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Immigration and Customs Inspector  What They Do

Just the Facts


Immigration and Customs Inspectors Career Video



Investigates and inspects persons, common carriers, goods, and merchandise, arriving in or departing from the United States or between states to detect violations of immigration and customs laws and regulations.

This career is part of the Law, Public Safety, Corrections and Security cluster Law Enforcement Services pathway.


A person in this career:

  • Examines immigration applications, visas, and passports and interview persons to determine eligibility for admission, residence, and travel in the U.S.
  • Detains persons found to be in violation of customs or immigration laws and arranges for legal action, such as deportation.
  • Inspects cargo, baggage, and personal articles entering or leaving U.S. for compliance with revenue laws and U.S. customs regulations.
  • Locates and seizes contraband, undeclared merchandise, and vehicles, aircraft, or boats that contain such merchandise.
  • Interprets and explains laws and regulations to travelers, prospective immigrants, shippers, and manufacturers.
  • Institutes civil and criminal prosecutions and cooperates with other law enforcement agencies in the investigation and prosecution of those in violation of immigration or customs laws.
  • Testifies regarding decisions at immigration appeals or in federal court.
  • Records and reports job-related activities, findings, transactions, violations, discrepancies, and decisions.
  • Determines duty and taxes to be paid on goods.
  • Collects samples of merchandise for examination, appraisal, or testing.

Insider Info

Dig into the details and check out what people in this job have to say about their work.



Working Conditions and Physical Demands

People who do this job report that:

  • You would often handle loads up to 10 lbs., sometimes up to 20 lbs. You might do a lot of walking or standing, or you might sit but use your arms and legs to control machines, equipment or tools.
  • Work in this occupation involves use of protective items such as safety shoes, glasses, gloves, hearing protection, a hard hat, or personal flotation devices
  • Exposure to pollutants, gases, dust, fumes, odors, poor ventilation, etc.
  • Requires getting into awkward positions
  • Exposed to disease and infections more than once a month through work such as patient care, laboratory work, and sanitation control
  • Lighting is either extremely bright or inadequate
  • Conditions are very hot (above 90 F) or very cold (under 32 F)
  • Work in this occupation involves using your hands to hold, control, and feel objects more than one-third of the time
  • Exposed to hazardous equipment such as saws, machinery, or vehicular traffic more than once a month
  • Exposed to hazardous situations involving possible injury such as cuts, bites, stings, and minor burns more than once a month
  • Work in this occupation requires being inside most of the time
  • Sound and noise levels are loud and distracting
  • Work in this occupation requires being outside most of the time
  • Exposed to radiation more than once a month
  • Work in this occupation involves making repetitive motions more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves sitting more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves standing more than one-third of the time

Working in this career involves (physical activities):

  • Seeing clearly at a distance
  • Seeing clearly up close
  • Speaking clearly enough to be able to be understood by others
  • Identifying and understanding the speech of another person

Work Hours and Travel

  • Irregular hours
  • Weekend work

Specialty and Similar Careers

Careers that are more detailed or close to this career:

  • Canine Enforcement Officer (K-9 Enforcement Officer) -- Uses dogs that are specially trained in criminal apprehension and handler protection, in narcotic or explosive detection, or search and rescue duties.
  • Drug Enforcement Agent -- Responsible for controlling and enforcing laws regarding drugs within the country.