Border Force officers are on the frontline for protecting the UK’s borders, carrying out crucial immigration and customs checks
As a Border Force officer you're tasked with the responsibility of making sure the UK's borders are safe and secure. This involves protecting from a range of threats including:
- organised crime
- human trafficking
- illegal trade of items such as narcotics, weapons, tobacco and alcohol.
It's likely you'll work in a frontline role within airports and seaports where you'll enforce customs and immigration regulations.
Your work can involve carrying out intelligence-led searches on passengers and freight, conducting interviews with passengers and alerting security services to people of interest.
You may work in one port or across several locations in a specific region.
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, 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
- have line management responsibility for Border Force assistant officers.
- Salaries for entry level and apprenticeship Border Force roles are typically in the region of £22,400 per year.
- As a Border Force officer, you could earn £25,750 to £31,950, depending on your location in the UK.
- Senior Border Force officers can earn between £37,500 and £42,000.
Additional allowances are offered which can total up to 50% of the minimum salary amount. This includes allowances for shift work. Check individual job adverts for specific details.
Salaries vary and depend on a range of factors including the nature of your role, your location (salaries in London are higher, for example) and your experience. 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.
The Border Force is a 24 hours a day, 365 days a year operation, which means you'll work a variety of shifts. This will include early mornings, nights, weekends and public holidays on a rotating basis.
You will typically work 38 to 42 hours a week. Shifts can be up to 12 hours long.
There are some opportunities for part-time work or job shares.
What to expect
- You're most likely to be based at one of the ports or airports across the UK but it's also possible to work across several locations within one region. The UK also operates border controls in France, Belgium and the Netherlands and so there may be opportunities there.
- 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.
- The Home Office actively encourages diversity within it's workforce and has been named a Disability Confident Employer. It runs staff support networks for gender, ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ and disabilities with the aim to raise awareness and build an inclusive culture.
You don't need to have a degree to become a Border Force officer. Instead the Home Office asks for five GCSEs at grades 9-4 (A-C, or equivalent) including English and maths. Some roles may also ask for two A-levels at grade E or equivalent.
Experience that shows relevant skills, such as in security, regulatory or investigatory work may also be taken into consideration alongside qualifications.
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. It typically lasts for 18 months and upon successful completion you'll be offered a permanent role at an administrative officer grade.
Although a degree is not an essential requirement to become a Border Force officer, the following subjects may be helpful:
- public services
It may be possible to enter a role within the Home Office via the Civil Service Fast Stream if you have a degree.
You will also need to meet the following requirements to be eligible for the Border Officer role:
- Be a UK national and at least 18 years old.
- Be able to provide the required ID documents for pre-employment screening and security clearance.
- Complete a health declaration and, if necessary, attend a medical examination.
- For some roles you may need to have a full UK manual driving licence.
Entry requirements can vary depending on a range of factors including the 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.
- strong observational skills, to spot suspicious or unusual behaviours
- excellent communication skills for gathering information
- to work flexibly, as priorities can change rapidly
- 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 IT tasks.
Pre-entry work experience isn't essential but it can be useful to show that you have the required skills for the role.
Any work within security, protection or implementing regulations is useful. This can include voluntary roles, perhaps within the Army, Navy or RAF Cadets or work as a special constable.
Work experience within central or local government departments may also be useful to indicate you have an understanding of how they're run and the importance of the regulations they control.
Experience at ports or airports can also be useful to give you an insight to the environment and various activities there.
Find out more about the different kinds of work experience and internships that are available.
As a Border Force officer you'll be employed by the Border Force, which is part of the Home Office.
Locations include 140 ports and airports across the UK and overseas. You can 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:
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
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 progress, you may get the opportunity to undertake specialist training, depending on your role. This could include areas such as forgery detection, safeguarding vulnerable people or working with commodity search teams.
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.