INS Agent

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, commonly known as ICE, conducts investigations for the Department of Homeland Security. ICE, formed after the events of September 11th, includes the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Federal Services Protective Service, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. This criminal justice agency works closely with the FBI and CIA to prevent attacks on the homeland. Its primary focus is to enforce the country's immigration and customs laws.

What Does an INS Agent Do?

America is known as the land of opportunity and draws hundreds of thousands of people to her shores each year. Some of these people arrive legally, but many others come illegally. An INS agent, also known as an ICE agent, works to ensure immigration and customs laws are being followed. Agents deport illegal aliens, conduct raids, patrol the nation's borders, and investigate port activities. Illegal immigration continues to be a growing problem for the country. The work INS agents perform is more important than ever before.

INS agents have received considerable press over the past few years due to the deteriorating situation on the U.S. and Mexican border. This porous border allows illegal aliens to sneak into the United States. There is increasing concern that terrorists may cross the border with chemical or biological weapons. Drugs are a substantial problem too, as dangerous cartels use the border to bring contraband into this country. INS agents work with border patrol agents to apprehend and deport these individuals. They also help devise deterrents to reduce the number of illegal entries into the country.

It is against the law for companies to hire illegal aliens. However, many companies do so because they can be paid less, the company doesn't have to provide benefits, and IRS paperwork does not have to be filled out. INS agents periodically check companies to make sure they are complying with federal reporting laws. It is not uncommon for these agents to be involved in raids on companies suspected of hiring a large number of illegal employees.

INS Agents are also stationed at ports throughout the country too. Thousands of tons of cargo pass through these ports on a daily basis. Agents investigate port workers suspected of smuggling contraband into the country. Human trafficking, drugs, and illegal arms export are not an INS agent's only concern. They will also be called to investigate suspected terrorist activities at the port.

The work an INS agent does has the potential to be very dangerous. People who have entered the country illegally may can become violent if they are desperate enough Agents must know how to quickly respond to these situations, not just for their safety, but for the safety of the public.

The Application Process

A resume will not be enough to secure an INS agent job. The entire application process can take six months or more to complete, and the applicant must meet all of the following qualifications:
1. The applicant may not be older than 37 years.
2. Anyone convicted of a felony, misdemeanor, or domestic violence charge is not eligible.
3. The applicant must have resided in the United States for at least three years.
4. A bachelor's degree in a criminal justice field is required. (Your previous criminal justice jobs may be submitted in place of a degree.)

If you pass these initial requirements, you will be asked to take a written exam that measures your law enforcement knowledge. You will receive your scores six to twelve weeks after you take the exam. Based on the results, you may be called in for interviews. Applicants must sit for both an oral interview and a personal interview. These interviews are designed to gain a better understanding of your decision-making process and are given a pass or fail score. You will also be asked to provide a writing sample based on an assigned topic.

An extensive background check will be performed, along with a physical fitness exam, eye exam, and hearing test. If you successfully pass the interviews and tests, you may receive a job offer. Usually, there is a long waiting list. New agents are required to undergo 22 weeks of extensive training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Georgia. Upon successful completion, you will be able to work in the field unsupervised.

Locations and Salary Potential

INS agents are rarely assigned to work in Washington D.C. Their work must be performed out in the field. These positions can be found all across the country. Some areas, particularly those in the Southwest, will have a much greater need for INS agents than other areas of the country. Agents may also be assigned overseas. ICE maintains offices in 47 different countries.

INS agent positions are highly coveted. The competition is intense and the waiting list is often long. However, the professional and personal benefits are gratifying. An INS agent can expect to make a base salary between $30,000 and $65,000. In addition to the base salary, agents are also eligible for availability pay to compensate for excessive overtime work.

Last Updated: 04/29/2014