Immigration Officer: Salary, Requirements & Job Description

Research about possible careers as well as other job-related information to become an immigration officer. Learn about the requirements, salary, and skills needed to succeed in this type of work. Schools offering Law Enforcement degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Essential Information

Immigration officers are responsible for understanding and interpreting laws related to immigration, whether for visa applications, criminal endeavors, or assisting in applying for immigration benefits. These positions can be in a variety of federal departments and are only available to U.S. citizens who have resided in the country for at least three years during the last five years, in addition to an ability to analyze credibility and work well in high-stress situations. Below, you can find a table that summarizes important details about immigration officers.

Required Education Usually a bachelor's degree, or 1-3 years of relevant experience
Other Requirements U.S. citizen with at least 3 years of residency, probationary period
Key SkillsAnalytic, writing, and interviewing skills, stress tolerance, integrity, and interpersonal skills
Projected Job Growth (2016-2026)*7% (for all Police and Detectives)
Median Salary (2019)**$57,527

Source: *BLS.gov, **Payscale.com

What is an immigration officer?

An immigration officer may work for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), or in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services under the Department of Homeland Security. There are many kinds of immigration officials within each of these governmental departments. On the administration side, an official may process immigration requests for sponsorship, refugee status, green cards, or naturalization. On the law enforcement side, an official may be stationed at a port of entry, detention facility, working in counterterrorism, or investigating human smuggling or cyber crimes among many other possible careers.

What are the requirements to be an immigration officer?

In addition to passing a background check and drug screening, many positions require financial disclosures in searching for the trustworthiness of tax obligations and debts. Most positions require related experience or higher education, especially for higher salary grades. Before meeting a hiring manager, applicants will submit a resume and take online assessments. While not required, participation in programs such as AmeriCorps or the PeaceCorps count as credit towards relevant experience, and applicants with these or veteran status will often have better chances of being hired. Also, some positions are favorable toward those who have prior law enforcement experience.

What is the anticipated salary?

The salary is heavily dependent on experience, specific job duties, and location. Starting base salary can be as low as $18,785 for an entry level federal position, but according to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), employees in the highest salary grade and step can earn as much as 136,659 in basic pay. Overtime pay is also available and is usually substantial for some fully trained officers. Payscale.com shows the median salary is $57,257, and that most employees earn between $38,000 - $97,000.

What are some key skills?

For most immigration officer jobs, the ability to quickly and accurately analyze data is a priority in order to check visa documents and determine credibility. This data will include immigration laws, benefits, and individual applications, while also needing to be able to communicate those conclusions in writing and in person. As an officer moves up in career grade levels, he or she will need to be able to make decisions regarding specific cases and credibility, in addition to writing legal memorandums. The ability to work well with a team and to work under pressure are also important.

What are some related careers?

For the enforcement aspect of immigration officials, related careers include working as a law enforcement official, probation or correctional officer, or as a paramedic or firefighter. For the legal side of the job, related careers include working with a law firm or a private business to assist in bringing employees or families to the United States and navigating through immigration law. Experience from these fields could be beneficial in transitioning to working as an immigration officer as many positions prefer related fields.

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