Border Force officers protect the UK from threats of terrorism, smuggling, fraud, organised crime, human trafficking and illegal trade of items such as narcotics and endangered animals

As a Border Force officer, you'll form part of a frontline law enforcement organisation, tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that the UK's border is safe and secure 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The work involves patrolling the entry and exit points of the UK - the coastline, rail services and airports - and by using your skill and intuition and monitoring people and items, detecting risks.

Using your authority to interview suspicious travellers, you'll search baggage, vehicles and cargo where appropriate. Where issues arise, you'll alert security services to people of interest and use the intelligence you've gathered about possible threats to help them.

Responsibilities

As a Border Force officer, you'll need to:

  • check passports and travel documents of all passengers arriving by sea/air/rail for immigration control purposes and to detect and intercept prohibited goods
  • question passengers about their reasons for visiting the UK and plans while they're in the country
  • search people, their luggage, cars, coaches and freight vehicles, for prohibited items (such as drugs, counterfeit goods, cash, tobacco, firearms or endangered plants or animals) being taken in or out of the country
  • enforce rules and regulations, sometimes by removing goods or arranging for illegal immigrants to be detained
  • report concerns to other organisations such as the police, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), the National Crime Agency (NCA) and UK Visas and Immigration.

You might also:

  • work with sniffer dogs to uncover concealed items
  • patrol the coastline by boat
  • give evidence in court
  • specialise in areas such as counter terrorism, organised crime, modern slavery and human trafficking
  • work across multiple sites rather than at one single location, including overseas
  • have line management responsibility for Border Force assistant officers.

Salary

  • Salaries for Border Force apprentices are typically around £21,431 per year.
  • As a Border Force officer, you could earn between £24,883 and £27,372 per year.
  • Senior Border Force officers can earn between £37,450 and £41,193 per year.

Salaries vary and depend on a range of factors including your location (salaries in London are higher, for example), your experience and the exact nature of the role. Check job adverts for current salary information.

You'll gain extra allowances for working shifts and unsocial hours.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

The Border Force is a 24 hours a day, 365 days a year operation, which means you'll work a variety of shifts, which will include starting early and finishing late, and covering nights. You'll also work weekends and public holidays on a rotating basis.

You will usually work a 37 hour week. Shifts can be up to 12 hours long.

There are some opportunities for part-time work or job share.

What to expect

  • You're most likely to be based at one of the ports or airports across the UK, although you may get the opportunity to work at one of the key entry ports in a setting outside of the UK, such as Coquelles (where Border Force has juxtaposed controls).
  • You'll usually wear a uniform, which must be worn correctly and must be clean and well presented.
  • The job can be physically demanding, and you may be working outdoors.
  • Due to the nature of the work, the role can be challenging and pressurised at times.
  • Border Force officers come from all walks of life, as do the members of the public you will deal with, so your role will be full of variety.

Qualifications

To enter at officer level as an external candidate you must have at least 2 A-levels at grade E and above (or equivalent qualifications including formal and vocational training).

If you don't have the minimum qualifications, you may still be able to apply if you have relevant skills from security, regulatory or investigatory work that could be used in a Border Force officer role. Examples include previous work for Border Force, immigration case work, fraud investigation and revenue compliance.

It's also possible to join as a Border Force assistant officer and progress into an officer role.

Alternatively, you could join as a Border Force Apprentice, working, learning and earning on the job. You'll need GCSEs in maths and English (or equivalent). As part of the apprenticeship you will gain a Level 3 Award in Operational Delivery.

Although a degree is not an essential requirement to become a Border Force officer, graduates of any discipline are welcome to apply. The following subjects might be particularly helpful:

  • criminology
  • psychology
  • public services
  • law.

There are some additional requirements, such as:

  • nationality - you must be a UK national with a full and valid passport or provide alternative evidence of UK nationality in line with Civil Service Nationality Rules.
  • residence - you must have been living in the UK for the past five years
  • age - you must be at least 18 years old
  • health - you'll need to declare any health issues and possibly have a medical examination
  • security - you'll undergo a full security check and background check
  • you must hold a full UK driving licence.

Entry requirements can vary depending on a range of factors including the exact nature of the role, the location and any specialist work involved. It's important that you read the job advert and candidate pack carefully for full details before applying.

Whichever route you choose, during the selection process you'll typically be assessed using Success Profiles, the new recruitment framework used within the Civil Service, covering your behaviours, strengths, ability and experience.

Skills

You'll need:

  • strong observational skills, to spot suspicious or unusual behaviours
  • excellent communication skills for gathering information from travellers
  • to enjoy interacting with colleagues, members of the public and external stakeholders
  • an eye for detail and a thorough approach
  • an ability to analyse information, solve problems and make decisions
  • interpersonal skills, to confidently deal with the public who may be deliberately deceitful, or presenting in various emotional states, for example feeling anxious, stressed or aggressive
  • the ability to remain calm, use tact and be respectful in stressful situations, including those where people are distressed or antagonistic
  • a strong sense of personal ethics and integrity
  • experience as a team player, supporting colleagues and team members to deliver key outcomes
  • the ability to plan, collaborate and deliver to short deadlines
  • decision making skills and good judgement
  • good written and data entry skills to keep records of your work
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device
  • to work flexibly, as priorities can change rapidly
  • a full driving licence.

Work experience

The Border Force does not ask for specific work experience, so any types of experience which allow you to develop the required skills for the job are useful.

However, there are some types of experience that may give you an advantage, such as working in security or getting involved in armed forces experiences such as the Reserves or joining the Army, Navy or RAF Air Cadets. Similarly, experience as a special constable or police community support officer would offer a strong set of transferable skills.

Experience at ports, rail or airports would be particularly useful and there are a huge number of roles in these hubs of activity, within the retail or hospitality outlets, working as a travel adviser or baggage handler. It may be possible to find such roles as summer work, or a part-time position.

Any experience that overlaps with the work of Border Force officers will be helpful, such as immigration, fraud investigation, enforcing regulations and customs.

Find out more about the different kinds of work experience and internships that are available.

Employers

Border Force officers are employed by the Border Force, which is part of the Home Office. They work at the 140 ports and airports across the UK and overseas. Officers also work at general aviation ports, postal depots and international rail networks. This includes the Eurostar from Brussels and Paris to St Pancras International, as well as the Eurotunnel from Coquelles to Cheriton. Find out more about the Border Force.

Look for job vacancies at:

  • Civil Service Job search - you may find vacancies on other websites, but all applications are via the Civil Service website.

Professional development

As a newly recruited Border Force officer you'll go through a structured programme of training, which you must pass in order to work as a Border Force officer.

You'll start by learning about legislation, procedures and personal safety and how you will deploy your powers. Once you’ve understood the theory, you’ll start to put it into practice in a safe environment, first with trainers and then out in operational areas.

Training typically consists of three parts:

  • pre-course learning
  • classroom learning
  • mentoring.

You'll focus on immigration and customs legislation relevant to your role and place of work. The training is modular and you'll be tested throughout the programme. You'll be supported throughout by your manager, mentors, buddies and your colleagues.

You will also usually complete a Level 3 Personal Safety Training (PST) qualification, which develops your skills in personal safety, arrest and restraint techniques.

Once you've passed the training programme and completed your probationary period you will have the full responsibilities of a Border Force officer.

You will need to keep your training up to date throughout your career. As you develop your career, you may get the opportunity to undertake specialist training, depending on your role.

Career prospects

With experience and ability, you can progress into the role of a Border Force senior officer. At this level, you will typically have responsibility for the management of other Border Force officers and/or specific projects. You may also have budget management and recruitment responsibilities.

There are also some opportunities to move into a training position, and teach new Border Force officers how to do the job.

There'll be more opportunities for promotion if you're willing to relocate around the country. It’s also possible to specialise in a particular area of work.

It may also be possible for you to move to other departments within the Home Office and the wider Civil Service, although you may need further qualifications and training for some jobs. There is also a connection with other similar roles in the Police, Ministry of Defence (MoD), Armed Forces, MI5, United Nations (UN) and other roles that involve national security.

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