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Immigration Officer Career Description

Immigration officers, also known as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, immigration enforcement agents and ICE agents, operate under the Department of Homeland Security. They enforce the country’s immigration and customs laws, provide security for airlines and federal buildings, and also strive to protect the country from terrorists and acts of terrorism.

As ICE is divided into the Office of Investigations, Office of Intelligence, Office of Detention and Removal and Federal Protective Services, specific duties of an immigration officer differ according to assignment.

Becoming an immigration officer requires a bachelor’s degree, U.S. residency for three of the previous five years, U.S. citizenship, work experience (government preferred), tests, background check, valid driver’s license and interviews; applicants also must be under 40 years of age and undergo a 14 to 18 week basic training course, which includes instruction on immigration law and procedures.

Degrees for Immigration Officers

ICE requires a four-year degree in any subject, but bachelor’s degrees in Homeland Security or Criminal Justice are particularly applicable. A master’s degree can increase an applicant’s chances of being hired while advancing an ICE employee’s seniority within the office. For those who already hold bachelor’s degrees in other areas of study, even earning additional coursework toward an associate degree in criminal justice could enhance your qualifications.

For someone wishing to become an immigration officer, an online degree in the following subjects could be helpful:

Immigration Officer Career Description

While the overarching duties of an immigration officer involve enforcing immigration and customs laws and providing security, particularly against terrorism, specific responsibilities apply to separate departments:

  • The Office of Investigations protects structures important to national security and conducts investigations of drugs, terrorism and cybercrime.
  • The Office of Intelligence also undertakes investigations, but focuses on technology and linguistics.
  • The Office of Detention and Removal is involved with apprehending, detaining, processing, deporting and transporting illegal or criminal aliens to their home countries; agents may conduct raids to accomplish department goals.
  • The Federal Protective Services keeps federal employees safe.

If you are interested in becoming an immigration officer with ICE, contact your local Special Agent in Charge (SAC) office, located in various cities across the country. The SAC offices handle all hiring; entry-level openings are not otherwise advertised.

According to the agency website, the ICE employs approximately 15,000 employees in 400 stateside offices, but as of November 2008, they are not currently hiring. Be sure to check the agency website often for an announcement of acceptance of applications.

Program outcomes vary according to each institution’s specific curriculum, and employment opportunities are not guaranteed.

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