How to Become an ICE Agent

If you'd like to learn how to become an ICE Agent, (Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent), this article will guide you through the requirements as well as career pathways and salary information.

ICE agent History

In 2003, the Department of Homeland Security created a merger of U.S. Customs Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), and together these forces have become the primary investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security and is called the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In other words, Customs Agents and INS Agents work together now as ICE, or Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agents

ICE's primary mission is to promote homeland security and public safety through the criminal and civil enforcement of federal laws governing border control, customs, trade, and immigration. The agency has an annual budget of more than $5.7 billion dollars, primarily devoted to its two principal operating components - Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO).

What is the HSI?

The ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) investigates a wide range of domestic and international activities arising from the illegal movement of people and goods into, within and out of the United States.

What is the ERO?

Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) enforces the nation’s immigration laws in a fair and effective manner. It identifies and apprehends removable aliens, detains these individuals when necessary and removes illegal aliens from the United States. This unit prioritizes the apprehension, arrest and removal of convicted criminals, those who pose a threat to national security, fugitives and recent border entrants. Individuals seeking asylum also work with ERO. ERO transports removable aliens from point to point, manages aliens in custody or in an alternative to detention program, provides access to legal resources and representatives of advocacy groups and removes individuals from the United States who have been ordered to be deported.

ICE Job Description

Working as an ICE Agent, there are several types of positions available. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on the agent and officer positions, and the Intelligence Careers will be covered in another article. You are welcome to read more about all ICE Occupations on the ICE's website, as they offer details job description on all of the positions listed below.

  • Deportation Officer (DO)
  • Detention and Deportation Officer (DDO)
  • HSI (Homeland Security Ivestigations) Special Agent
  • Immigration Enforcement Agent (IEA)
  • Intelligence Careers
    • Intelligence Officer
    • Intelligence Research Assistant
    • Intelligence Research Specialist
    • Management and Program Analyst and Mission Support Specialist
  • Investigations Support Positions
    • Auditor
    • Criminal Research Specialist
    • Investigative Assistant
    • Mission Support Specialist
    • Technical Enforcement Officer

How the ICE Recruits and Hires

ICE uses a competitive hiring process to carefully and systematically evaluate applicants based on experience, education, and on specified knowledge, skills, and abilities. All positions have certain minimum qualifications and requirements. All jobs are listed on USA Jobs.

ICE Agent Requirements

Basic requirements for ICE agents include possessing U.S. citizenship and successful completion of a full background investigation. Some positions require a written test and a physical. Applicants may be required to submit to a drug test.

Education Requirements

All jobs require a Bachelor's degree minimum, and specific education requirements vary from position to position

Experience and Promotions

All advanced positions are closed to external applicants as ICE agents are promoted from within the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

ICE Agent Salary Information

ICE agent salary's vary by locality. This means that you will make more in different areas. For example, ICE agents in Washington D.C. make more than ICE agents in Phoenix, AZ. You may take a look at the 2012 General Schedule (GS) Locality Pay Tables to get an idea of how much money you'll make as an ICE agent. Promotions are generally given throughout the course of your career which will increase your salary as you gain experience.


Average Salary of ICE Agents by Location


ICE agent in Washington, DC


ICE agent in Phoenix, AZ


ICE agent in Los Angeles, CA


ICE agent in Austin, TX


ICE agent in Boston, MA


ICE agent in Tallahassee, FL


ICE agent in Kansas City, MO


ICE agent in New York, NY


ICE Agent Benefits

In addition to your salary, being an ICE agent also has the following benefits:

  • health insurance programs
  • vacation, illness and family care
  • Ten paid holidays per year
  • Paid training
  • Fully portable Thrift Savings Plan (similar to a 401(k))
  • Non-taxable Flexible Spending Accounts for out-of-pocket medical or dependent care expenses
  • Transportation subsidies
  • Retirement plan
  • Flexible work schedules
  • Employee recognition program
  • Life and long-term care insurance
  • Employee assistance program
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Uniform allowance
  • Law enforcement availability pay

ICE Agent Jobs

This is a list of ICE Agent Job Opportunities available with ICE, and please note that all current vacancies and job positions available are posted on USA Jobs website.

Other Resources

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement