How to Get a Job in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection

becoming a border patrol agent

Did you know that after serving in the military, many servicemembers seek employment with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection? If you’re a military veteran interested in “securing America’s borders,” you’re in the right place. The United States Customs and Border Protection, also known as CBP, is the largest federal law enforcement agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security and is the country’s primary border control organization.

Roughly a third of CBP’s workforce has served in the military, so you’ll be in great company. In this fantastic organization, you will find others that share your military background and principles. And you’ll fit in well with CBP’s culture of teamwork, integrity, and innovation.

If you’re looking to get a federal job, CBP could be a perfect match for you!  That’s why we’re here to share a brief insight into CBP, the application process, its career paths, basic job requirements, and benefits you can expect.

About CBP

On March 1, 2003, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection was born and became the nation’s first comprehensive border security agency focused on maintaining the integrity of the nation’s boundaries and ports of entry.

Before CBP, security, compliance, and multiple organizations facilitated international travel and trade. The consolidation of these roles and responsibilities allowed CBP to develop seamless security procedures while ensuring compliance with the nation’s immigration, health, and international trade laws and regulations.

As the United States’ first unified border entity, CBP takes a comprehensive approach to border management and control, combining customs, immigration, border security, and agricultural protection into one coordinated and supportive activity.

With more than 60,000 employees, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is one of the world’s largest law enforcement organizations and is charged with keeping terrorists and their weapons out of the U.S. while facilitating lawful international travel and trade.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Hiring Process

becoming a border patrol agent

The CBP job application follows nine steps that are explained in detail below:

1. Apply

To apply, navigate to the position you are interested in on USAJOBS by searching the position title or finding the link on the Apply Now page. To begin your online application, you need to create a USA Jobs account and self-certify that you are qualified. You will military resume, transcripts, and other documents to verify your age and if you are a veteran. Visit CBP’s Apply Now page to start your application.

2. Take Entrance Exam

You must be willing to take an entrance exam at the location of your choice. The entrance exam measures your mental ability to perform the job functions of a CBP Officer. It is a 4 to 6-hour exam that consists of logic-based reasoning, arithmetic reasoning, writing skills, and work style. More information and a study guide are available under current applicant resources. Entrance Exam waiver for GS-9 Applicants: Applicants who qualify at the GS-9 level are not required to take the entrance exam.

3. Qualifications Review

Submit a properly formatted resume on USAJOBS to ensure your qualifications are accurate.

Human Resources Specialists will review your resume and other required documents to make sure you meet the minimum qualifications and determine which grade you qualify for. For your application to be reviewed quickly and accurately, it is recommended that you submit a resume that appropriately documents your qualifications, a detailed description of your duties (including tasks performed), the dates you performed those duties (MM/DD/YYYY – MM/DD/YYYY) and hours worked per week.

If your resume and transcripts do not document how you are qualified, you may be rated ineligible. Check out our article for help in writing a Federal resume.

4. Background Investigation

becoming a border patrol agent

All selected applicants must undergo and successfully pass a background investigation as a condition of placement into a CBP position. The SF-86 or SF-85 (e-QIP) must be completed to initiate the background investigation. The background investigation process consists of four key elements: the preliminary vetting checks, the polygraph examination, the investigation (the field portion and OPM’s National Agency Checks), and the final adjudication.

The results produced from the vetting checks, the polygraph exam, and the investigation are analyzed to determine the final adjudicative. Learn more about the background investigation from Empire Resume.

5. Medical Exam

Individuals in this position must be medically and physically capable of performing the essential job functions and duties of the position safely and efficiently without aggravating existing health problems or endangering the health and safety of the individual, others, or national security.

After tentative selection, candidates must undergo a pre-employment medical examination and be found medically qualified to perform the position’s full range of duties safely and efficiently. Any disease or condition that may potentially interfere with the safe and efficient performance of the job’s duties or training may result in medical disqualification. No condition is automatically disqualifying; each determination is made on a case-by-case basis.

The medical determination may involve recommendations for additional information and testing. If medical information is recommended beyond the initial medical examination, it is provided at the candidate’s expense.

6. Fitness Test

To ensure you are physically fit, you must undergo two physical fitness tests (PFT). PFT-1 assesses your ability to execute job duties and will be conducted concurrently with the medical exam. The tests consist of sit-ups, push-ups, and a 12” step test.

7. Interview

You will be interviewed by a board of current CBP Officers to ensure you have critical competencies for successful job performance. Among these are the competencies of judgment/decision-making, emotional maturity, interpersonal skills, and cooperativeness/sensitivity to the needs of others.

8. Polygraph Exam

The polygraph exam is a standardized polygraph exam required by the Anti-Border Corruption Act of 2010. This 4 to 6-hour interview requires you to respond to a series of questions typically relating to national security issues and answers you provide on your background investigations forms. The polygraph measures your physiological response when answering questions and results are subject to a quality control review for accuracy.

9. Drug Test

becoming a border patrol agent

You will be required to submit to a random drug test during the application process. Applicants that test positively are disqualified.

CBP uses a Veteran Recruitment Appointment (VRA) to streamline the hiring process for eligible veterans. If you are a transitioning service member, your recent military fitness test and military medical examination may provide credit for completing the required CBP medical qualification and fitness test requirements. Additionally, you may meet the criteria to receive a waiver for the polygraph examination.

Career Paths at CBP

Today, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection is recognized as a top 10 best company for veterans. Whatever your military branch or occupation background, you can find a job at CBP that builds upon your existing skillset. All military occupations are welcome to apply to CBP.

The uniformed ranks, such as Border Patrol Agents, are only a portion of CBP’s specialized corps. They are joined by forensic scientists, international trade specialists, public affairs officers, and cadres of other specialists and employees who work together to make CBP’s processes more secure, cost-effective, and efficient.

You can work with CBP in any of the following career paths:

Border Patrol

Patrol Agents protect our nation by reducing the likelihood that dangerous people and capabilities enter the United States between the ports of entry. Agents detect, prevent, and apprehend undocumented noncitizens and smugglers of noncitizens at or near land borders. For more information on job details, pay, and benefits, visit CBP’s U.S. Border Patrol career page.

Office of Field Operations

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officers secure the border and prevent drug smuggling while enforcing immigration laws, protecting agriculture, and ensuring trade compliance. Here, CBP officers enforce customs, immigration, and agriculture laws and regulations at U.S. ports of entry and preclearance locations worldwide. For more information on job details, pay, and benefits, visit CBP’s Office of Field Operations career page.

Air and Marine Operations

becoming a border patrol agent

Air and Marine Operations (AMO) Agents serve our nation by sky, sea, or land, commanding a ready fleet of aircraft and vessels under a single, unified mission. Here, you can be an Air Interdiction Agent, a Marine Interdiction Agent, or a Detection Enforcement Officer. For more information on job details, pay, and benefits, visit CBP’s Air and Marine Operations career page.

Office of Trade

Office of Trade (OT) employees facilitate legitimate trade, enforce U.S. laws, and protect the American economy as well as consumer health and safety. Here, you could be an attorney advisor, advising on the rules and regulations; an auditor, planning, conducting, and reporting on business operations; or an economist, assisting with economic analyses. For more information on job details, pay, and benefits, visit CBP’s Office of Trade career page.

Other Career Opportunities

CBP’s Professional Staff plays a vital role in supporting the frontline mission. Standing behind Frontline personnel is a dedicated team of professional staff members. CBP has thousands of employees working in interesting and complex mission, and operations support roles such as cyber security, forensic laboratory services, international affairs, international trade, and intelligence research.

Positions in Administrative & Management, Professional & Scientific, and Wage positions are also available. For more information, visit CBP’s Professional career page. Keep in mind that CBP posts all professional job opportunities on with a unique application process.

Basic Requirements to Work at U.S. Customs and Border Protection

becoming a border patrol agent

Below are the basic requirements for getting hired at CBP. All candidates must:

  • Be a US citizen.
  • Be younger than 37 years of age.
  • Have lived in the US for the previous three years.
  • Submit to a background check, polygraph, drug test, and medical screening.
  • complete the CBP Border Patrol entrance exam.

The requirements will be different according to the job you are applying for. Be sure to review the job details and requirements carefully.

CBP Employee Benefits

CBP offers excellent pay and benefits—from the inception of your career into retirement. Below is a list of benefits you can expect:

  • Competitive pay
  • Paid Time Off
  • Career Progression
  • Health Insurance
  • Life Insurance
  • Generous Retirement Plans

Ready to Apply at CBP?

Do you have questions about applying at CBP? Visit the general FAQ page for more information. We hope you enjoyed this article on your quest to be employed by the Department of Homeland Security.  Be sure to bookmark our military blog so you can join us next week. We’ll be back with more military-to-civilian career transition insight to help you navigate the world of transitioning into civilian employment.

Dr. Phillip Gold is President/CEO of Empire Resume and has vast experience writing resumes for both professionals and servicemembers transitioning from the military into civilian roles. He served as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and was responsible for leading nuclear missile security. Phillip is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and holds a BA in Communications from The Ohio State University, an MS in Instructional Technology, an MBA in Finance, and a Ph.D. in Finance.

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