Border Force officers protect the UK from threats of terrorism, smuggling, fraud, 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 passengers arriving by sea/air/rail
  • 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, Her Majesty's 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

  • Border Force assistant officers are paid £20,475-£21,358 per year.
  • As a Border Force officer, you'll earn between £23,330 and £26,831 a year.
  • Experienced or senior Border Force officers, usually with a specialism such as immigration, can earn between £27,000 and £40,000 per year.

If you work at Heathrow or Gatwick airport, or at the Worldwide Distribution Centre (a sorting office where most mail entering or leaving the UK is processed), your salary is likely to be higher. You'll gain extra allowances for working shifts and unsocial hours.

Income data from the Border Force Officer Candidate Information Pack. 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.

It's usual to work between 36 and 40 hours per week. Shifts can be up to 12 hours long.

Part-time work is possible, and around a quarter of Border Force officers choose this option. The rest work full time.

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 (the UK border in France).
  • You'll usually wear a uniform.
  • The job can be physically demanding, and you may be working outdoors.
  • You can indicate the location you want to be based at when you apply, but you're expected to be mobile and flexible about your place of work.
  • 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 you must have at least 2 A-levels at grade E and above (or equivalent qualifications including formal and vocational training).

It's possible to join as a Border Force assistant officer and progress into an officer role. To join as a Border Force assistant officer, you must have either:

  • two GCSEs, Grade A-C (or equivalent) in maths and English
  • relevant experience as a police officer/special constable, or served in the British Armed Forces.

It's also possible to train as a Border Force assistant officer via an apprenticeship, which will take up to 18 months to complete.

Although a degree is not an essential requirement to become a Border Force officer, around half of entrants hold a qualification such as an HND, degree or postgraduate qualification. Graduates of any discipline are welcome in the Border Force, but some subjects might be particularly helpful - such as:

  • 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
  • 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 and background check
  • you must hold a full UK driving licence.

Some information sources suggest that another route to enter the Border Force is via the Civil Service Fast Stream graduate programme. It should be noted however, that although it's possible to have a placement with the Border Force as part of the Fast Stream, this isn't guaranteed and can't be planned for. Also, the Fast Stream is designed to produce future leaders for the Civil Service - who enter roles at a higher grade than Border Force officers.

Whichever route you choose, during the selection process you'll be assessed against the key Civil Service Behaviours of:

  • Working Together
  • Making Effective Decisions
  • Communicating and Influencing
  • Delivering at Pace.

Some ability in a foreign language may also be an advantage.

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
  • have 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
  • 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 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, customs.

Employers

There are approximately 8,000 Border Force officers working at the 140 ports and airports across the UK and overseas. Officers also work at postal depots and international rail networks - anywhere people and goods leave or enter the UK.

Border Force officers are employed by the Border Force, which is part of the Home Office. You can find out more about the Border Force at Border Force - About us.

Information about the role and the application process can be found in the Border Force Officer Candidate Information Pack.

You may find vacancies on other websites, but all applications are via Civil Service Job search.

Several key issues are driving an increase in recruitment for Border Force officers. The current political climate is focused on dramatic changes to the UK borders, and at the same time there is a growth in the number of flights from the UK.

Professional development

As a newly recruited Border Force officer, you'll go through a structured programme of training. The initial training is residential and lasts for 14 weeks. You must pass this training programme. It includes pre-course online learning, classroom learning and mentoring. You'll learn about legislation, immigration and customs laws. You'll also gain a Level 3 personal safety training (PST) qualification which enables you to use handcuffs, batons and arrest and restraint techniques.

After your training, you'll continue your learning on the job, with a mentor to support you during your first six to 12 months. Once you've passed your probationary period, you'll have the full responsibilities of a Border Force officer.

You may also get the opportunity to undertake specialist training, depending on your role, such as a course in airside driving which would allow you to drive vehicles on an airport runway.

Career prospects

With experience and ability, you can progress into the role of a Border Force senior officer, in which you may have responsibility for the management of other Border Force officers, or specific projects. There'll be more opportunities for promotion if you're willing to relocate around the country.

You could move into a training position, and teach new Border Force officers how to do the job.

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 which involve national security.

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