ICE Special Agent Career, Salary and Training Info

The largest investigative agency in the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has over 19,000 employees working in 400 locations worldwide.

ICE Special Agent Requirements

To apply for a position as a special agent with ICE you must be less than 37 years of age, be a U.S. citizen and must have resided in the United States for three of the past five years.

ICE Special Agents are authorized to carry firearms. A person convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence cannot possess a firearm or ammunition and cannot apply to become an ICE special agent.

Six to twelve weeks after an initial written examination, you will be scheduled for a day of testing which will include a structured oral interview, a writing sample assessment and a personal interview.

The oral interview is used to assess the applicant’s judgment/decision making abilities, interpersonal skills, emotional maturity and sensitivity to the needs of others. Candidates must receive a “pass” in all areas to move forward in the hiring process.

ICE Special Agent BadgeFor the writing analysis test, you will write a narrative report based on a provided photograph and your writing will be evaluated based on organization, ideas, grammar, spelling and punctuation.

In addition to the tests above, applicants must meet medical and physical requirements with specific eyesight and hearing limits required.

ICE Special Agent Education and Training

As a new ICE Special Agent, you will attend 22 weeks of training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Brunswick, Georgia. Further mandatory training may be required for specialized assignments.

You will be required to carry a firearm and maintain your shooting proficiency. Also you must sustain your health and physical fitness levels after basic training. A mobility agreement is required of new agents and you must be willing to accept employment at any location offered to you.

You will remain at the location of your first duty station for a minimum of three years and may be reassigned to a new location with little advance notice.

ICE Special Agent Salary

The salary range for an ICE Special Agent is $40,000 – $68,000. There is an added Law Enforcement Availability Pay and ICE agents qualify for Federal benefits. Retirement is at age 50 or after 20 years of service.

Relocation fees may be covered when special agents are reassigned to new locations but moving expenses are not paid for newly hired agents reporting to their first posted assignment.

ICE Career Opportunities

ICE special agents face a variety of challenging tasks involving national security threats, terrorism, drug smuggling, human trafficking, financial crimes, illegal arms exports and more.

ICE Special Agent vacancies are not posted on the OPM’s jobs website. To learn how to become an ICE special agent, contact the nearest Special Agent in Charge office and ask to speak to the special agent recruiter.

Once you have met all requirements, passed the required tests, interviews and background check, you will be placed on a waiting list. When an opening occurs a firm offer will be made to you and you will be advised of your duty location and give a date to report to work. This offer may come 6-9 months or even longer after you receive clearance.

Take a look at other great Criminal Justice Careers.

Article written by Radek Gadek

Radek holds a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice from Boston University. He is currently doing consulting work and runs this blog to provide relevant information on criminal justice degrees, colleges and related careers.

64 comments… add one
  • Christopher Piekunka

    I am retiring from the Military, are there waivers for military on age requirements. I will be thirty nine years of age. i am available starting 3 Dec 2010, starts term leave, and last day of service is 28 Feb 2011. May i still apply for a position with ICE?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      As far as I know there are age waiver programs for military veterans when it comes to Federal employment. I don’t know if ICE has one, but I think it just might.

    • ABEL

      I just did the interview Monday and passed, the new age limit for ICE has been bumped up to 40 for those retiring from the military (mandatory retirement at 60). I am 37 and qualify for both options under the age part. Contact a recruiter in order to see when ICE will be hiring since I was told that they are not hiring anyone for 2011, but since I had completed all prior pre-requisites I was allowed to interview. I spent 10 years on Active duty and that is a leg up with ICE, however, they are not hiring for FY11 I was luck since I did a lot of the process before they put the freeze in effect.

      • Carlos

        Hey Abel I also did my interview last week.. are you sure they are not hiring for the rest of the year? i did all of my steps this year…

    • Mark Aton

      Christopher, first of all, thank you for your service to your country.
      The age 37 max entry age is set by congress and cannot be waived, unless very special circumstances are present. Currently , I am almost positive there is no waiver , even for retiring military.
      I’m a retired DHS ICE Special Agent and try to keep up with issues like yours. Try State, or local law enforcement opportunities, they are not as stringent on the age issue.
      Good Luck !

      • alishia

        I am 17 years old working on my degree my dream is working for ice being an intake or transport officer i am very fluent in spanish I am also very fluent in english my husband was born in the usa but speaks very little english we have been together for 3 years i have been speaking spanish for 7 years i am very good at it i have been in trouble with the law for d.u.i.o.a. do you think i have a good chance to get a job what degree should i go for i am starting to look in college with in the next to months and long will this degree take to complete..

        • HSI

          I’d suggest applying to become a CBP Officer. That will get your foot in the door MUCH faster and you’re covered LEO position and non-competitive up to GS12.

      • Temur

        Hello, I’m 22 years old and studying in CJS. I am looking forward to accomplish my 2 year associated degree and start my career working for TSA. But what chances do I have in the future to become an ICE agent. I mean, what obstacles could arise? I am not drinking, not using any drugs, and my background is clear like new born baby=)

  • Jacob, Agulera

    I get out in FEB 2011, I will be 36. Can I apply for ICE now and get all the testing I have to do. So that when I get out I can join if accepted to ICE?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      It would be wise to apply ASAP. You can apply when new job postings are visible on

  • Edgar Diaz

    I am currently obtaining my degree in Criminal Justice with emphasis in Homeland Security… When I was 18 I was charged with a felony case where I plead no contest and adjudication was withheld. Would I be able to apply for a federal job upon completion of my degree? ICE is my career goal.

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Edgar, I know that many law enforcement agencies frown upon felonies – at any status. HOWEVER, each agency has their own rules and regulations. Your best bet is to hear it from a recruiter at ICE or visit their website and check out their “career” section and any available FAQ sections.

  • Kevin

    Do you know the next time they will post an announcement for IEA agents on usajobs? I’m assuming at the beginning of the next fiscal year, but it has already been a year since the last announcement.


    • Radek M. Gadek

      I find it that postings on USAJobs happen mostly when a particular agency will NEED to fill certain positions. I wouldn’t count on a predetermined date as it’s rarely seen that they’ll post their job openings in January, for example.

  • eric

    Is a four year degree mandatory? I have a pretty impressive resume otherwise.

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Straight from


      GL-5: You qualify at the GL-5 level if you possess three (3) years of progressively responsible experience, one (1) year of which was equivalent to the GL-4 level or above. Examples includes analyzing problems to identify significant factors, gather pertinent data, and recognize solutions; planning and organizing work; and communicating effectively orally and in writing.

      That seems to be the absolute minimum qualification step

      OR if you don’t have work experience,

      GL-5: You may substitute successful completion of a Bachelor’s degree or a full 4-year course of study in any field of study leading to a Bachelor’s degree for the experience required at the GL-5 level. This education must have been obtained in an accredited college or university. One year of full-time undergraduate study is defined as 30 semester or 45 quarter hours.

      So, as I am translating these minimum requirements, you don’t need to have a degree at all. Your professional experience should qualify you. Good luck, Eric.

  • Andrea Vera

    I am waiting on the January 2011 ICE Exam release dates. Does anyone have any advice on the test? The practice test seems to incur a lot of logical and responsive awareness of hypothetical situations. I am also 26 years with a business background and position within ICE as an IT program management consultant. I also speak Spanish fluently.

    • ABEL


      I applied back in 09, if you study the given material you will be fine I just had my interview this Monday.

  • Daniel Thater

    I am looking for positions as a tactical medic for ICE. Any advice or information? I was told that there are positions but have found no evidence on the web.

  • SW

    Andrea: I came in under a lateral process so can’t really respond regarding the testing. I’m actually googling for that SA practice test to help me prepare for the 14 test. Daniel: ICE has no tactical medic positions, at least on the Investigations side of the house. We do have agents who have had advanced training, EMT qualified, continuing education every year – who are Tactical Medics. Usually only a couple in every office. Policy doesn’t require that one be on every warrant.

  • ABEL

    I just did the interview today and passed, the new age limit for ICE has been bumped up to 40 for those retiring from the military (mandatory retirement at 60). I am 37 and qualify for both options under the age part. Contact a recruiter in order to see when ICE will be hiring since I was told that they are not hiring anyone for 2011, but since I had completed all prior pre-requisites I was allowed to interview.

    • Tom


      I saw your post and was curious as to what your process was considering you are a lateral transfer. I applied to the November announcement (1811 transfers only). When you get a moment could you provide me a time-line and impressions of the process as a lateral? Thanks.

  • Kevin B

    Do I have to have a bachelors degree if I am prior Military? I will have a associates degree in about 8 months. I have been in Army for 8 years 3 active and one Iraq deployment as A recon specialist (scout).

  • AmandaM

    Do you need a bachelors degree in order to work for ICE? Also, how do I find the recruiting office to talk to a recruiter?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Depending on the grade level for which you are applying, you must have criminal investigative or law enforcement experience, a bachelor’s degree, or a combination of experience and education to meet minimum qualifications.

      as of 02/2011 — Check out for more info.

  • Radek M. Gadek

    FYI to all – ICE Special Agent position — as described in the article above — is now ICE HSI Special Agent (HSI stands for Homeland Security Investigations).

  • Ben

    Do they get paid on the GS pay scale?

    • Chris Yost

      ICE/HSI Agents get paid on the “GL” scale which is similar if I am not mistaken to the GS scale. However, special agents, because they are subject to call back after hours, weekends, and holidays, as well as pull duty days, at least here in El Paso at the POEs (Ports of Entry) they as well as all ice agents, get paid LEAP pay (Law Enforcement Availability Pay) which is 25% of their annual salary, they can still get over-time but it has to be scheduled in ADVANCE and forms need to be submitted. I know, since I am an IA (Investigative Assistant) on top of doing investigative research, prep work, and case work, I also do some admin and payroll for agents and this is a big thing we go through. hope this helps!

  • Scott

    Good Morning All,
    Just passed all aspects of the hiring process including back investigation, received word that I was on the list for training. However, with the budget ‘discussions’ I understand that training classes have been cancelled until at least may. Any word on when those will ramp back up? Looks like homeland didn’t get hit that hard with cuts, which is a positive sign. Thanks for any input, the wait has been grueling and I am not getting any younger.

  • Steven

    Does anyone know about how often ICE-HSI jobs are posted on I was told to keep checking there and am starting to lose hope. Any chance that I could apply to be an ICE agent sometime this year? If not I may go ahead and get my masters as I receive my BA degree in less than two weeks. Thanks for any help!

  • lucinda

    i committed shoplifting… class B when i was 16 would this affect me..i want to become a ice agent.

  • Chris Yost

    I submitted my paperwork for HSI Agent and have passed the minimal qualifications via usajobs and have been given a rating as “EL” for the GL-5 agent position. I am currently working as an Investigative Assistant and am doing more investigative work than admin work now and have assisted on dozens of warrants already. I am awaiting my written test and have not and do not know when they will be offering it. I applied in March of this year and it was a 24hrs announcement for Veterans and ICTAP employees. I am a disabled veteran which what helped. So I am assuming I made the “eligible list” for the entry level position? Now my question(s) is/are, I am do to get my GS-6 in October when I come off probation, if I do well on the test including my 10pts Vet preference, and pass the interview board and such, will I be knocked back down to a GS/GL-5 or would they match me at the 6 even though the agents go 5-7-9 and such? And also I have the ice special agent prep manual with sample questions, would this be good to study for test for would I need a better study guide? Thanks!

    • Yuri

      You will probably be hired as a GS-5 step 5, so you wont lose pay.

  • Erika

    Hi, I am scheduled to take the ice test soon but I will be turning 37 this month, does that mean I’m disqualified? I have no military background but I’ve been a police officer for twelve years.

  • Paiz

    I just finished applying for the HSI position. I am currently a graduate student at Penn State University with a 3.8, graduated from George Mason University with a 3.54, U.S. Navy Veteran (with a disability of 60%), proficient Spanish speaker, work as a probation youth counselor and currently doing an internship with INTERPOL in DC. Is my resume competitive enough? I am a bit worried since most of the question ask about investigative work which I have but very minimal. However, I am definitely gaining valuable work experience with INTERPOL since I am working with agents from the DEA, ICE, ATF, FBI and other agencies at the federal, state and local level. Will this help me? Lastly, why doesn’t HIS administer the polygraph? Did the protocols change? I distinctly remember them polygraphing qualified applicants several years back when I was in the Navy.

  • Ralph

    I have been looking at USAJOBS.GOV for the past 2 years and finally saw the job announcement for Criminal Investigator. I applied the same day it was posted and just a few days ago I received an email (Notice of Results) and it said I received a rating of 88 in both grade 07 and 09. Is that good ,and if so, what happens next and how long before I hear anything?
    I am 34 years old and have been in local law enforcement for the past three years. Before that I worked with the U.S Postal Service. Does any of my past experience help?

  • Chris

    I took my HSI Special Agent Exam on June 15. I was told by the contractor working at my test site that it will be 4-8 weeks after I take the computer test that I will be notified of my results. Is this true? Does it take that long to grade a test done on a computer? The last possible day to test as per my paperwork was the 28th of June. Would it be 4-8 weeks from my test date or date of the closing of the test? Also I applied for 2 other ICE SA positions for GS-7/9 I got my usajobs notice of results back and received a rating of “92” for GL-7 and GL-9, but I tested for an announcement I got rating of “EL” (eligible) for the GL-5 position. Would there be a chance of getting hired on as a GL-7 or 9 or would it be only the GL-5 since I tested for that announcement number? Any help is greatly appreciated.

    • Latorsha

      I took the Special Agent Exam yesterday (9/7/11) (by the way, do Special Agents really do what all that test consisted of, just wondering) and I was told I would probably get the results by the end of Oct. I can’t believe it takes that long to grade a computer based test because when I took the one for FAM they emailed you right after you tested whether you passed or not…Oh well, guess this is a waiting game now! I will probably have another job by the time they get through all this stuff! LOL!

  • Ahydee

    Does your credit affect a lot on becoming an ICE agent? I have problems of identity theft and my concern is if I can still apply for this? Also if there is a way that your offices will be able to help me with this situation, since not only me but my kids are being affected as well. SS office and IRS are not doing anything to help me and time just keeps on passing on affecting me more each day and I am extremely tired with this situation. Thank You so much. Hope you can take a look at my situation!

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Just so you know, this is not the official website for the Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement. But, I can tell you that as long as your identity theft has been reported / documented, and your credit reflects fraudulent charges made by others AND is not bad because of anything you may have done to negatively affect it, you should be able to apply without a problem — granted you make your circumstances clear when asked (many times during the application process). As for the identity theft help from the agency, you gotta contact them directly.

  • Justin

    Hi. I applied to the new bulletin for ICE. I chose the Tampa location. I am a vet and get the 5 points preference. Are all the locations they listed actually hiring? If I score well could this be a real opportunity? Is there certain locations that need a lot more new hires? I take my exam Aug. 15, if everything goes well how long does the hiring process realistically take? Also, is there a high rate of Homeland Security transferring you or do you pretty much just stay at the initial location?

  • Reynaldo Cruz

    I am Active Duty Army and my ETS is in 2 years and 4 months. Can I start the application process since it is a long process? If not; when can I start the process?

  • melissa

    Do you think i can be eligible for ICE if my dad has a record of drugs?

  • monika19

    Im 20 yrs old and a correctional officer in Reeves County Detention Center. Ive been working there for a little over 6 mths. but wanting to transfer to work for ICE, does my experience and my age meet the qualifications for ICE?

  • Brian

    I am currently active duty in the US Coast Guard. I have 4 years of extensive law enforcement, anti-terrorism/force protection experience and love my job. But I’m curious as to whether ICE works with title-10 orders if I were to get out and stay reserve and continue my job within the CG as well as becoming an ICE agent.

  • Dustin Higgins

    Does anyone have experience with the polygraph test to know what questions they will be asking? I’m sure it has to do with past drug usage and things like that but I was just wanting to find out. Thanks!

  • Kelly

    I am a undergraduate Senior graduating this may and applied for the HSI ICE student internship in December. I was wondering how long it takes to hear back from them. I emailed and was told that she hasn’t received the list of eligible names yet. But was just curious to see if anyone has gone through this process and how hard it is to get into the internship program. THANKS!

  • ricky

    What is the highest salary an ice agent can get?

    • josh

      100k year a hear is what they top out at.

  • Charlie

    I am 18 years old and will graduate next Christmas with my AA degree that is focused mainly with my electives on becoming a teacher. I have always been interested in human trafficking and am thinking about becoming an ICE HSI agent. Is there any certain degree I need to go up to like a bachelors in criminal justice? or is it just training and getting my foot in the door.

  • Yolanda

    I have two questions..(1)where do you go to apply to the academy? Is it only on I did border patrol back in 2000 and it was pretty easy to apply, you just went to the website and click on the application, since then I went back to school and became a teacher, which was my original passion; however I have found myself to be a single parent suddenly and was looking into a career as an immigration agent. My 37th birthday is around the corner…(2)so if I get the application in before my 37th birthday will I be okay or do I have to have the whole process completed before my 37th birthday?

  • Albert

    Im a student at college getting my ba criminal justice degree i was wanted to have a career in Ice since i was 17 im fluent in spanish. what makes me hopeless is that all applying for ice or regardless of the agency is mostly grown men in the army or worked for enforcement do i have a chance?

    • Johnny

      I’m in the same situation like you i’m fluent in spanish and a ba in criminal justice but i feel like i shouldn’t even try to get in with ice because i have no law enforcement experience. And plus the fact that mostly big build guys who were in the army always apply so yeah i feel hopeless like you

    • Mike

      Bro, I can tell you right now that every Law Enforcement position is going to have applicants that are “old” and have military and or degrees in their background. You have to put yourself out there and show up. I too am trying to get in Law Enforcement and been to a couple of test sites. A Background Investigator that taught one of my classes told me that, making yourself stand out is the best thing you can do to better your chances. Having volunteer work and a Degree or experience even having a clean background looks good and can separate you from the competition.

  • Omar

    Im a college student, but I’m not sure if I want to keep studying In college or just get something like the marines, army, or like you guys (ICE) you think it would be worth it? If I leave college for one of these options? I’m fluent in Spanish and English… But I just read that it could take 6-9 months or more to be called for a position.. Im saying this because I like all the Jobs you guys do, and if I get a chance I would like to become an ice officer…

    • Radek Gadek

      Omar, the job market is abysmal as it is. I would recommend sticking it out in college and make yourself a desirable candidate by obtaining high marks and finishing your degree. There are hundreds if not thousands of potential DHS ICE Special Agent applicants that have experience and education to back them. You would be facing stiff competition at times, and without a completed education, it can be so much harder to get in. As for the Marines and the Army, it’s completely the other way.

  • jesus

    im 19 and i am a college student but i was just thinking of dropping. right now i have completed only one semester. can i sill apply for ICE even if i don’t have a degree?

  • Derek

    I am a 33 year old with aspirations of a DOJ agency job. I will not receive my degree until I am 34. It does not give me much time to get enough work experience to make me stand out on paper. Is there anything that I can do to obtain a position? Is there any way that if I get a lower level position such as TSA that the age restriction would go away? Help!

  • ashley

    I’m in the U.S Army & was wondering if in order to become an ICE agent, does it matter what job you hold in the military, as in even if your a motor vehicle transport operator. Would that be useless to apply for an ICE agent job!?

  • Mike

    Hi, I am 25 years old and posses a Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice. I recently went through the process of becoming a Deputy Sheriff trainee. I passed the written and when it came to the pre interview I was sent home and told to come back next year because of smoking marijuana in 2009. They told me I needed a 5 year clearance before they can accept me as an applicant. Does the same apply for ICE special agent position?

  • Nick

    I am 21 and I am about to graduate with my BA and I wanted to know if I could apply for ICE HSI Special agent after I graduate. Also if I can’t apply, what military job could I do to increase my chances to get employed by ICE?

  • Brady

    I know this is an old post but I’ve looked many places for an answer and no luck. I’m wondering if someone could give any info on what GS level I would qualify as. I’m planning on applying for the Border Patrol position. I have a bachelors degree in Emergency Management. I do not have any law enforcement experience. But my most recent job was at a city rec center enforcing rules. I had to talk to crowds and stop certain activities and I dealt with the local police almost daily. But where I’m unsure is if having or being EMT certified helps or adds to the qualifications of what GS level you would start at. I did my EMT class after my bachelors degree, of course won’t count as graduate school credit. Sometimes I thought getting through all the EMT class tests and state tests were harder than my degree! So 4 year bachelor degree in Emergency Management and EMT certificate. Any info, advice or even any replies would help. Thank you all for your posts (good information).

  • AB

    Well I hope you still read these comments, so here goes nothing.
    I am a “veteran” of the U.S. Army, served for 4 years, and now currently doing the same line of work but as a civilian. I am honestly not a “desk job” person. And have always wanted to work more on the Human side. I dont have a College Degree, but as stated, am prior Military. Do you need a degree to become an agent? My husband and I are planning on moving to Florida (I am bilingual as well) and I am looking for a job where I can make a difference. Unfortunalty, the military never satisfied me with that so I got out with an Honorable Discharge and took the first job I found in the IC. I used to be in good physical conditions (ran a 2 mile in 15.40 min) but with being pregnant right now, my “conditions” have been on a TEMPORARY hault. What are the qualifications to become and agent?

  • Raymundo fernandez

    My goal is to work for ICE, I have served in the military for 3 years now and planning to get out in 2017, By that time I will have my associates in criminal justice, never have any problems with the law and speak 100% spanish since I lived in Mexico for about 20 years. I’m a U.S. Citizen.
    Do you think I could qualify? And what are the steps I should take in order to get the job as soon as I get out, or early if possible.
    Thank you

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