How to become an immigration officer
You can get into this job through:
- a college course
- an apprenticeship
- working towards this role
- applying directly
You could do a college course which would teach you some of the skills needed in this role. After you finish your course you could apply for a trainee immigration officer post.
Relevant courses include:
- Level 2 or Level 3 Diploma in Public Services
You'll usually need:
- 2 or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D), or equivalent, for a level 2 course
- 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, for a level 3 course
You could start as a trainee immigration officer and do a public service operational delivery officer advanced apprenticeship with the Civil Service.
With qualifications and experience, you could move on to immigration officer roles.
You'll usually need:
- 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths, for an advanced apprenticeship
You could join the Civil Service as an assistant immigration officer. Once working, you could apply for a post as an immigration officer when vacancies become available.
You could apply directly for immigration officer jobs with the Civil Service. The qualifications and experience you'll need will depend on the exact job you're applying for, but you'll usually find it useful to have:
- 2 A levels at grade C or above
- a degree for some jobs
- customer service skills
- the ability to speak another language
You can find more details about working as an immigration officer from Civil Service Careers and UK Visas and Immigration.
Immigration Officer: Salary, Job Description, and Requirements
According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), more than million petitions, requests, and applications for entry into the U.S. were received in alone. This has increased demand for immigration officers, such as those hired by the Department of Homeland Security.
Immigration officers have a broad variety of duties and responsibilities, from administering humanitarian programs to evaluating citizenship extensions or petitions for work visas. By analyzing and applying the law to each situation, these officers are responsible for the safe and effective enforcement of U.S. border security, citizenship, and immigration.
From one case to the next, immigration officers may find themselves working with individuals from around the world, encountering a variety of laws, global issues, and humanitarian concerns. By pursuing a bachelor’s degree in international studies, those interested in becoming immigration officers can equip themselves to make a positive impact in the lives of others.
Immigration officer salary
According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the compensation website PayScale.com, factors such as experience and location play a large factor in the salaries of immigration officers. As federal law enforcement officers, candidates begin at a minimum Grade 3 on the OPM scale and can move up to Grade 10, with 10 steps in each grade. As of , the OPM base rates ranged from Grade 3, Step 1 at $29, to Grade 10, Step 10 at $67, This is before additional pay based on location and cost of living. Immigration officer specialists and supervisors can earn up to Grade 14 pay.
In April , the median immigration officer salary was about $60,, according to PayScale.com. Experience is important: Immigration officers with five to 19 years of experience earn an average total compensation of about $73,, while those with 20 or more years of experience earn a median salary of $85, Salary can also vary by location and education level. Officers who have completed an advanced degree can set themselves apart for desirable roles or locations, allowing them to advance on the OPM scale.
Immigration officer requirements
There are a variety of different immigration officer requirements to meet — including education, skills, and competencies — depending on the desired role. In addition, for those interested in front-line positions, the hiring process includes the completion of a background investigation, physical fitness test, and medical exam.
While not always mandatory, many immigration officers hold a bachelor’s degree. Criminal justice, international studies or law, political science, and a foreign language are popular fields of study. Some roles require a master’s degree in similar areas. Candidates who are interested in higher-level competitive positions can be aided by the completion of such a master’s program. Job candidates without a bachelor’s degree typically need to fulfill certain experience requirements.
Skills and competencies
Strong communication skills are an asset for officers when interacting with immigration applicants. Due to the sensitive nature of many cases, the knowledge gained from their education and early or entry-level positions provides immigration officers with the social awareness, critical-thinking skills, and empathy to work effectively.
With knowledge of immigration law, government functions, and legal research and analysis, officers can make informed decisions and convey valuable information to others.
Immigration officer job description
Immigration officers work for either the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Both are part of the Department of Homeland Security. In their roles, immigration officers exercise a variety of duties and responsibilities, depending on their precise job title.
An immigration officer’s job description may include the following tasks:
- Assisting with citizenship and lawful permanent residence: Immigration officers may help individuals who wish to reside permanently in the U.S. or submit applications to the USCIS to become naturalized citizens.
- Evaluating applications for family-based immigration: Immigration officers can assist in cases in which lawful permanent residents and U.S. citizens petition for qualifying relatives to live and work in the U.S.
- Granting employment-based nonimmigrant and immigrant petitions: Dealing with applications that allow individuals from other countries to lawfully work in the U.S. is another task often performed by immigration officers. This also includes the assessment of applicants at ports of entry by interviewing and either granting or denying visas and permits.
- Managing humanitarian programs: Immigration officers assist in the administration of humanitarian programs coordinated by the USCIS in ways that fulfill international obligations and uphold U.S. law. Programs include those for asylum seekers, refugees, temporary protected status applicants, and victims of criminal activity or human trafficking.
- Investigating, detaining, and deporting individuals for immigration fraud: Another responsibility of immigration officers can be the investigation and identification of benefit fraud by immigrants as well as individuals who have not qualified for or have overstayed their visas and permits. Often in coordination with other members of law enforcement, immigration officers examine the falsification of information on federal applications and documents and conclude whether an individual may need to be detained or deported.
- Coordinating other services, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA): Immigration officers assist with individuals seeking to change or extend their immigration status in the U.S., including those who were brought to the U.S. as minors. They also provide services for immigrants and nonimmigrants, such as the replacement or renewal of green cards.
From officers focused on investigations, information analysis, and report preparation to officers trained on the effective enforcement, detention, and deportation of individuals — these officials play a crucial role in protecting the safety and security of U.S. citizens and those who wish to be.
Gain international expertise for an immigration officer career
Immigration officers address a broad variety of situations and make decisions every day that can positively affect the lives of immigrants and U.S. citizens. If you are interested in pursuing a career in immigration, the skills, knowledge, and experience gained from the Maryville University online Bachelor of Arts in International Studies can set you apart from other applicants, providing an invaluable understanding of the broader picture related to global issues.
With three options for experiential learning, the flexibility of online coursework, and supportive faculty, Maryville University is invested in your success. Emphasizing a broad set of cross-cultural skills — including the opportunity to learn a foreign language and explore areas of interest such as art and global politics — an international studies degree from Maryville opens a range of possibilities.
Discover the positive impact you can make in an exciting new career as an immigration officer.
Humanitarian Aid Worker: How to Craft a Career Assisting with Global Issues
International Studies vs. International Relations: What’s the Difference
The Role of Political Psychology in Diplomacy
Criminal Justice Jobs, “How to Become a USCIS Immigration Officer Career Guide”
Houston Chronicle, “Immigration Officer Duties”
Indeed, “How to Become an Immigration Officer”
O*NET Online, Customs and Border Protection Officers
PayScale.com, Average Immigration Officer Salary
USAJOBS, Immigration Officer
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, “ USCIS Statistical Annual Report”
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Immigration and Citizenship Data
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE’s Mission
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE Statistics
U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Salary Table , Special Base Rates for Law Enforcement Officers at Grades 3 to 10
Zippia, Immigration Officer Overview
Immigration Services Officer (ISO) at US Citizenship and Immigration Services in Nation-wide, Washington DC
U.S. CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION SERVICES OFFERS UNIQUE CAREER OPPORTUNITIES NATION-WIDE!
For over years, the United States has been welcoming immigrants from around the world and encouraging each of them to fulfill their dreams and make a contribution to the social, economic and political fabric of our Nation. USCIS is committed to securing the promise of America for the thousands of qualified immigrants coming who come to our shores each day in search of freedom, liberty and opportunity.
By contributing your skills, talent and vision to the USCIS mission, you will have an important role in maintaining the integrity of our nation's immigration system. Furthermore, your work will ensure that we remain true to our historic traditions as a welcoming Nation and a beacon of hope to those who seek freedom and liberty.
Those who join USCIS enjoy personal and professional growth through rewarding job assignments and benefit from a continual learning environment.
As an Immigration Services Officer (ISO), you will:
•Support the adjudication process by adjudicating cases, conducting security checks, managing correspondence, providing internal and external customer support, conducting interviews, and ensuring program quality assurance.
•Independently research, interpret and analyze an extensive spectrum of sources including pertinent sections of the law and regulations, operating instructions, references and guidance contained in legislative history, precedent decisions, state and local laws, international treaties and other legal references to embrace the correct course of action.
•Grant or deny applications and petitions for immigration benefits based on electronic or paper applications/petitions.
•Process applications and petitions using available electronic systems through verification of any number of established data points to make adjudicative decisions and/or determine appropriate level of adjudicative review, and update databases with appropriate information and decisions.
•Conduct security checks in accordance with all applicable DHS/USCIS laws and policies.
•Provide direct and continuing assistance to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel and officials of other Federal agencies in identifying individuals who pose a threat to national/public security.
•Interview applicants and petitioners to elicit statements and assess credibility, and analyze information gained to identify facts and considerations that form the basis for the determination as to the applicant's eligibility for specific benefits sought.
Additionally, you will:
•Grow in a stimulating environment where professional development and career mobility are championed; and
•Take innovative approaches to improving service delivery to our customers, addressing national security goals, and promoting organizational excellence in service to our Nation.
We will begin accepting applications starting Monday July 18, to Friday, July 29,
Therefore, if you are interested you must act fast!
How do I apply? If our challenging and rewarding career opportunities interests you, please click on the opportunities below to review the official vacancy announcement located on the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) USA jobs website. Please be sure to reference the below job announcement number.
Please Reference Job Announcement Number: CIS-PJNNATIONWIDE
Series Grade: GS/09
Promotion Potential: 09
Salary Range: $31, - $61, /year
Enjoy great benefits: As a USCIS employee, you will enjoy a comprehensive benefits package designed to enhance your wellness, education and life balance. Here's a sample of our benefits:
•Wide choice of health insurance plans, including dental and vision coverage
•Life and long-term care insurance
•Personal leave days for vacation, illness and family care
•Ten paid holidays per year
•Flexible work schedule
•Fully portable thrift savings plan (similar to a (k) investment plan)
•Defined benefit retirement plan
•Flexible spending accounts for health and dependent care expenses
•Career development and tuition reimbursement incentive awards
•Employee assistance program
We are committed to increasing diversity at all levels throughout USCIS and seek applicants that provide the widest range of solutions, ideas, perspectives, skills, experiences and backgrounds to protect and secure America.
DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY IS AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY EMPLOYER
Visit us online @ www.uscis.gov/careers
How to Become a USCIS Immigration Officer
The U.S. immigration system is based on four principles: reuniting families, protecting refugees, admitting immigrants with valuable skills, and promoting diversity. Immigration officers are an integral part of this system.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the federal agency that immigration officers work for. Most immigration officers must hold a bachelors degree at minimum, though previous governmental experience can sometimes be substituted. More advanced roles often require at least one year of graduate studies. After receiving a job offer, new employees must participate in a nine-week USCIS training program held in Charleston, South Carolina.
What Do Immigration Officers Do?
Immigration officers manage the operations and flow of our immigration system.
Many people confuse immigration officers with immigration enforcement agents, border patrol agents, or customs and border officials. All work within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), but different agencies within DHS oversee the various professions.
Paul Bennett, a USCIS trainer, emphasizes one major thing setting the USCIS apart from other immigration agencies: Were not law enforcement…we dont carry weapons and we dont arrest. Our office is mainly to invite people to tell us what benefit theyre looking for.
The majority of immigration officers work in office settings, though some positions require travel. They frequently work with other federal, state, and local employees, both within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and elsewhere.
There are three categories of immigration officers:
Immigration Officer, FDNS
Immigration officers assigned to the Office of Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) identify immigrants who use false or misleading information when applying for citizenship, visas, or asylum, also known as illegal immigrants. These officers often work with other local, state, and federal government agencies to gather evidence before making their cases and taking action. They must possess thorough and up-to-date knowledge of policies and regulations to do their jobs adequately.
Immigration Information Officer
Immigration information officers help immigrants who legally qualify for entrance to or residence in the U.S. These professionals assist immigrants with filling out applications, review applications to ensure all required information is provided, and speak with applicants about their immigration options. These officers may also make determinations about whether the applicant provided any incorrect or misleading information.
Immigration Services Officer
Immigration services officers request needed documentation when processing applications and interviewing visa, asylum, and citizenship candidates to ensure their requests are credible. They also make decisions about whether to deny or grant an immigrants petition and liaise with other governmental agencies about their choices. When required, they may appear at court proceedings or work with the media to disseminate findings or new rules set forth by the Department of Homeland Security.
I have read the files of people that have come before me. I have seen their journey through paper. I have heard their testimonies. And I dont think an American Citizen, someone born here will ever understand some of the things that people have gone through to get to America.
—Lisa Jones, Supervisory Immigration Services Officer, USCIS, Detroit
Requirements for Becoming an Immigration Officer
To become an immigration officer, you need to have met education requirements and undergo a training program. Note that UCSIS maintains several special hiring programs for students, recent graduates, former Peace Corps/AmeriCorps volunteers, veterans, and individuals with disabilities.
Immigration Officer Education Requirements
The education you need depends on the level of the role. For entry-level positions, you will need a bachelors degree. You can earn a bachelors degree in any field. However, if you want to stand out next to other applicants, consider earning a bachelors degree in criminal justice, accounting, a foreign language, or another relevant field. Individuals who already possess relevant experience working for the federal government may be able to bypass this requirement.
For more senior positions, you need at least one year of postgraduate study or a masters degree. If you have relevant work experience—for example, experience in securing the borders, looking for terrorist activity, or dealing with fraud—you may be able to get a job at this higher level.
USCIS Training Program
Once hired, you will take part in a nine-week orientation at the USCIS training center in Charleston, South Carolina. The program prepares you to work with people of different backgrounds, investigate various threats to the country, and handle immigration issues.
Upon graduating from this training program, you start your probationary period. Most FDNS immigration officers have a one-year probationary period, during which they must prove they can do the job and work efficiently as part of their team.
Immigration Officer Salary and Career Outlook
USCIS follows federal salary guidelines set forth by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Each year they produce new General Schedule (base) and Locality Pay Tables. Salaries are arranged by grade and step. There are 15 grades, which represent the responsibility or intensity level of different jobs. Within each grade, there are 10 steps based on merit and the amount of time spent in the field. The government does not disclose specific wages for immigration officers, as factors such as education, experience, and location impact these figures.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not collect income data for jobs in the federal government; however, Payscale found the average annual salary for immigration officers to be $59, based on submitted wages from immigration officers.
Skills and Characteristics of an Immigration Officer
Immigration officers who excel in their roles often possess a successful blend of skills and traits.
- Communication: Immigration officers frequently communicate verbally and in writing with individuals in USCIS, other government officials, and those seeking citizenship, visas, or asylum.
- Familiarity with technology: To manage a massive number of applicants at various stages of the immigration process, USCIS uses sophisticated databases and other technology to keep records organized. Understanding how to use these tools can go a long way in being an effective immigration officer.
- Second language: Though not usually required, fluency in a second language can help bridge communication gaps between officers and applicants. Knowing a second language can also help candidates stand out from other job seekers.
Youre connecting people who got separated throughout their lives…its a blessing and a privilege to be able to help [these] people.
—Armin Terzic, former Bosnian refugee and U.S. Immigration Services Officer, USCIS, Lincoln, Nebraska
Alternative/Related Jobs in Immigration
While there are many immigration officer jobs, you may find none of the above the above are the perfect fit for you. If thats the case, numerous related jobs exist. USCIS provides profiles of current employees to give a better sense of what the work entails.
- Asylum Officer: These professionals work specifically with citizens of other countries who are fleeing to America due to persecution and endangerment in their homelands. They interview applicants, research conditions in their country of origin, identify if the applicant has any past criminal behavior, collect other documentation, and make recommendations regarding their asylum statuses.
- Refugee Officer: While immigration officers typically work out of one office, refugee officers travel internationally to interview those seeking refugee status. They determine eligibility, oversee security checks, and help with the resettlement process for approved applicants.
- Appeals Officer: If an immigration applicant doesnt agree with a decision about their application, appeals officers handle their case. They review complaints, research previous applicants and decisions made by USCIS staff, and look for consistency in rulings. They then make recommendations as to how the case should be handled.
- Customs Border Patrol Officer: Professionals in this role are responsible for patrolling entry points and borders of the United States for illegal immigrants, prohibited items, and other criminal activity. There is a rigorous hiring process, and these officers have a high security clearance.
Resources for Immigration Officers
- Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA): Immigration officers are not law enforcement agents but may find this organization useful. FLEOA is the largest professional association supporting those working in federal law enforcement. The group currently has a roster of more than 26, federal employees from 65 agencies. Members can take advantage of legal representation, a hour help hotline, affinity service discounts, scholarships, legislative advocacy, and access to local chapters.
- A Day in the Life of USCIS: This is a great read if you want to learn more about the details of work within USCIS. The article highlights the different tasks performed by the agency to keep immigration services moving smoothly.
- American Immigration Council: How the United States Immigration System Works: Learn all about our immigration system, including admissions numbers and the process for immigrating.
- Center for Immigration Studies: Historical Overview of Immigration Policy: Learn about immigration policy starting in the s and how U.S. policy has changed over the years.
- Migration Policy Institute, U.S. Immigration Policy Program: You can find a host of articles about immigration, including statistics and discussions of current policy.
Officer immigration requirements services
How To Become an Immigration Officer
Government employees, such as immigration officers, play a pivotal role in the process of immigration. They can help keep citizens safe and influence whether people attain citizenship, visas or asylum. Learning more about becoming an immigration officer will help you decide if it's the right career choice for you. In this article, we discuss what an immigration officer is, how to become an immigration officer, and the skills that are helpful for this role.
What is an immigration officer?
An immigration officer works at a federal, provincial, or municipal level to assist with immigration processes. They're responsible for assessing the validity of information on applications for people who're trying to attain visas, citizenship, and asylum. This process includes identifying false or misleading information and alerting other government agencies. Immigration officers often request documents, review applications, and interview applicants.
Immigration officers typically work in an office setting, but they occasionally may need to travel to appear in court. There are multiple different immigration-related jobs, and people often confuse them with one another. Some of these jobs include:
- Border patrol agents
- Immigration enforcement agents
- Customs and border officials
- Resettlement officers
- Case managers
Immigration officers work for the government. The Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is the department of the Government of Canada responsible for all matters related to immigration, attaining citizenship and refugees. The department's goal is to screen incoming, temporary, or permanent residents to protect the health, safety, and security of all citizens.
How to become an immigration officer
A career as an immigration officer can be rewarding. As an immigration officer, you may help improve the lives of immigrants and help keep citizens safe. If you're thinking about a career as an immigration officer, the following steps will inform you about how to get your career started:
1. Gain experience or an education
Immigration officers are considered entry-level positions. There isn't an official education requirement. Often, immigration officers start by working as assistants at government or military branches. However, you may bypass this step if you first pursue a degree. Earning a bachelor's degree may replace the need to hold a federal service position. There isn't a specific major you must follow, but the following options may help you gain the knowledge and skills it takes to become a successful immigration officer:
- Criminal justice
- Homeland security
- International law
- Political science
- Foreign language
If you choose to pursue a degree, it may be a good idea to consider what classes will best prepare you for becoming an immigration officer. Some classes include:
- Data mining
- Criminal intelligence
- Intelligence analysis
- Emergency management
- Foreign language
2. Pass a civil service exam
If you want to work for the municipal, provincial or federal government, you'll need to pass the Canada Public Service Exam. This exam proves that applicants have the appropriate skills for a specific position. The exam varies depending on the field and level of government.
3. Write or edit your resume
After passing your exam, it's time to write a resume that catches the attention of hiring managers. Be sure to include the following on your resume:
- Objective: why you want the position that you're applying for
- Qualifications: list relevant knowledge, abilities and skills
- Experience: list past work experience and primary responsibilities
- Education: list all degrees and where you earned them
Make sure that your resume appears organized and neat. Consider having someone review it before submitting it to hiring managers.
Related:How To Write a Resume
4. Find a job
Once your resume is ready, you can apply for immigration officer positions. Job openings are advertised through the Public Service Commission of Canada. Read the job description to ensure you qualify before you apply.
5. Acquire new skills
As you gain experience as an immigration officer, you may want to learn new skills or improve your current skill set. You can learn another language, such as Spanish or Mandarin. Proficiency in another language can help you assist more immigration candidates and may place you at a competitive advantage for advancement opportunities.
Related:How To Develop Your Skill Set To Advance Your Career
6. Improve your credentials
If you hope to advance in your career as an immigration officer, it may be wise to acquire additional degrees. You may consider pursuing your master's degree or a one-year graduate program. Acquiring either of these credentials may help you reach higher-ranking positions within your field.
Typical duties for an immigration officer
As an immigration officer, you may be responsible for ensuring that potential immigrants who wish to relocate to the country match the eligibility requirements to attain citizenship. This screening process determines whether potential immigrants are granted citizenship. The main purpose of this process is to facilitate the country's immigration system and identify threats or attempts at fraud. Although daily duties for immigration officers may vary, some common responsibilities include:
- Reviewing citizenship, visa, and asylum applications
- Determining the accuracy of application information
- Researching information provided on candidate applications
- Completing background checks
- Assessing the validity of applicant requests
- Requesting documentation or gathering data to support claims regarding an application
- Working closely with other federal, provincial, or municipal government agencies
- Monitoring people entering and exiting the country at key entry points, like airports or land and water crossings
Average salary for immigration officers
Salaries for immigration officers vary based on experience and location. They typically make an average base salary of $56, per year. This can change, however, depending on the job duties they perform and the organization that employs them.
Requirements to work as an immigration officer
There are some requirements to become an immigration officer, including:
- Citizenship or residency: You must have Canadian citizenship, permanent residency or national status.
- Age: You must be 18 years or older.
- Language proficiency: You must be able to speak both English and French at a working level.
- Physical fitness: As the job may require you to be active, being physically fit is important. You may be required to pass a fitness exam before you can work as an immigration officer.
- Clean records: A thorough background check will determine whether you have a clean criminal record, which is mandatory for becoming an immigration officer. Your driving record should also be clean and you should keep an active driver's license.
- Drug screening: You must pass a drug test.
Immigration officer skills
As an immigration officer, it's helpful to have a wide variety of skills to advance in your career. Being an empathetic and compassionate person may help motivate you to do your job to the best of your ability. Having strong social skills can be helpful, as you may frequently work with people of diverse backgrounds. Here's an extensive list of hard and soft skills that are beneficial for becoming an immigration officer:
- Cooperative and patient
- Social awareness
- Good judgement
- Leadership skills
- Organization skills
- Time management skills
- Communication skills
- Critical thinking skills
- Decision-making skills
- Reading comprehension skills
- Writing skills
- Ability to work well with others
- Familiarity with multiple languages
- Capable of using technology and various types of databases and software
Types of immigration officers
As an immigration officer, you may hold a specific job title based on your duties. Regardless of job title, immigration officers work closely with colleagues to achieve the common goal of keeping citizens safe. Some of these specific job titles include:
Immigration information officer
As an immigration information officer, you may work with immigrants once they've met the legal qualifications necessary to enter the country. You may assist immigrants by ensuring that their applications will be accepted. To do so, you'll likely help immigrants with:
- Filling out applications
- Checking applications to ensure they contain the required information
- Researching information to best inform potential immigrants
- Discussing immigration options
- Determining whether documents are free of inaccurate or misleading information
Immigration services officer
Immigration services officers ensure that the information provided on applications and during interviews by citizenship, visa and asylum candidates is credible. You may be tasked with deciding whether an immigrant's petition is approved or denied. This task may require that you work closely with other government agencies to help reach a decision. As an immigration services officer, you may need to appear in court and must continue to educate yourself on the newest immigration rules and regulations.
Special agents working in immigration protect citizens by ensuring that criminals and terrorists are detected when trying to enter or relocate to the country. As a special agent, you'll split your time between an office and the field. Special agents need to establish working relationships with other federal agencies to closely manage criminal and terrorist investigations. As a special agent, it's necessary to be physically fit. You may be expected to travel frequently and keep a flexible schedule.
Becoming an Immigration Officer: Job Description & Salary Info
Pros and Cons of an Immigration Officer Career
As an immigration officer, you are a federal employee working for the Department of Homeland Security on a variety of issues related to immigration. Here are some of the pros and cons of becoming an immigration officer to help you decide if this career choice is right for you.
|Pros of an Immigration Officer Career|
|Salary above national average (mean annual salary of $54, for police and sheriff's patrol officers working on the federal level in )*|
|Variety of available positions (immigration service officers, asylum officers, community relations officers, customs and border patrol officers)***|
|Opportunity to help protect the nation against terrorism and other dangers while helping people who qualify for entry and citizenship**|
|Able to use a combination of education and experience to qualify for most positions***|
|Cons of an Immigration Officer Career|
|Training required in addition to educational requirement***|
|Extensive background checks required, possibly including polygraph testing and financial disclosure***|
|Potentially high stress work***|
|Employers may be extremely selective (for example, only about one in ten tentatively selected customs and border protection officers passes all pre-employment screening)***|
Sources: *Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website, ***USA Job postings.
Essential Career Information
Career Options and Job Descriptions
Each immigration officer career has its own job description and areas of expertise. Immigration service officers specifically work in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency (USCIS). They review any of the more complicated applications submitted by persons wanting to become U.S. citizens, and then they decide which applications are accepted or rejected. Immigration service officers also work with other federal agencies to help identify persons who might be a security threat. Asylum officers also work in the USCIS and judge the cases of persons seeking asylum in the United States.
Community relations officers are assigned a jurisdiction and maintain collaborative relationships with communities, organizations and community leaders who might be affected by USCIS policies. For example, a community relations officer might hold outreach meetings with persons from immigrant communities. Customs and border protection (CBP) officers work at U.S. ports of entry to enforce immigration, customs and agriculture laws. CBP officers interview or inspect all persons and transport at the country's borders in order to prevent illegal entry and permit citizens, legitimate travelers and legal goods into the country.
Salary and Job Prospects
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) categorizes immigration officers as police and sheriff patrol officers working under the Federal Executive branch. The mean salary for this group was about $54, per year in However, your salary for a federal job can vary based on your qualifications and level of experience for the position. The BLS also reported that expected job growth for police officers and detectives, which includes immigration officers, is five percent between and
What Are the Requirements?
Education and Training Requirements
Immigration service officer candidates must have experience in working with routine immigration issues. Asylum officer candidates should have experience analyzing immigration laws and preparing briefs. Higher education such as a master's degree, law degree or doctorate might be substituted for experience. You'll also have to take a basic immigration officer training for these positions. Asylum officer candidates must take an additional seven-week course before being hired; they're also required to travel, possibly for long periods, in order to interview applicants.
Community relations officer candidates must have experience opening communication with and collaborating with community organizations in order to collect their responses and opinions. Candidates must know how to maintain these relationships and write appropriate reports. They are responsible for both collecting and disseminating immigration information. There's no educational substitute for experience for this position.
Additional specific requirements for CBP officer candidates include a written test, two pre-employment physical fitness tests, a medical exam and a structured interview. Prior experience in immigration or in regulatory work (such as being an auditor or inspector) might help raise your pay grade. A bachelor's degree or graduate education can substitute for experience. CBP officer candidates might be required to be fluent in a second language and must also take a basic training course. There is also a maximum age limit of 37 for new applicants, unless you meet certain exception requirements.
Top Skills for Immigration Officers
While specific requirements can vary somewhat depending on position, certain key requirements must be met for all immigration officer positions:
- All candidates must be U.S. citizens. Additionally, if you are applying to become a CPB officer, you'll need to have lived in the U.S. for at least three years.
- You must clear a background test which, according to postings on the USA Jobs website, can be quite extensive. For CPB officer candidates, background testing also includes a polygraph test; since you'll have to carry a firearm, you must have no convictions for domestic violence. The investigation for immigration service and asylum officers includes financial disclosure. Community outreach officer candidates must qualify for secret-level clearance, and their financial disclosure might have to include delinquency in paying debts, child support or taxes.
- All candidates must pass a drug screen. Your investigator might also want to know if you ever used or possessed illegal drugs in the past.
Real Job Postings
Immigration officers work for the Department of Homeland Security. These jobs are mostly found on the federal job board, USA Jobs. Here are a few of the postings that were listed in May
- The USCIS has a few vacancies available for the position of asylum officer. Candidates would work full time in San Francisco, CA. In addition to the requirements listed above, you'll need a resume and all documents that support your qualifications.
- The USCIS is looking to hire a community relations officer to work in Boston, MA. Duties include providing training to the local community and making sure USCIS policies reach the widest audience possible.
- The Department of Homeland Security is hiring persons to become CPB officers, with many vacancies on the Southwest borders of the country. Currently, female officers are needed to process female travelers that might need to be detained or deported. For work in the Southwest, you'll need to pass a Spanish language proficiency test or pass a six-week Spanish language course.
How Can I Stand out?
USA Job postings and requirements tend to be long and detailed. Making sure you read the entire post and submitting all the documentation requested will help you stand out as an immigration officer candidate. Learning or brushing up on your foreign language skills should also help. Answer all questions truthfully, since your responses will be investigated. The Department of Homeland Security also recommends that if you are considering a CBP position and are not already in a fitness program, you should consider starting one as soon as possible to help you meet the rigorous training requirements.
According to USA Jobs, if you have a disability, were a VISTA volunteer, were in the Peace Corps or are a veteran you might already have skills the government is looking for. Documenting your experience according to the instructions in the job postings may increase your chances of getting hired.
Transportation Security Officer
If you want to work for the Department of Homeland Security, but are not as interested in immigration, you might consider becoming a transportation security officer (TSO). TSOs provide security in the nation's airports by screening all people, baggage and cargo being transported by air. Duties might include monitoring and controlling airport exit and entryways, performing searches and interacting with the public.
You must be a U.S. citizen or national, at least 18 years old and proficient in English. You'll need a high school diploma, equivalent certificate or at least one year of experience as an x-ray technician, a security officer or screener working in aviation. You'll have to pass a medical evaluation (including physical fitness test), a drug screen and a pre-employment background check. According to the BLS, the median annual wage for TSOs was $37, in Job growth for TSOs is expected to be at ten percent between and
Law Enforcement Officer
If you are interested in federal law enforcement but don't want to work for the Department of Homeland Security, you might want to become a law enforcement officer for the Forest Service under the Department of Agriculture. Some of the job duties for this position include disseminating information about the Forest Service to local, state, national and private organizations. Law enforcement officers also investigate law violations and might participate in hearings.
Entry-level candidates need a bachelor's degree or equivalent experience, including good oral and written communication skills, the ability to gather data, analyze problems and plan solutions. As noted above, the mean annual wage for federal police positions was $52, in , and expected job growth for all police is expected to be at seven percent between and
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