Immigration Enforcement Agent Overview

As an ICE agent your work will be challenging, and you'll need a keen sense of intuition, skill and stamina to master the role.

busy airport immigration center sign

Help welcome newcomers to the U.S. while keeping criminals out.

If you enjoy a fast-paced, challenging and evolving work environment, then a career as an Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent might be your best bet.

What You'll Do

Immigration inspectors interview people seeking entry into the United States. Customs inspectors enforce the laws governing imports and exports by inspecting cargo, baggage, ships, vehicles, trains and aircraft entering and leaving the U.S.

Working environments range from airports and train stations to federal facilities (like correction centers) and field work.

The primary duties of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agents, also referred to as ICE Agents, are:

  • Enforcing customs and immigration laws
  • Protecting federal facilities and commercial airlines
  • Apprehending, processing, detaining and deporting illegal or criminal aliens

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agent Qualifications

Before you apply for a job as an ICE agent, be sure you fit the eligibility criteria. This includes:

  • Bachelor's degree, preferably in criminal justice or homeland security
  • U.S. residency for three of the last five years
  • U.S. citizenship
  • Under the age of 40
  • Work experience, preferably with the federal government

Applicants also need to pass a written test, a background check, a physical exam and possess a valid driver's license.

Basic Training

If hired, you'll need to complete mandatory Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent - ICE Agent basic instruction at one of the many district centers across the country. In basic training, new hires learn everything from immigration law and police techniques to Spanish language skills.

ICE Agent Salary and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median national annual salary for immigration and customs enforcement agents, which falls under the category of police and detectives, is $56,980.

Job growth for police and detectives is expected to be slower than average—5 percent through 2022. However, according to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency's four-year strategic plan, there will be a focus on recruitment to build a "stellar workforce."

Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.