How to Become a U.S. Border Patrol Agent

Learn What You Need to Do to Land a Job with the U.S. Border Patrol

U.S. Border Patrol
Border Patrol agents investigate a landing spot on the Rio Grande. U.S. Customs and Border Protection

The United States Customs and Border Protection agency is about far more than simply curbing the influx of illegal immigration and undocumented workers into the U.S. In fact, The primary focus of CBP agents is to keep the country safe by preventing dangerous weapons and people from entering the nation's borders and fighting to reduce the growing and horrific crime of human trafficking. There's a lot that goes into preparing someone for such a worthwhile job, so it's worth finding out exactly how to become a U.S. Border Patrol agent.

Minimum Requirements for U.S. CBP Agents

Before you even consider applying for the job, you need to make sure you meet the minimum qualifications set for CBP agents. In order to have your application considered and to advance through the hiring process, you must:

  • Be a United States citizen and currently live in the United States.
  • Be under 37 years unless you have prior federal law enforcement experience or are a military veteran.
  • Hold a valid driver license
  • Be fluent in Spanish or be able to learn the language
  • Be willing to work anywhere along the southwestern border of the United States

Next Steps to Become a Border Patrol Agent

If you meet the minimum requirements, the first step is to apply for the job. You can do so by visiting USAJOBS and searching for Customs and Border Patrol Opportunities.

If your application meets muster, you'll progress through a series of steps that include physical and written testing, a background check, a polygraph exam, an oral interview process and finally training at the U.S. Border Patrol Academy.

Written Testing for Border Patrol Agents

At the time you apply for a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agent job, you'll also register to take the U.S. Border Patrol Entrance Examination. The test consists of four sections that measure your math and logical reasoning skills, writing skills, and your past experiences and achievements.

The test takes about 5 hours to completeĀ and is available at various locations throughout the United States.

To pass the written test, you'll need to achieve a score of at least 70 percent. In addition to the test, you will also participate in a Spanish language assessment to determine your ability to speak or learn to speak Spanish. Once you pass the written exam, you'll move on to the first of two physical assessments.

Physical Fitness Requirements for Border Patrol Agents

The first physical assessment, the PFT-1, is a medical screening to ensure you are healthy enough for the rigors of the job. The medical screening will ensure that you meet the following requirements:

  • Vision must be 20/100 or better in each eye and correctable to 20/20 with lenses. You must have normal color, peripheral and depth perception.
  • You must have adequate hearing in both ears.
  • You must not have any physical impairments that could pose a danger to you on the job.
  • You must be in good health and your blood pressure must be within the normal range.

    The second assessment, known as the PFT-2, is a fitness assessment that comes later in the process, about 30 days before you begin the academy. It measures your overall physical fitness level and requires the following:

    • Complete a 220-yard run in 46 seconds or less
    • Complete 25 sit-ups in 1 minute
    • Complete 20 push ups in 1 minute
    • Complete a 1.5-mile run in 15 minutes or less

    If you're not yet in shape, start working now to get yourself where you need to be. The above minimums aren't overly taxing, but they can be difficult to someone who is not accustomed to physical activity. Consult with a physician before beginning an exercise program, and then start a regimen that can put you in the best position for success.

    Background Investigation for Border Patrol Agents

    If you make it far enough in the process, you'll undergo a very thorough background investigation.

    The background check will include criminal histories, prior employment, references, training and education verification and a polygraph exam. It is extremely important to understand that if you have any inclination toward working in any criminal justice career, you need to refrain from doing anything that could jeopardize your chance of getting hired later on down the road.

    The U.S. Border Patrol Academy

    If you can make it through all the hoops, you'll move on to the United State Border Patrol Academy in Artesia, New Mexico. The academy consists of 58 days of training in physical fitness, U.S. immigration law, firearms marksmanship, defensive tactics and other law enforcement-related subjects.

    For those not fluent in Spanish, after you complete the 58-day basic academy you'll attend another 40-day Spanish language course that will consist of instruction and immersion in the language. If you are not functionally fluent in Spanish at the end of the course, you will not be able to continue with the agency.

    Becoming a U.S. Border Patrol Agent

    Now more than ever, keeping the nation's borders safe and secure for U.S. citizens, visitors and immigrants is vitally important. As the crime of human trafficking is on the rise and concerns of potential international terrorist attacks remain, U.S. Border Patrol agents stand on the front lines to maintain the integrity of the country's borders.

    If you'd like to be a part of keeping the nation secure while helping some of the most vulnerable among us, you should definitely consider a career as a U.S. Border Patrol Agent.