Border Patrol Requirements

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Border Patrol Requirements: Key Job Qualifications

Border Patrol Requirements
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is an agency of the Department of Homeland Security that is constantly in need of qualified and dedicated individuals in order for it to carry out its mission: That of keeping our nation safe from terrorists and their weapons. In order for them to hire only the best, they have to make sure that applicants possess certain border patrol requirements before they can be hired. These are also put in place to weed out the unqualified applicants from those who qualify.

For each position advertised, the CBP sets key border patrol requirements that all must comply with. These are the key job qualifications that set out the basics of citizenship, criminal history, and the like for those who wish to become Border Patrol Agents, Air and Marine Interdiction Agents, CBP Officers, Agriculture Specialists, and Import Specialists. These are the key border patrol requirements for these frontline positions:

  • U.S. Citizenship
  • Residency requirement: Candidates for all frontline positions must have lived in the U.S. or its territories or protectorates for at least three years before the time of application
  • Valid driver’s license
  • Pass physical fitness tests: Border Patrol Agent applicants need to pass two pre-employment physical fitness tests.
  • Pass the polygraph tests.
  • Pass drug tests
  • Pass medical exam
  • Age requirement: Border Patrol Agent and CBP Pilot applicants must be less than 40 years old at the time of selection. CBP Officers must be 37 years old by the time of appointment. However, the age requirements may be waived for those with qualifying federal civilian law enforcement (non-military) position or can claim and provide proof of veterans’ preference.
  • Criminal History: CBP agents are law enforcers and need to carry firearms. Since any felony or misdemeanor conviction for the crime of domestic violence will bar them from carrying any weapons, having the above-mentioned records in your history is an automatic disqualification.
  • Background Investigation: Aside from checking the criminal history of applicants, the CBP will also conduct background checks on the employment history, credit record, and residence records, among others. Firings with cause, credit problems, and other issues can potentially disqualify you from further consideration. Involvement with illegal drugs can also do the same thing. However, all these will be evaluated on an individual case-by-case basis.

These are just the basic qualifications. If you have any reason to believe that you might not pass any of these border patrol requirements for the position you are applying for (e.g. derogatory credit record), it’s a good idea to talk to a border patrol recruiter who can enlighten you on your chances. Don’t ever think that you can get away with lying or faking any information on your resume. Even if you will make it in the initial application process, your record will most likely be unearthed when the CBP conducts the intensive background investigation prior to hiring.

Border Patrol Requirements: Education and Experience Requirements

The above-mentioned basic border patrol requirements for anyone who wishes to apply for law enforcement positions with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection are just the tip of the iceberg. You also need to pass the stipulated education and experience requirements for the position posted. In many cases, a combination of education and experience can also be qualifying.

The following paragraphs will cover the border patrol requirements on education and experience for Border Patrol Agents, CBP Officers, Air and Marine Interdiction Agents, Agriculture Specialists, and Import Specialists.

Border Patrol Agent Experience Requirements:

To qualify at the GL-5 (Entry) Level: A substantial background of paid, voluntary, full- or part-time experience that demonstrates your ability to take charge, make decisions, and maintain composure in stressful situations. This experience should also demonstrate your ability to maintain interpersonal relationships with coworkers and the public and showcase your ability to learn law enforcement regulations, methods and techniques both on the job and through formal instruction. The work experience does not have to be related to law enforcement.

To qualify at the GL-7 Level: You must have one year of law enforcement experience that demonstrates your 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 matters; and develop and maintain contact with a network of informants. All these factors must be met if you want to qualify at the GL-7 based solely on work experience.

To qualify at the GL-9 Level: You must have one year of law enforcement experience that demonstrates your ability to perform more complex tasks. You should be able to develop cases and conduct interviews or interrogations, apprehensions, and arrests in order to further the process or case development; prepare cases and appear as a professional witness in court; and exercise sound judgment in the use of firearms and conduct training, qualification exercises, or courses in the proper care and use of firearms. In addition, you must also show that you can deal effectively with individuals or groups of persons in a courteous and tactful manner in their detention, control, or interrogation, and work to promote effective community-outreach programs and public relations. Moreover, you should also analyze and disseminate intelligence information and data rapidly and apply practical knowledge of the laws, concepts, operational practices, and law enforcement methods and techniques in order to independently perform duties typically encountered in law enforcement; develop and maintain contact with a network of informants, social and political organizations, state and local enforcement agencies, and private citizens to ensure continuity of enforcement work and to carry out enforcement responsibilities; and be able to use a variety of law enforcement databases and information retrieval systems, such as TECS, NCIC, and NEXUS. Finally, the work experience should show that you can prepare reports and write other documents that deal with the collection, protection, and recording of evidence; and the presentation of testimony; and retain informational materials concerning illegal activities and practices encountered during daily activities.

If you want to use education to qualify, these are the border patrol requirements you need to fulfill:

Border Patrol Agent Education Requirements:

To qualify at the GL-5 (Entry) Level: Four-year college degree which does not have to be recent or focused on any particular field.

To qualify at the GL-7 Level: One (1) full year of graduate education in law or a field related to law enforcement. The latter can be in such disciplines as Criminal Justice or Political Science. You can also qualify if you meet the criteria for Superior Academic Achievement (SAA) in your bachelor’s degree course. SAA is based on the grade point average, class standing, and honor society membership.

To qualify at the GL-9 Level: Education may not be used to qualify at the GL-9 level.

You may also use a combination of work experience and education to qualify.

This is usually what happens if you have not completed your degree. Generally, one year of full-time semester or quarter units equates to three months of work experience. Thus, if you have two (2) years of full-time college education, then this would equate to six (6) months of experience. Combine this with an additional six (6) months of generalized work experience and you could qualify at the entry-level (GL-5 position).

CBP Officer Experience Requirements:

To qualify at the GS-5 (Entry) Level: CBP Officer applicants must have at least three (3) years of full-time general experience that demonstrates the ability to meet and deal with people and the ability to learn and apply a body of facts. If your job enables you to explain administrative requirements and procedures to others and screening forms to ensure that they are completed properly in accordance with requirements then you may be able to qualify. If you have held lead and supervisory duties or have experience operating a business then these will also have provided you with the required knowledge, skills, and abilities to do the job of a CBP Officer.

To qualify at the GS-7 Level: CBP Officer applicants should have one (1) year of full-time specialized experience performing substantive duties in inspections work at borders, seaports, airports or other ports of entry and/or work involving preliminary screening of persons for entry and immigration status, or compliance/regulatory work. This kind of specialized experience can generally be gained from performing the work of an inspector, auditor, analyst, examiner, administrator, and investigator as well as that of technicians and assistants.

Without the necessary experience, you can use education to qualify:

CBP Officer Education Requirements:

To qualify at the GS-5 (Entry) Level: Four years of study in any field leading to a bachelor’s degree from an accredited or university is qualifying.

To qualify at the GS-7 Level: One (1) full academic year of graduate education, or a master’s or higher degree is qualifying. You may also use qualify even with a bachelor’s degree if you meet the provisions of Superior Academic Achievement or SAA.

You may also use a combination of work experience and education to qualify. Convert your education and experience gained to a percentage and see if they total 100 percent. The CBP explains the procedure: To determine your percentage of qualifying experience, you must divide your total number of months of qualifying experience by the required number of months of experience. The GS-5 level requires 36 months, and the GS-7 level requires 12 months of full-time qualifying experience. To calculate your percentage of undergraduate education, divide your number of undergraduate semester hours by 120 or the number of quarter hours by 180. For GS-7, divide the number of graduate semester hours by 18, graduate quarter hours by 27, or by the school’s definition of one year of graduate study. Finally, add your percentages of education and experience. The two percentages must total at least 100 percent for you to qualify under the combination of experience and education.

Air Interdiction Agents Education and Experience Requirements:

To qualify as a CBP Pilot: You must have a current FAA Commercial Pilot Certification with the following ratings: Airplane (Single engine land or Multi-engine land) with instrument rating and/or Rotorcraft helicopter with instrument rating.  You can also substitute with appropriate US military ratings or with other certificates that meet or exceed the requirements of the Commercial Pilot Certificate. The latter can be an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate, for example. The documented flight log must reflect a minimum of 1500 hours total flight time (100 flight hours within the last 12 months) including 250 Pilot-in-Command and 75 hours instrument and 75 night hours.

Marine Interdiction Agents Experience Requirements:

To qualify as a Marine Interdiction Agent: You must possess any one of the following United States Coast Guard issued licenses: Masters License (any tonnage); Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessel (OUPV) License; Deck Mates License (Chief Mate, Second Mate and Third Mate) of greater than 200 gross tons; and Deck Mates License (Chief Mate, Second Mate and Third Mate) of 200 gross tons or less (Near Coastal and Offshore).

To qualify at the GL-9 level, you need to have at least one year of specialized experience that enabled you to learn basic law enforcement methods, techniques, skills and equipment used by Marine Interdiction Agents.  These jobs can include providing assistance to officers in searching of vessels, commanding or operating vessels with sophisticated marine navigation systems, executing search/arrest warrants, operating radar systems, inspecting cargo, operating and maintaining vessels, performing surveillance, conducting interviews with witnesses and suspects, writing reports detailing activities and observations, and providing expert witness testimony in court.

Without the necessary experience, you can use education to qualify.

Marine Interdiction Agents Education Requirements:  

To qualify at the GS-9 Level: A Master’s or equivalent graduate degree or two full years of progressively higher level graduate education leading to such a degree, or a J.D. or LL.B., in a qualifying field obtained from an accredited college or university. Still you must demonstrate that you have the skills necessary to do the work of the position.

You may also use a combination of work experience and education to qualify. Appropriate combinations of successfully completed post-high school education and experience also may be used to meet the total qualification requirements for the GL- 9 grade level. The CBP explains how to combine your education and experience— which must total 100 percent—to qualify: If your education is currently described in quarter hours, convert the quarter hours into semester hours by multiplying the quarter hours by the fraction 2/3. To calculate your percentage of graduate education, divide the number of graduate semester hours by 18. To determine your percentage of qualifying experience, you must divide your total number of months of qualifying experience by the required number of months of experience.

Agriculture Specialists Education and Experience Requirements:

To qualify at the GS-5, GS-7, or GS-9 Levels: Applicants for Agriculture Specialist positions must have completed a bachelor’s or higher degree in the following fields: Biological Sciences (botany, entomology, and plant pathology), Agriculture, Natural Resource Management, Chemistry, or other related disciplines.

If you have not yet fully completed the education requirements, you must have completed at least 24 semester hours in the same disciplines listed above plus appropriate experience. Working in pest management, environmental monitoring, farm management, agricultural commodity importation and/or exportation or related experience in pest/pathogen detection, regulation, eradication and control are qualifying.

For the GS-7 level, applicants must also possess any one of the qualifications listed below:

  1. Possess one year of specialized experience that equipped you with the skills needed to perform the job duties, equivalent to at least the GS-5 grade level. The work can include applying clear, detailed instructions to assist with the inspection of vessels, vehicles, aircraft and baggage for the presence of restricted plant material, pests or diseases and with the review/ analysis of passenger and/or commodity documents to assess the agricultural risk of their entry. OR
  2. One year of full-time graduate education for the experience required at the GS-7. 
  3. You may substitute superior academic achievement (SAA) for experience required at the GS-7.  To qualify using SAA, you must have completed the requirements for a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college/university with a grade point average of  3.0 or higher out of a possible 4.0 based on 4 years of education or based on courses completed during the final 2 years; or 3.5 or higher out of a possible 4.0 based on the required courses completed in the major field; or have a class standing in the upper third of the graduating class in the college, university, or major subdivision; or membership in a national scholastic honor society. OR
  4. In addition to meeting the basic qualifications you may be eligible to combine graduate level education and specialized experience (as described in 1 & 2 above) to meet the total qualification requirements.

For the GS-9 level, applicants must also possess any one of the qualifications listed below:

  1. In addition to meeting the basic qualifications you must have one year of specialized experience that equipped you with the skills needed to perform the job duties, equivalent to at least the GS-7 grade level.  OR
  2. You may substitute successful completion of a master’s or equivalent graduate degree or two full years of progressively higher level graduate education leading to such a degree in an accredited college or university for the experience required at the GS-9 level.  OR
  3. You may also be eligible to combine graduate level education and specialized experience (as described in 1 & 2 above) to meet the total qualification requirements.

Import Specialist Experience Requirements:

To qualify at the GS-5 Level: You must have three (3) years of progressively responsible experience which demonstrate your ability to analyze problems, identify significant factors, gather pertinent data, and recognize solutions, and plan and organize work. You must also be able to communicate effectively, orally and in writing as well as be able to deal with others in face-to-face situations. This type of experience can be obtained in administrative, professional, technical, or investigative work.

To qualify at the GS-7 Level: You must possess one year of specialized experience that enables you to explain procedures or requirements to elicit cooperative response. In addition, you must have the ability to apply specialized knowledge of laws, regulations, rulings, or other instructions pertaining to the importation of merchandize into the U.S. Or, you should have experience that gives you the ability to gather, organize, and evaluate facts and evidence. For example, your work can be screening a limited number of import documents to check for required documents or reviewing prescribed trade statistics on the official Customs entry document to see if it jibes with the information found in commercial invoices.   

Without the necessary experience, you can use education to qualify.

Import Specialist Education Requirements:

To qualify at the GS-5 Level: Bachelor’s degree in any field at an accredited college or university.

To qualify at the GS-7 Level: Superior Academic Achievement in your bachelor’s degree is qualifying. This means having a grade point average of 3.0 or higher on a 4.0; class standing in the upper third of a graduating class or major subdivision; or membership in a national scholastic honor society. Without SAA, you must have one year of full-time graduate education to substitute for experience. Course study in business administration, public administration, or related fields is qualifying.

You may also use a combination of work experience and education to qualify. You can combine post-high school education and experience to meet the qualification requirements for the GS-5 and GS-7 levels. The CBP explains how you can combine the percentages of your education and work experience to qualify: If your education is currently described in quarter hours, convert the quarter hours into semester hours by multiplying the quarter hours by the fraction 2/3.  To calculate your percentage of graduate education, divide the number of graduate semester hours by 18.  To determine your percentage of qualifying experience, you must divide your total number of months of qualifying experience by the required number of months of experience.  Add your percentages of education and experience.  The two percentages must total at least 100%.