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Immigration And Customs Inspector Career

Career Description

Immigration and Customs Inspectors interview and examine people seeking entrance to the United States and its territories and enforce laws governing imports and exports by inspecting cargo, baggage, and articles worn or carried by people,  vessels, vehicles, trains, and aircraft entering or leaving the United States.

Common Work Tasks

  • Examine immigration applications, visas, and passports and interview persons to determine eligibility for admission, residence,  and travel in the U.S
  • Detain persons found to be in violation of customs or immigration laws and arrange for legal action, such as deportation
  • Locate and seize contraband, undeclared merchandise, and vehicles, aircraft, or boats that contain such merchandise
  • Interpret and explain laws and regulations to travelers, prospective immigrants, shippers, and manufacturers
  • Inspect cargo, baggage, and personal articles entering or leaving U.S. for compliance with revenue laws and U.S. customs regulations
  • Record and report job-related activities,  findings, transactions, violations, discrepancies, and decisions
  • Institute civil and criminal prosecutions and cooperate with other law enforcement agencies in the investigation and prosecution of those in violation of immigration or customs laws
  • Testify regarding decisions at immigration appeals or in federal court
  • Determine duty and taxes to be paid on goods
  • Collect samples of merchandise for examination,  appraisal, or testing

Other Job Titles

Immigration and Customs Inspectors are also known by other titles, including:

  • Surveillance Agents
  • Security Guards
  • Border Patrol Agents
  • Protective Service Workers

Education, Training, and Experience

Education and Training
  Most other Federal law enforcement agencies require either a bachelor’s degree or related work experience or a combination of the two. Federal law enforcement agents undergo extensive training, usually at the U.S. Marine Corps base in Quantico,  Virginia, or the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia.  The educational requirements, qualifications, and training information for a particular Federal agency can be found on the agency’s Web site, most of which are listed in the last section of this statement.

      Candidates should enjoy working with people and meeting the public. Because personal characteristics such as honesty, sound judgment, integrity, and a sense of responsibility are especially important in law enforcement, candidates are interviewed by senior officers, and their character traits and backgrounds are investigated. In some agencies, candidates are interviewed by a psychiatrist or a psychologist or given a personality test. Most applicants are subjected to lie detector examinations or drug testing. Some agencies subject sworn personnel to random drug testing as a condition of continuing employment.


The median annual salary for an Immigration and Customs Inspector is $49,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $75,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $29,000.  Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of immigration and customs inspectors are:

  • Federal Executive Branch - $47,970

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  17%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 18,000
  • Employment 2006 : 106,000
  • Employment 2016:  124,000
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