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INS Agent

Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) agents serve as immigration inspectors. Their chief responsibility is to determine whether or not to admit people and cargo into the U.S. They must research possible immigration and customs violations by assessing individuals, vehicles, and products being moved across borders and state lines.

What Does an INS Agent Do?

INS agents are responsible for inspecting cargo entering and leaving the U.S., as well as making determining taxation for items crossing international and state borders. They must also evaluate passports and interview individuals seeking entry into the U.S. and its territories. Some of the more mundane tasks of an immigration inspector are to maintain records, prepare reports, and sort and process applications for temporary residency or immigration into the U.S.

The majority of INS agents work full-time for airports, seaports, and at the country’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 also likely that inspectors will be asked to testify in court from time to time. An INS agent must be able to remain calm, think clearly, keep a level head, and exercise sound judgment in all situations.

How Much Do INS Agents Earn?

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 $58,130 as of May 2018.

How Do I Become an INS Agent?

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-plus-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.


With the right knowledge, you can excel as an INS agent. Concordia University, St. Paul offers an online criminal justice degree. The program focuses on key topics that are relevant to today’s criminal justice system. In addition, the program’s flexible online format allows you to complete your studies at a time and place that works best for you.