How to become an ICE Special Agent

Selection Process

The selection process for HSI Special Agents begin with finding a hiring notice at Applicants should carefully read the ad before following the link to the Office of Personnel Management. The applicant will be asked to complete a short questionnaire which ensures they meet minimum requirements for the position.

The application for the Special Agent or Immigration Enforcement Agent position should be submitted along with a resume to the OPM. Additional forms may also be required if the applicant is seeking preferred status as a veteran.

Once the application has been reviewed and approved, the applicant will be contacted to schedule the Written Test. This is a computerized examination that evaluates the applicant’s writing and reasoning skills as well as their professional experience. The applicant may also be evaluated for information technology skills, planning & evaluating, technical competence and problem solving.

If the applicant successfully completes all of the prior steps, they will be scheduled for a Structured Interview. This interview is conducted by three senior officials in the appropriate directorate. The primary goal of the SI is to evaluate the applicant’s emotional maturity, decision making skills, moral character, cooperativeness and sensitivity to others. This is not an evaluation of technical knowledge.

The Structured Interview is followed by a Personal Interview which is administered by two senior officials. The Personal Interview is designed to assess the personal and employment history of the interviewee. This interview may include questions about prior employment, education, ICE investigator duties and the agency’s core mission.

They must also pass a medical screening and drug test. If the candidate possesses any of the following chronic conditions, they may be disqualified from service:

  • Respiratory
  • Cardiovascular
  • Digestive
  • Nervous
  • Genitourinary
  • Musculoskeletal
  • Hearing/vision

Any candidates who possess mental or emotional instability may also be disqualified.

The candidate will then have their background investigated. If all of these stages are passed, the applicant will be issued a conditional Offer of Employment. The entire selection process may take from two to four months to complete, or longer depending upon any issues in the background check.

Physical Requirements

In order to ensure that entering Special Agents are physically capable of fulfilling their professional responsibilities and completing the basic training course, a fitness test will be administered following the issuance of a conditional offer of employment. The fitness test has three components:

  1. Push-ups—recruits must complete at least 15 push-ups within two minutes. Each push-up requires full extension of arms at the peak, and at least four inches above the floor at the nadir.
  2. Kneel and stand—this test ensures that recruits can assume the necessary firing position when using a firearm. The test consists of ten position changes within 25 seconds followed by two minutes of kneeling and returning to a standing position. The exact positions required for this test may be found on this instructional.
  3. Step test—this is a five minute cardiovascular endurance test in which the recruit must step up and down from a 16 inch high step. The recruit must complete at least 96 steps per minute for each of the five minutes involved.

All recruits must complete each section of the test. Failure at any stage will immediately halt the test and initiate a retraction of the Conditional Offer of Employment.

In addition to the entry fitness test, new recruits must also complete the FLETC Practical Exercise Performance Requirements which is a prerequisite for attending the Criminal Investigator Training Program at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. There are more specialized elements of the fitness components which pertain to firearms training and vehicle operation, but the primary physical component is the Physical Efficiency Battery (PEB) which is composed of five elements:

  1. Sit and Reach—the recruit must sit with legs fully extended on the floor. With calves touching the floor, the trainee must push a device as close to their toes as possible.
  2. Bench Press—the recruit must lift a weight from their chest while on a fulcrum bench. The weight may be increased in five pound increments.
  3. Agility Run—the trainee must successfully run 30 feet while navigating four obstacles and then repeat the process to return to the starting point.
  4. 1.5 Mile Run—a distance of 1.5 miles must be crossed without falling into a walking pace.
  5. Body Composition Test—using skinfold calipers, test administrators will measure the body fat at three points on the body of the recruit. The measurements will then be entered into a computer program to determine body fat.

The minimum standards necessary to pass the PEB are dependent upon the age and gender of the trainee. A minimum of 75 percent composite score is necessary to pass the PEB.


Initial training for HIS Special Agents is 22 weeks in length and is held at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Brunswick, GA. In 2009, ICE opened a new training facility for its Special Agents. This new facility in Georgia includes a training program for HIS Special Agents as well as a program for ERO Immigration Enforcement Agents. Although both careers are within U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the training programs are markedly different with IEA training taking on a more military boot camp style, while HSI training is more collegiate in atmosphere.

In order to attend the Criminal Investigator Training Program held at FLETC, recruits must obtain endorsement from ICE and successfully pass the FLETC Practical Exercise Performance Requirements.

The basic training program for HSI criminal investigators involves coursework in

  • Courtroom Evidence
  • Investigative Report Writing
  • Major Case Management
  • Interviewing
  • Federal Criminal Law
  • Informants
  • Investigative Techniques

This intensive program will include lectures, practicums, laboratories and periodic examinations. Each trainee will be assigned to a task force team made up of other trainees and a Continuing Case Investigation Coordinator. Training will also include courses in firearms, physical techniques and conditioning, vehicle handling, and tactical training.

In addition to the basic training, HSI Special Agents who are entering more specialized fields may also be required to complete additional training modules.

  • ICE Basic Intelligence Training Program Eight Weeks
  • ICE Special Training Program Thirteen Weeks
  • FPS Physical Security Academy Four Weeks
  • Uniformed Police Training Program Eight Weeks

In order to attend these specialized training modules, trainees must obtain authorization from course ICE officials and course administrators.


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