You are here

UK Border Agency Officer

The UK Border Agency is made up of the Immigration Group and Border Force. The Agency is responsible for securing the UK border and controlling migration in the UK. They manage border control for the UK, enforcing immigration and customs regulations.

All areas of the UK Border Agency employ administrative assistants (AAs), to provide essential support.

The Immigration Group also employs:

  • Administrative Officers (AOs), to provide advice or assistance to the public and make decisions and initial recommendations on immigration and asylum cases
  • Executive officers (EOs), to consider the merits of individual immigration and asylum cases
  • Higher Executive Officers (HEOs), as case owners. They see each case through the asylum system from the outset, providing advice and support through to the claimant's integration or removal.

Border Force work is carried out in two key areas:

  • Primary check point (PCP), where duties involve examining documents, interviewing people and establishing eligibility for UK entry
  • Secondary examination area, questioning people and searching baggage, freight and vehicles, to identify prohibited and restricted items and take appropriate legal action.

Agency employees are usually contracted to work 36 hours a week. This involves working shifts, covering nights, weekends and bank holidays. Part-time and job share opportunities are available.

Salaries range from £14,043 a year, potentially reaching £31,000 for senior officers.

UK Border Agency officers should be:

  • confident and responsible
  • organised
  • objective, fair and courteous
  • calm and assertive
  • interested in immigration and associated legislation and working with the public.

The UK Border Agency employs around 25,000 people. While there are no formal educational requirements, A levels, or equivalent, may be expected for officer positions. All applicants attend an assessment centre. Applicants must be a national aged over 18, have lived in the UK continuously for the last five years and must pass security clearance and a medical examination.

New entrants receive specialist training, lasting nine weeks and involving classroom-based training and operational coaching. On-the-job training then continues. New officers need a good working knowledge of immigration and customs legislation and associated rules and instructions. They also receive instruction in interviewing techniques.

The Agency offers clearly defined progression opportunities. AOs may move up to EO and then HEO. Some progress into higher management positions. All internal promotion is based on evidence of competencies.

 

What is the work like?

There are many different roles within the UK Border Agency, which is made up of the Immigration Group and Border Force. The Agency is responsible for securing the UK border and controlling migration in the UK. It manages border control for the UK, enforcing immigration and customs regulations.

All areas of the UK Border Agency employ administrative assistants (AAs), which is a common entry point to the Agency. AAs provide essential support. This typically involves keeping records, sorting files, straightforward letter writing or numerical work and dealing with general enquiries from members of the public and their representatives, or from officers in other parts of the organisation.

The Immigration Group also employs:

  • Administrative Officers (AOs), to provide advice or assistance to the public by letter or phone or sometimes in person across a counter. AOs might make decisions about immigration and asylum cases and make initial recommendations to senior officers.
  • Executive Officers (EOs), who undertake different roles, including policy work, which requires an understanding of complex legislation, or case work, where they consider the merits of individual cases. EOs often conduct interviews face to face or base their decisions on written applications. They may have management responsibilities, or work in finance, human resources or IT.
  • Higher Executive Officers (HEOs) are the case owners, working as part of a team to progress an asylum claimant's case. HEOs work with claimants on a one-to-one basis and maintain contact with them, seeing each case through the asylum system from the outset to the claimant's integration or removal. Case owners are responsible for the asylum interview, the decision-making and representing the Home Office at appeal hearings. HEOs help asylum claimants with support and welfare issues, including accommodation. They provide genuine refugees with support, enabling them to settle and integrate into the community. If a claim is unsuccessful, HEO case owners have to ensure the claimant returns home by voluntary return arrangements or arranging enforced removal.

The Border Force maintains effective control of people and goods entering the UK. Work is currently carried out in two key areas:

  • Primary check point (PCP), where duties involve examining documents and interviewing people to establish their eligibility for entry to the UK. Officers need to be courteous and fair, but at the same time must evaluate objectively the information presented. Duties may also include caseworking, surveillance, forgery detection and evidence gathering, and arranging for passengers to be removed from the UK.
  • Secondary examination area, where officers will be involved in the questioning and search of baggage, freight and vehicles, with a view to identifying prohibited and restricted items and taking the appropriate legal actions. Assistant officers may also work within this area under the supervision of a more senior officer.

Officers may work in both the primary and secondary areas.

Hours and environment

The UK Border Agency employees working full time are typically contracted to work 36 hours a week. This involves working shifts, either on a contract or rota basis, covering nights, weekends and bank holidays. Part-time and job share opportunities are available.

Depending on their role, they may be office-based, work within communities visiting asylum claimants or within the arrivals hall of an airport or port. Some jobs involve regional travel.

Uniforms must be worn whilst carrying out official, front-line, operational duties.

Salary and other benefits

These figures are only a guide, as actual rates of pay may vary depending on the employer and where people live.

  • AAs start on £14,043 a year.
  • AOs start on £15,386 a year.
  • The national starting salary for EOs is £20,235.
  • Senior officers, such as HEOs, can earn up to £31,000 a year.

In addition, jobs in London attract a location allowance. Shift allowances and extra payment for working weekends and bank holidays are available. Other allowances may be available, depending on the particular nature and location of positions.

Skills and personal qualities

UK Border Agency officers should be:

  • confident and responsible
  • organised and methodical
  • fair and courteous
  • objective
  • observant, with good judgement
  • calm and assertive when handling potential conflict situations
  • strong communicators with excellent interpersonal skills
  • able to relate to people from all cultures and backgrounds
  • good at managing their own workloads
  • able to work in a team
  • good administrators and report writers
  • aware of diversity and equal opportunity issues.

Interests

It helps to be interested in:

  • immigration and associated legislation
  • evaluation and interviewing techniques
  • working with people and providing and service to the public.

Getting in

The UK Border Agency employs around 25,000 people.

Officers and personnel working at a Border Agency Primary Check Point or Secondary Examination Area could be based at any one of over 50 airports and seaports around the UK or at other transport facilities. Entrants should be prepared to work anywhere in the UK. Some may also be based at overseas travel and transport entry points to the UK, eg at the Channel Tunnel rail terminal in France.

Case owners are usually based in a regional office, travelling to appeal hearings, and regularly visit claimants at a reporting centre, the claimant's accommodation or at a removal centre.

Jobs may be advertised in the local and national press, in Jobcentre Plus, and on the Civil Service website. The UK Border Agency has information on its website.

Entry routes

While there are no formal educational requirements, A levels, or equivalent, may be expected for direct entry into an officer position.

Selection for all positions is through an assessment centre, where candidates are tested on judgement, conflict management, communication skills, both oral and written, and an awareness of diversity and equal opportunities.

All applicants must be UK nationals aged over 18 and need to have lived in the UK continuously for the last five years. They must also pass a security clearance and a medical examination.

Any experience of working with the public can be helpful. It can also be useful to speak another language. The Diploma in public service may be relevant for this area of work.

For school students, in many locations the UK Border Agency offers a limited number of work experience placements. These usually last one or two weeks.

While the Agency does not run its own graduate training programme, some positions are filled by fast streamers recruited through the Civil Service. The Civil Service Fast Streamer article on this website has details.

Training

New entrants receive an initial period of specialist training. This lasts nine weeks and is divided into five weeks of initial classroom-based training followed by four weeks of operational coaching. Courses are usually held in Dover, Manchester, Stansted, near to Heathrow airport or at Gatwick airport.

On-the-job training continues, so that new officers acquire a good working knowledge of immigration and customs legislation and associated rules and instructions. They also receive instruction in interviewing techniques.

Further practical training is carried out on the job under the supervision of experienced officers.

Getting on

The most common entry levels into the agency are at administrative assistant, administrative officer and executive officer or officer level. The Agency offers a clearly defined promotion structure.

Experienced Administrative Officers (AOs) may progress to Executive Officer (EO) and then Higher Executive Officer (HEO).

All internal promotion within the UK Border Agency is based on evidence of competencies. Some EOs and HEOs may move into higher management positions.

Further information

Civil Service. Website: www.civilservice.gov.uk

UK Border Agency. Website: http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/aboutus/workingforus/currentvacancies/

Career and Course Articles: 

online magazines