guidon bearer or flag bearer have the colors touch the ground was the biggest disgrace against the colors (implying company, battalion, brigade, or us flag) and warranted retired of the colors and so they burned it. Two hundred years of telephone game and here we are. At least that’s what I was told while in the Army. Folks if you are upset that nations we are at peace with cannot stand on equal footing go write your Congress person haha don’t yell at the author because you don’t like the law.

  7. Is it okay to fly a foreign country’s flag (actually, a former foreign country: South Viet Nam) below the American flag on the same pole or do there have to be two poles?

  8. 4 U.S. Code § 7:
    (g) When flags of two or more nations are displayed, they are to be flown from separate staffs of the same height. The flags should be of approximately equal size. International usage forbids the display of the flag of one nation above that of another nation in time of peace.

  9. How dare you inform anyone to display a foreign flag at equal height as the AMERICAN flag. Disinformation at it’s best. Educate yourself on 4 U.S. Code § 7 – Position and manner of display.

    1. You should try educating yourself. Instead you have managed to embarrass yourself. Not sure where you got your information from.

      4 U.S. Code § 7 – Position and manner of display
      (g) When flags of two or more nations are displayed, they are to be flown from separate staffs of the same height. The flags should be of approximately equal size. International usage forbids the display of the flag of one nation above that of another nation in time of peace.

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