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Border Patrol Enforcement Positions
Significant Points

This series covers two-grade interval administrative positions that supervise, lead, or perform work that involves:

  • detecting and preventing smuggling or illegal entry of aliens into the United States;
  • conducting surveillance at borders and interior points in the United States to prevent entry of illegal aliens, narcotics and other illegal or controlled substances;
  • detecting, apprehending, and arresting aliens in violation of the conditions under which they were admitted or who entered illegally by falsely claiming United States citizenship or legal status;
  • detecting and arresting producers, vendors, and users of counterfeit, altered, and genuine documents used to circumvent the immigration and naturalization laws of the United States; and
  • enforcing the criminal provisions of the immigration and naturalization laws and regulations of the United States as well as other Federal laws.
  • Work requires:

  • knowledge of the statutes, regulations, instructions, and precedent decisions pertaining to the enforcement of immigration and naturalization laws;
  • the skill to evaluate information rapidly, make timely decisions, and take prompt and appropriate actions under less than optimal conditions;
  • knowledge of standard investigative and law enforcement procedures to enforce immigration and naturalization laws, and other Federal statutes that the border patrol agent may be called upon to enforce or assist in enforcing;
  • fluency in a foreign language (i.e., Spanish); and
  • an understanding of foreign cultures and customs.
  • Nature of the Work

    General Occupational Information

    The United States Border Patrol is the uniformed enforcement branch of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The primary function of the United States Border Patrol is to prevent the illegal entry and smuggling of aliens and/or contraband into the United States and to arrest persons suspected of such violations.

    When a border patrol agent apprehends an alien who is already in the United States, the agent must establish the illegality of their entry or status. An alien in this country is afforded the same due process rights and protection as a United States citizen. Agents determine violations by a citizen or non-citizens through interviews, witness statements, physical evidence, fingerprints, or reliable documentary evidence. Agents do not detain bona fide citizens of the United States unless they are involved in smuggling activities or in violating the immigration and naturalization laws or other Federal laws in some other way.

    Persons who enter the United States illegally may walk, ride, fly, or swim across the borders. They may use counterfeit or altered documents, impersonate the owner of a valid document, or make false or misleading statements at the time of inspection or at the time of encounter in an effort to assume a legal status. Persons who, through questioning, are found to be illegally in the United States are questioned further to determine:

  • the time, place and means of entry into the United States;
  • whether the person was assisted in any way in entering illegally;
  • whether a smuggling violation is involved;
  • the names of other persons, if any, who accompanied them; and
  • whether fraudulent documents were used to claim citizenship or legal status.
  • The duties of a border patrol agent require varying degrees of judgment and skill in:

  • dealing effectively with persons from all walks of life, including those of different nationalities and cultural backgrounds;
  • developing, evaluating, using and controlling informants;
  • using standard investigative techniques such as interviewing witnesses, searching records and databases, conducting surveillance, and analyzing intelligence information;
  • using a variety of electronic equipment such as two-way radios, night scopes, and remote monitored sensor and video systems; and
  • using 2- and 4-wheel drive vehicles as well as other types of mobile equipment.
  • Authority of Border Patrol Agents

    Border patrol agents constitute a vital part of the total enforcement function of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Their role is to perform work designed to detect and prevent the smuggling and illegal entry of aliens, contraband, narcotics, and controlled substances into the United States. To arrest violators, there must be probable cause and a reasonable assurance that a violation has occurred and that the person of interest has committed it. Agents conduct interviews, interrogations, searches, seizures, and arrests in total conformity with pertinent laws and precedents regarding the rights of citizens and aliens.

    After establishing probable cause and the existence of “articulative facts,” border patrol agents may, without warrant, perform the following:

  • interview any person believed to be an alien about his or her right to be in or remain in the United States;
  • arrest any alien who, in their presence or view, is entering or attempting to enter the United States in violation of law;
  • arrest any alien in the United States in violation of law if there is likelihood of escape before a warrant can be obtained;
  • board vessels and other conveyances to search for aliens;
  • enter private lands within a distance of 25 miles of any external boundary for purposes of patrolling the borders of the United States to prevent the illegal entry of aliens;
  • arrest persons for felonies that have been committed and are cognizable under any law regulating the admission, exclusion, or expulsion of aliens if there is reason to believe the person is guilty of such felony and is likely to escape before a warrant of arrest can be obtained; and/or
  • search a person and their personal effects when they are seeking admission to the United States.
  • Border patrol agents are also empowered to:

  • execute warrants and other processes issued by any agent under laws regulating the admission, exclusion, or expulsion of aliens;
  • administer oaths; and
  • take and consider evidence concerning the privileges of any person to enter, re-enter, pass through, or reside in the Untied States, or concerning any matter that is material or relevant to the enforcement of the immigration and naturalization laws.
  • The enforcement of the immigration and naturalization laws and other criminal law is carried out through a variety of duties, which may vary slightly from one part of the country to another because of sector requirements, geographical considerations, and program goals or objectives.

    Typical Duties and Functions

    Maintaining the Integrity of International Boundaries. Working at or near a land border or coastline, border patrol agents maintain general surveillance over the assigned area by observing people and events in the area and questioning persons when necessary. Agents may:

  • “lie in” at selected strategic points along the border and intercept illegal entrants for subsequent detention or expulsion from the United States;
  • detect and interpret tracks, marks and other physical evidence left by the movement of people, animals, vehicles or other objects; and
  •  interpret “sign cutting” to locate, identify, and apprehend illegal aliens and smugglers of narcotics or other contraband, who enter or pass through the area being worked.
  • Technology. Based on the area assigned, border patrol agents:

  • use remote monitored electronic sensors to enhance their skill to detect, view, and intercept aliens who are attempting to enter the United States illegally;
  • employ remote video systems that are tied into central computers and other electronic equipment; e.g. night vision goggles, pocket scopes, and fiber optic scopes, to detect and identify aliens or other persons; and
  • access various databases, to record apprehensions and recidivists, track immigration cases, and check criminal and immigration records.
  • Tactical Infrastructure. Agents' recommendations are often the basis for deploying multi-million dollar infrastructure systems that span many miles of border. Border patrol agents:

  • identify alien traffic patterns and narcotics smuggling routes and recommend the type, amount, design, and placement of lights, cameras, primary and secondary fencing, sensors, and vehicle barriers; and
  • conduct analysis of the tactile infrastructure needs throughout an area for the most efficient, economical, and effective manner to meet the Border Patrol’s overall operational goal of deterrence.
  • Narcotics Interdiction. The Border Patrol is designated as the lead agency in the interdiction of narcotics between the ports of entry. Border patrol agents have the authority to seize narcotics and other contraband such as firearms. They:

  • interview or interrogate suspects or witnesses;
  • search for physical or documentary evidence or clues;
  • use evidence to substantiate findings or conclusions;
  • establish a chain of evidence; and
  • prepare reports of the apprehension in a clear and logical manner.
  • Work Site Enforcement. Based on information/intelligence received or developed or investigations, border patrol agents:

  • obtain warrants to check farms, ranches, lumber camps and other establishments for illegal aliens who have escaped detection at the border or are in violation of status and arrange for their detention, deportation or voluntary departure;
  • systematically check hotels, rooming houses, construction projects, camps, parks, urban areas, and institutions to locate undocumented aliens or aliens involved in criminal activity who are attempting assimilation into the community; and
  • frequently coordinate with other Federal, State or local law enforcement agencies.
  • Traffic and Transportation Check. Border patrol agents:

  • establish and maintain traffic check points along with other agencies such as State law enforcement, on roads, highways, rail, and airports to intercept and inspect cars, trucks, buses, trains, aircraft, or other conveyances that may be used to smuggle and transport undocumented aliens and/or narcotics or other contraband from the border to the interior of the United States;
  • question all occupants encountered concerning citizenship; and
  • question any discovered aliens’ right to be or remain in the United States.
  • Bike Patrol Operations. Due to their accessibility to the public, border patrol agents on bike patrol operations are able to develop valuable intelligence sources. They  represent the service at community events;

  • work in tandem with local police department bicycle units;
  • perform liaison with business owners and local residents; and
  • apprehend undocumented aliens, criminal aliens, narcotics, or other illegal contraband.
  • Marine Patrol Operations. Agents assigned to marine patrol must be certified in boat operations. Employing various types of marine patrol craft, the agents:

  • patrol coastal and other boundary waters;
  • board all types of water craft, ranging from freighters to commercial fishing boats, shrimpers, tugs, and pleasure craft traveling/working on coastal waters and other boundary waters; and
  • locate and arrest undocumented aliens or aliens not authorized to be employed in the United States.
  • Crew Control. Border patrol agents performing crew control to prevent desertion of crew and landing of stowaways:

  • establish and maintain good relations with ships’ captains, agents, shipyard and dock personnel, and others having knowledge of shipping activities, ships’ crews, schedules, ports visited, and other related activities;
  • systematically check waterfront docks, warehouses, businesses, and crews on ships to locate and arrest undocumented aliens, aliens engaged in unlawful employment, crew deserters, and stowaways; and
  • may order alien crew personnel detained on board ship by the captain of the vessel.
  • Intelligence Operations. Border patrol agents:

  • gather information about alien and narcotics smuggling routes, employers of undocumented aliens, stage houses, smugglers and organizations, vehicles used, and frequency of smuggling operations in their area of responsibility;
  • enter information and other data such as telephone numbers, employers, and guides into automated analytical data systems for archiving, statistical comparisons, dissemination, and to produce detailed investigative data; and
  • research information for intelligence analysis, and matrix and link analysis for investigative offices or agencies.
  • Task Force Operations. Border patrol agents frequently perform duties with other law enforcement agencies as part of a task force. Task force operations serve as a secondary enforcement “tier” in efforts focusing on controlling the immediate border area through special initiatives and operations. Border patrol agents serving on a task force operation:

  • increase intergovernmental cooperation and integration of activities between law enforcement entities at all levels of government to identify and apprehend criminal aliens and apprehend aliens involved in organized crime, violent gangs, and/or drug trafficking;
  • perform activities such as surveillance, developing informants, executing warrants, Spanish language translation, and other integrated support operations; and
  • target organized alien-smuggling organizations by apprehending, removing, and incarcerating criminal aliens involved in those enterprises.
  • Targeting Alien Smugglers. Smuggling operations range from small-time smugglers who guide individuals or small groups across the border on foot or in vehicles to highly organized rings that provide a “package” of services from counterfeit and fraudulent documents, transportation to the interior of the United States, jobs, housing, subsistence, to return trips if they are apprehended and deported. Border patrol agents analyze information/intelligence collected in performing operations including the enlistment, use, and control of confidential informants. Using this information, agents:

  • identify, locate, and arrest smuggled aliens, and/or smugglers of aliens; i.e., individuals or organized smuggling operations who, for gain, abet or assist aliens in entering the United States in violation of the law;
  • uncover suspected conspiracies and attempted violations of law before they actually occur; and
  • work in conjunction with other DHS programs and other Federal, State, and local agencies to target alien smugglers.
  • Interior Patrol. Often while performing routine border and interior patrols, agents encounter aliens on the street or during transportation check who claim to be employed in the United States. Invariably aliens who claim to be employed are normally not the only undocumented aliens employed by the company. Cases can involve asset forfeiture/vehicle seizures of the employer, administrative and criminal penalties consisting of monetary fines and collection, as well as detention of both the aliens and/or the employer(s). Agents:

  • determine the aliens' current employment situation through questioning;
  • routinely follow up on employer information and in many cases, find that the employer has more aliens working for them;
  • develop investigative leads and secure informants to infiltrate the employer's establishment;
  • secure Blackie’s Search Warrants;
  • prepare prosecutable cases;
  • take sworn statements from aliens and legal employees, employers, and co-workers; and
  • coordinate with investigators in the Department of Labor, securing and serving warrants for both aliens and employment records.
  • Liaison Activities. Border patrol agents in varying capacities conduct liaison with their counterparts and foreign officials or on a more formal basis when assigned to the Mexican Liaison Unit. Agents:

  • resolve conflicts, share intelligence information, and promote a good working relationship;
  • diffuse incidents at the border such as incursions, shootings, deaths, and rescues; and
  • work with foreign government officials to plan operations in the host country and train foreign law enforcement agents.
  • Border Safety and Rescue Operations. Border safety and rescue operations are an integral aspect of everyday enforcement operations. All agents must be trained in basic first-aid. Agents:

  • perform rescues in high-risk areas, adverse climatic and diverse geographical areas, and render medical assistance; and
  • conduct safety and rescue operations, working with a vast assortment of local, Federal, and foreign law enforcement agencies, rescue and fire personnel, and government institutions.
  • Preparation of Reports. Border patrol agents may represent the United States in misdemeanor smuggling and illegal entry cases before a magistrate. In this capacity, agents prepare detailed paperwork that substantiates the allegations made against the defendant and presents the government’s case in court. Border patrol agents prepare all reports relating to an apprehension or investigation for the purpose of sustaining:

  • formal deportation/removal of an alien determined to have violated one or more provisions of the Immigration and Naturalization Act pertaining to the deportation/removal of aliens;
  • removal of an alien who has waived his/her right to a deportation hearing;
  • criminal prosecution of an alien for violation of provisions of the Immigration and Naturalization Act or other felonies committed in the agent’s presence or view; and;
  • criminal prosecution of a United States citizen for violation of any of the criminal provisions of the Immigration and Naturalization Act or other felonies committed in the agent’s presence or view.
  • Public Relations. Border patrol agents work proactively with community leaders, advocacy groups, stakeholders, and State and local officials to identify and address issues related to immigration policies and procedures. The stakeholders often have diverse viewpoints, goals, or objectives. The issues raised often spark heated debates. Agents must rely heavily on effective problem analysis, negotiating skills, and public speaking skills to effectively engage in problem solving sessions and to resolve issues alone.

    Risk Assessment. Border patrol agents work autonomously, in vast stretches of rugged terrain, where they are required to use their best judgment. Agents:

  • conduct daily risk assessments to identify the hazards associated with the areas they are assigned;
  • use risk assessment to prepare for and mitigate identified risks for themselves and the migrants they encounter;
  • gather information by reading intelligence reports to identify the likely avenues of entry, keeping current on weather data and determining what extra supplies to carry (i.e., extra water and cold and hot weather survival kits);
  • establish contact with the entities that control the flow of water in rivers and canals so that they are prepared in case of a change in water levels; and
  • contact firefighters to direct them to fires witnessed in remote areas.
  • Environmental Stewardship. Every border patrol agent takes an oath to uphold the laws of the United States, including environmental laws. The border patrol agent’s role is increasingly complicated by statutory responsibility to understand environmental issues. Agents:

  • resolve and prevent conflicts between the environment and the execution of the DHS mission;
  • preserve and protect our lands and wildlife while carrying out the Border Patrol mission;
  • maintain currency on how various enforcement activities affect the environment and what patrol activities are acceptable in environmentally sensitive areas; and
  • maintain a detailed understanding of the local plant and animal life.
  • Border Patrol Enforcement of Other Agency Violations. Border patrol agents also encounter and arrest persons who they suspect of violating customs and narcotics laws. Consequently, agents are trained and cross designated with the authority and legal protection necessary to deal with violations as they encounter them.

    These delegations of authority authorize border patrol agents to arrest persons, search vehicles, and seize smuggled goods or contraband, including narcotics and controlled substances. Agents can exercise this authority when they encounter evidence of possible customs, narcotics and/or controlled substance violations and an agent from the responsible agency is not available to respond immediately.

    Hazards in Border Patrol Work. Border patrol agents must be alert to hostile and unpredictable behavior by persons apprehended for suspected violations of immigration, customs, and/or narcotics and controlled substance laws. Agents encounter a variety of persons and aliens, including dangerous criminals carrying narcotics or other illegal goods. Agents must be able to react instantly to threats of harm to themselves or to others. Other examples of hazards routinely encountered include:

  • operating automobiles and specialty vehicles in pursuit;
  • stopping suspicious vehicles;
  • operating unstable watercraft;
  • entering buildings in pursuit of suspects;
  • boarding conveyances at night and in poor weather conditions;
  • tracking over rough terrain in remote areas at night;
  • working in inhospitable climates; and
  • exposure to hazardous materials and chemicals in the work environment (e.g., drugs and polluted waterways).
  • Individual Occupational Requirements


    The following table shows the amounts of education and/or experience required to qualify for positions covered by this standard.

    General Specialized
    GS-5 4-year course of study above high school leading to a bachelor's degree 1 year equivalent to at least GS-4 None
    GS-7 1 full academic year of graduate education or law school or
    superior academic achievement
    None 1 year equivalent to at least GS-5
    GS-9 None None 1 year equivalent to at least GS-7
    GS-11 None None 1 year equivalent to at least GS-9
    GS-12 and above None None 1 year equivalent to at least next lower grade level

    Equivalent combinations of education and experience are qualifying for grade levels for which both education and experience are acceptable. Note that academic study may be prorated to allow combinations of education and experience that total 1 year for GS-5, e.g., 1 year of college study is equivalent to 3 months of general experience, 2 years of study to 6 months of general experience, and 3 years of study to 9 months of general experience.


    Undergraduate Education: Major study -- any field.
    Graduate Education: Major study -- fields related to law enforcement, e.g., police science, or law school education meets the requirements for GS-7.
    Education is not creditable for positions above the GS-7 level.



    General Experience (for GS-5 positions): Experience that demonstrated the ability to:

    • Take charge, maintain composure, and make sound decisions in stressful situations.
    • Learn law enforcement regulations, methods, and techniques through classroom training and/or on-the-job instruction.
    • Gather factual information through questioning, observation, and examination of documents and records.

    These abilities may have been gained in positions such as:

    • Interviewer in a public or private service agency who deals with requests for services or benefits; and who explains, interprets, and applies rules, regulations, and procedures.
    • Claims adjuster or journalist whose work requires gathering information through public contacts.
    • Participant in community action programs who performs work such as volunteer teaching or counseling.
    • Building guard, prison guard, institutional police, or similar position that requires learning regulations and dealing with people.
    • Customer relations work that requires the applicant to obtain accurate information, make logical determinations, and resolve practical problems.

    Specialized Experience (for positions above GS-5): Experience in law enforcement or other responsible work that demonstrated the ability to:

    • Make arrests and exercise sound judgment in the use of firearms.
    • Deal effectively with individuals or groups of persons in a courteous, tactful manner in connection with law enforcement matters.
    • Analyze information rapidly and make prompt decisions or take prompt and appropriate law enforcement action in light of applicable laws, court decisions, and sound law enforcement procedures.
    • Develop and maintain contact with a network of informants.

    These abilities may have been gained in work such as:

    • Inspection of persons and their records to determine their eligibility to enter the United States under immigration laws.
    • Correctional or rehabilitation work involving criminal offenders, or residents in public or private institutions.
    • Criminal investigation, police officer, or other law enforcement work that required the ability to plan and conduct investigations, plan and make arrests, serve court orders, use firearms, and deal with people in a persuasive, tactful, and resourceful manner.

    For positions at GS-9 and above, experience must have included interpreting and enforcing Immigration and Naturalization Service or comparable laws, rules, and regulations.


    Refer to Section V of this Manual for information about test requirements. Also, since all Agents must learn the Spanish language, applicants must successfully complete a language test (in addition to the written test requirement for competitive appointment at grades GS-5 and GS-7). Those who do not speak Spanish will undergo an artificial language test (ALT) designed to assess their ability to learn Spanish. Those who are fluent in the Spanish language will be given the choice of taking the ALT or a Spanish proficiency test. Both tests will be administered on a pass/fail basis.


    Border Patrol work requires the ability to speak and read Spanish as well as English. All persons appointed are instructed in speaking and reading Spanish as part of the basic training for Border Patrol Agents, and must be proficient by the final probationary examination (usually 10 months after entry on duty).


    All positions require qualification in the use of firearms. Proficiency with standard issue firearms must be demonstrated for successful completion of training. All Agents are required to carry a handgun in the performance of their duties, and to qualify periodically with that handgun.


    Applicants must possess a valid driver's license at the time of appointment. They must qualify to operate motor vehicles in accordance with applicable government regulations after they are hired.


    Applicants for all grade levels must demonstrate in a pre-employment interview that they possess the traits and characteristics important to Border Patrol Agent positions. These include judgment, problem solving, emotional stability, and interpersonal skills.


    Under the authority of Public Law 100-238, the U. S. Department of Justice has established the date immediately preceding one's 37th birthday as the maximum age for original entry into the position of Border Patrol Agent.


    The duties of positions in this series involve physical exertion under rigorous environmental conditions including unpredictable exposure to loud sounds, stress, and extremes of heat and cold; irregular and protracted hours of work over rugged terrain; patrol duties on foot, motor vehicle, and aircraft; and participation in physical training. Applicants must be in sound physical condition and of good muscular development.

    Vision: inocular vision is required and must test 20/40 (Snellen) without corrective lenses. Uncorrected vision must test at least 20/70 in each eye. Vision in each eye must be corrected to 20/20. Near vision, corrected or uncorrected, must be sufficient to read Jaeger Type 2 at 14 inches. Ability to distinguish basic colors by pseudoisochromatic plate test (missing no more than four plates) is required, as is normal peripheral vision. Based on the results of clinical studies of candidates who have undergone Radial Keratotomy eye operations to correct vision defects, the medical techniques of Radial Keratotomy or Orthokeratology will not be accepted as a means of meeting Border Patrol Agent vision requirements.

    Hearing: Using an audiometer for measurement, there should be no loss of 30 or more decibels in each ear at the 500, 1000, and 2000 Hz levels.

    Speech: Diseases or conditions resulting in indistinct speech are disqualifying.

    Respiratory System: Any chronic disease or condition affecting the respiratory system that would impair the full performance of duties of the position is disqualifying, e.g., conditions that result in reduced pulmonary function, shortness of breath, or painful respiration.

    Cardiovascular System: The following conditions are disqualifying: organic heart disease (compensated or not), hypertension with repeated readings that exceed 150 systolic and 90 diastolic without medication, and symptomatic peripheral vascular disease and severe varicose veins.

    Gastrointestinal System: Chronic symptomatic diseases or conditions of the gastrointestinal tract are disqualifying. Medical conditions requiring long-term use of medication(s) may be disqualifying. Each case will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis prior to any employment decision.

    Endocrine System: Systemic metabolic disease that is likely to affect job performance adversely, such as uncontrolled diabetes, is disqualifying.

    Genito Urinary Disorders: Chronic, symptomatic diseases or conditions of the genito urinary tract are disqualifying.

    Extremities and Spine: Any deformity or disease that would interfere with range of motion or dexterity to the extent that it would affect adversely the full performance of the duties of the position is disqualifying.

    Hernias: Inguinal and femoral hernias with or without the use of a truss are disqualifying. Other hernias are disqualifying if they interfere with performance of the duties of the position.

    Nervous System: Applicants must possess emotional and mental stability with no history of a basic personality disorder. Any neurological disorder that could result in seizures, convulsions, loss of consciousness, or decreased neurological or muscular function is disqualifying.

    Miscellaneous: Though not mentioned specifically above, any other disease or condition that interferes with the full performance of duties is also grounds for medical rejection. Before entrance on duty, all applicants must undergo a pre-employment medical examination and be medically suitable to perform the full range of duties of the position efficiently and without hazard to themselves and others. Failure to meet any one of the required medical qualifications will be disqualifying for appointment. These standards are considered minimum standards and will not be waived in any case. Applicants found to have a correctable condition may be restored to any existing list of eligibles for further consideration for appointment when the disqualifying condition is satisfactorily corrected or eliminated.


    Additional Sources

    Information on obtaining Customs Patrol Enforcement positions with the Federal Government is available from the Office of Personnel Management through USAJOBS, the Federal Government's official employment information system. This resource for locating and applying for job opportunities can be accessed through the Internet at or through an interactive voice response telephone system at (703) 724–1850 or  (703) 724–1850  or TDD (978) 461–8404 and   (978) 461–8404. These numbers are not toll free, and charges may result. For advice on how to find and apply for Federal jobs, download the Insider's Guide to the Federal Hiring Process” online here.

    Source: OPM's Position Classification Standards for White Collar Work

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