Immigration Agent
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Immigration Agent

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Career Overview

For the most part, the United States is open to visitors, whether it's for leisure or business purposes. But not everyone is allowed into the country, particularly those who pose a threat to its citizens. To make sure these people are kept out, the Department of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) employs immigration agents to protect our borders and keep our country safe.Aside from being employed by the same federal agency, immigration agents share a lot of similarities with customs agents. For example, both types of agents are tasked with preventing foreign threats from entering the country at various entry points around its borders. The biggest difference between the two is the type of threats they investigate. While customs agents focus specifically on smuggled goods and substances, immigration agents investigate people who aren't authorized to be in the country. Whether they are a dangerous terrorist or just an illegal immigrant in hiding, it's their job to seek these people out and facilitate their deportation or arrest.Of the many responsibilities you will have as an immigration agent, border patrol is one of the most important ones. Whether you're assigned to an airport, shipping port, or any other entry point, it is crucial that you are enforcing immigration laws and preventing unlawful entrance into the country. Though it might seem like you're just inspecting people and their immigration documents, you're also responsible for gathering intelligence and discovering leads on bigger criminal activity. The things you learn while on border patrol are what lead to bigger investigations and bringing criminals to justice.Being an immigration agent is all about investigating people. Whenever someone enters the country, it's your job to determine if they're a threat or not. By investigating any leads you come across, inspecting immigration documents, evaluating visas, and examining cargo, you'll determine whether or not someone can stay in the country, or if they should be deported. But you can't rely on your investigative skills alone. You'll need a keen eye for observation, and the ability to sense trouble where it isn't always obvious. Spotting a well-disguised terrorist in a huge crowd of people is no easy task, but it's all a part of the job.

Salaries and Job Outlook*

2013 Median Annual Pay
Number of Jobs in 2013
Projected Growth Rate
1.2 %

Education and Training

Degrees Required:
Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice, International Relations, or related fields 6 months of intensive training

As you could probably imagine, there are a lot of things you must accomplish before you can work for the federal government, and becoming an immigration agent is no exception. In order to qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen between the ages of 21 and 37 years old. You also need to have a valid U.S. driver's license and a bachelor's degree in a relevant field, like criminal justice or international relations. On top of that, you should also have at least 1 year of graduate study. You must also have a clean record, with no felony conviction or misdemeanor conviction of domestic violence. Finally, there's a series of assessments you'll have to pass, including written and oral exams, a thorough background check, a stringent medical exam, and a physical fitness test.Once you are officially selected to become an immigration agent, you'll start your training by taking both a Spanish language training program and the Basic Law Enforcement Training Program. Through these programs, you'll gain basic understanding of Spanish, first aid, firearms, and driver training.

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Valued Traits & Abilities

Communication Skills
Analytical Skills
Decision-Making Skills
Detail Oriented

Work Environment

The life of an immigration agent is not a steady one, to say the least. You are expected to be on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. That includes nights, weekends, and holidays, not to mention regular travel time during your assignments. Even though you'd be assigned to a specific "home post", you'll still likely spend a lot of time away from there.Aside from the demanding work hours and constant trips, the job can also be physically exhausting and potentially dangerous. Before you decide to pursue this career path, be clearly aware of the risks and sacrifices that come with it.

* Source: BLS Data - 2013