What Is an Immigration Officer?
An immigration officer works for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is a branch of the U.S. Federal Government. Immigration officers play a fundamental role in maintaining and improving the national security of the United States. They also oversee the general functions of the immigration system.
Immigration officers serve as the main liaisons between the USCIS and other law enforcement and intelligence agencies. They also serve as contacts for the USCIS on issues such as national security and public safety. Immigration officers may investigate immigration benefit fraud, detecting those that have crossed a border illegally and removing them, and generally ensure that immigration legislation is enforced.
A good immigration officer needs to be able to exercise sound judgment and effectively research and analyze legal information. He or she also needs to have an excellent ability to communication with people from wide varieties of backgrounds.
How to Become an Immigration Officer
In order to become an immigration officer, an individual must pass the requirements of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In order to qualify for acceptance into USCIS, a candidate must be a United States citizen and have lived in the United States for at least three of the past five years. An individual must be under 40 years old and have a valid driver’s license.
As far as education, candidates must have at least a bachelor’s degree, preferably in a discipline such as homeland security, international law or criminal justice. The USCIS give preference to applicants who can speak a second or third language, and Spanish is the most beneficial.
In addition, all applicants must pass a number of measures including a written exam, a physical fitness test and a background check. If accepted by USCIS, an employee must attend required training classes at the USCIS Academy. Employees are paid during training and become immigration officers upon graduation.
Immigration Officer Career Outlook & Salary
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the career outlook for immigration officers in the United States will be good from 2008 to 2018. The Bureau reports that employment of detectives and criminal investigators will grow by 17% in the decade from 2008 to 2018. This is a rate of growth much faster than the average for all occupations.
The median annual wages of detectives and criminal investigators were $60,910 in 2008. The middle 50 percent made from $45,930 to $81,490. The lowest 10 percent made under $36,500, and the highest 10 percent earned over $97,870 annually. The median annual wages for detectives and criminal investigators working in the Federal Government were $73,170.
Immigration officers who can speak second and third languages will have some of the best chances for specialized and higher-paying positions. Officers who display the most sound judgement and effective communication abilities will have the highest potential for advancement within the field.