Career ProfileINS Agent

What They Do

INS agents work for Immigration and Naturalization Services as immigration inspectors. Their chief responsibility is to determine whether or not to admit people and cargo into the United States. They must research possible immigration and customs violations by assessing individuals, vehicles and products being moved across U.S. borders and state lines. Those in this occupation are responsible for inspecting cargo entering and leaving the U.S, as well as making determining taxation for items crossing international and state borders.

INS agents must also evaluate passports and interview individuals seeking entry into the U.S. and its territories, detaining and deporting people who attempt illegal entry. Some of the more mundane tasks of an immigrations inspector are to maintain records, prepare reports and sort and process applications for temporary residency or immigration into the U.S.

Extremely detail-oriented people who are bilingual, excellent communicators and who have deep knowledge of public safety and security, and state and federal laws regarding visas, passports and travel applications will excel as immigration inspectors.

Expectations: Salary

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not report on immigration inspectors specifically, the median annual wage for police and sheriff’s patrol officers working at a federal level was $54,000 in 2014.

Work Environment

The majority of immigration inspectors work full-time for airports, seaports and at U.S. borders. Many of the locations where inspectors will work require round-the-clock staffing, which may mean night, weekend and holiday work for new inspectors. It’s typical for immigration inspectors to be armed when at work; they must be confident and able to maintain control in all situations, especially when individuals become hostile. It’s also likely that inspectors will be asked to testify in court from time to time. An immigration inspector must be able to remain calm, think clearly, keep a level head and exercise sound judgment in all situations.

Education, Special Skills and Other Qualifications

Like most jobs within the federal government, immigration inspectors are required to hold a bachelor’s degree. Degrees in criminal justice or homeland security are preferred. It is common for newly hired inspectors to go through an immigration and customs enforcement basic training program; this is typically a 60-day+ program that immerses candidates in interviewing, cross-cultural communications, immigration and naturalization laws, fingerprinting, detention procedures and firearm handling, in addition to an extensive background check. They also must obtain and maintain government security clearance due to the sensitive nature of the information they will have access to. After completion of the majority of the program, candidates must be able to pass written exams and a physical fitness test that includes a 1.5-mile run.