A Career as an Immigration Officer

Overview

An Immigration Officer is responsible for ensuring that each person entering or leaving the United Kingdom at airports, ports and via the Channel Tunnel, is authorised to do so.  This involves checking and endorsing passports, establishing the purpose of the visit for people of non-British or European origin and ensuring that they are in possession of the appropriate papers and visas.  In the event of an Immigration Officer suspecting that an individual is not entitled to enter the country, they are required to detain, interview and make arrangements for their return home.  Some passengers may declare the right to political asylum in which case the Immigration Officer will transfer them to a holding area pending further investigation.  The role of an Immigration Officer can also involve surveillance work and working with other authorities to investigate people who no longer have the right to reside in the UK.

Entry requirements

A good standard of secondary education is required in order to be considered for a role in Immigration.  It is then usual to have to complete a comprehensive application form and a written selection test.  Immigration Officers must be UK nationals who have lived in the country for at least five consecutive years and should be able to pass medical and health examinations.

An intensive training course must be completed which usually takes place at Heathrow Airport, Gatwick Airport or the Port of Dover.  It is also necessary to complete regular training courses throughout employment as an Immigration Officer to remain up to date with any changes in regulations.  Some roles within Immigration may require knowledge of foreign languages, in particular those spoken by minority groups who commonly seek asylum in the UK.

Excellent communication skills are essential for this role as it involves liaising extensively with people from a range of social and cultural backgrounds.  It is important to be able to remain calm when under pressure and to diffuse potentially threatening situations.  There are many reasons why people apply for asylum in the UK and, although not all claims are genuine, many are.  It is therefore useful to be able to demonstrate empathy and compassion when dealing with people who may have sacrificed a considerable amount in order to reach the UK.

Progression opportunities

The increasing influx of asylum seekers into the UK has resulted in a major expansion in the Immigration Service so there are opportunities available quite frequently.  Immigration Officers may gain promotion to Chief Immigration Officer or Higher Executive Officer and the relatively good salary can increase depending on experience.

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