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ICE is the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) protects the United States against terrorist and other criminal organizations who threaten our safety and national security and transnational criminal enterprises who seek to exploit America's legitimate trade, travel, and financial systems. ICE HSI operates out of 70 offices in 47 foreign countries.

HSI criminal investigators utilize innovative investigative techniques and new technological resources to help prevent terrorism and other criminal activities by targeting the people, money and materials that support illegal organizations. They are involved in a variety of challenging criminal and civil investigations involving national security threats, terrorism, public safety, drug smuggling, child exploitation, human trafficking, illegal arms export, financial crimes, identity fraud, benefit fraud, commercial fraud and more. HSI criminal investigators have a commitment to excellence and protecting our country.

ICE HSI periodically posts criminal investigator vacancy announcements on the Office of Personnel Management's (OPM) USA Jobs website. To learn more about becoming an HSI criminal investigator, contact your nearest Special Agent in Charge Office and ask for the regional or local recruitment coordinator. Phone numbers for each HSI office are listed under Contact Us.

Pay: You will be paid a base salary plus any authorized locality pay for the geographic area where you will be employed.

Promotion Potential: These positions have promotion potential to the GS-13 level. A career ladder promotion is contingent upon satisfactory performance and the satisfactory completion of all required training. Such promotions are not automatic. These positions have additional opportunities at the GS-14, GS-15, and Senior Executive Service levels; however, promotions to these levels are addressed through a competitive hiring process.

Law Enforcement Availability Pay (LEAP): As a law enforcement officer you will be required to work on an unscheduled basis in excess of the 40-hour work week. These positions require substantial overtime to include holidays, weekends and nights. You must be readily accessible to perform this unscheduled work. To ensure your availability, you will receive extra compensation in the form of Law Enforcement Availability Pay, which is calculated at a flat rate of 25 percent of base salary.

Annual and Sick Leave: Annual leave is earned according to the number of years you have been in the federal service. You earn 104 hours a year for the first 3 years, 160 hours a year for the next 12 years, and 208 hours a year after 15 years of service. You can carry over up to 240 hours to the next calendar year. Sick leave can be accumulated without limit and taken as needed. You earn 104 hours of sick leave each year.

Federal Law Enforcement Retirement Coverage 12(d): Criminal Investigators are covered under the provisions of both the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) 6 (c) or the Federal Employees Retirement System and 5 U.S.C. § 8412(d). Employees covered by either retirement system that reach age 50 or over with at least 20 years of service as a law enforcement officer are eligible for law enforcement retirement. In addition, employees covered by FERS (all new hires to the Federal government) are eligible for law enforcement retirement at any age with at least 25 years of service as a law enforcement officer. Finally, employees who reach age 57 with at least 20 years of service as law enforcement officers are subject to mandatory retirement under both retirement systems. If you are a preference eligible veteran additional opportunities may be available to you; you may find additional information at the following website: http://www.opm.gov/staffingPortal/Vetguide.asp

Health Insurance: The Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program offers you a choice of health plans that allow you to select the kind and amount of insurance protection you require. The Government pays part (not more than 75%) of the cost of premiums. Each year you have the opportunity to enroll or change plans. For more information on these benefits, please visit the U.S. Office of Personnel Management's website.

Position Locations: HSI Criminal Investigator positions are located throughout the continental United States, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Hawaii, Guam and Saipan. A large number of criminal investigator positions are in major metropolitan areas and along the U.S. Southwest border.

Salary: For current salary information, refer to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management's website. See HR Tools and Resources, Pay Tables, Salaries and Wages, and select Law Enforcement Special Salary Rate and Locality Pay Tables. The tables do not include the 25 percent LEAP. Employees are eligible for promotion up to the GS-13 without having to apply again.

Relocation Expenses: Relocation expenses will not be paid.

Pre-Employment Requirements: Selections for these positions are made contingent upon the successful completion of a thorough background investigation, medical examination and drug test. Employment offers may be withdrawn from those who do not provide adequate and timely responses to requests for information.

Major Duties: As a criminal investigator, you will conduct criminal, civil, and administrative investigations that are complex in scope and encompass subject matters which require an expert level of planning and coordination. You will investigate individuals, businesses, employers, criminal organizations, criminal conspiracies and terrorist organizations that represent a significant threat to public safety and national security. You may serve as an undercover operative, undercover program manager or a case agent in certified undercover operations involving penetration of close-knit terrorist and other criminal groups over extended periods of time.

You will:

  • conduct and coordinate high-level comprehensive investigations involving individuals, groups or large organizations operating at a local, national or international level;
  • be involved in and coordinate multi-jurisdictional, inter-regional, and inter-organizational inquiries and investigations; and
  • review business and other records, often with other federal, state, local and international law enforcement agencies in order to gather evidence and ultimately prosecute the offenders for various violations of federal law.

You qualify at the GL-7 level if you possess one (1) year of specialized experience performing duties such as:

  • training in criminal or civil investigative principles and techniques;
  • applying laws and rules associated with criminal or civil procedures, searches, seizures, arrests, and rules of evidence; and (or),
  • preparing investigative reports using clear and proper written language.

You qualify at the GL-9 level if you possess one (1) year of specialized experience performing duties such as:

  • observing and participating in various phases of investigations;
  • researching and analyzing records, data, and other material related to investigative cases;
  • interviewing individuals to verify facts and obtain specific information;
  • obtaining signed statements, affidavits and documentary evidence to be included in reports or case records;
  • interviewing witnesses and others, both informally and formally in recorded settings; and (or),
  • searching and analyzing various forms of records.

Qualification requirements must be met by the closing date of the announcement.

GL-7: One full year of graduate level education beyond a bachelor's degree or Superior Academic Achievement (S.A.A.) in an undergraduate degree is also qualifying at the GL-7 level.

Superior Academic Achievement: To qualify for Superior Academic Achievement, applicants must have completed all requirements for a bachelor's degree and meet one of the following:

  1. A grade-point average (GPA) of "B" (3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale) for all completed undergraduate courses, or courses completed in the last two years of undergraduate study; OR
  2. A grade-point average (GPA) of "B+" (3.5 or higher on a 4.0 scale) for all courses in your major field of study, or required courses in your major field of study completed in the last two years of undergraduate study; OR
  3. Rank in the upper one-third of your class in the college, university or major subdivision at the time of graduation; OR
  4. Election to membership in a national scholastic honor society, other than freshman honors societies.

For additional information on S.A.A., please go to: http://www.opm.gov/qualifications/policy/ApplicationOfStds-04.asp.

GL-9: You may substitute a Master's degree, two full years of graduate education, a L.L.B., or J.D. degree in any field of study for the experience required at the GL-9 level. This education must have been obtained from an accredited college or university. Check with your school to determine how many credit hours comprise two years of graduate education. If that information is not available, use 36 semester hours. You may also combine graduate education and specialized experience to meet the total experience requirements at the GL-9 level.

Applicants may also qualify based on a combination of experience and education.

U.S. Citizenship: Candidates must be United States citizens and present proof of citizenship, if selected.

Residency: Candidates must have, for three of the last five years immediately prior to applying for the position(s), (1) resided in the United States; or (2) worked for the United States Government as an employee overseas in a federal or military capacity; or (3) been a dependent of a U.S. federal or military employee serving overseas.

Age: Applicants must be at least 21 years of age. The day immediately preceding an individual's 37th birthday will be the last day to be referred for selection consideration. However, the age restriction may not apply if you are a preference-eligible veteran or if you are currently serving or have previously served in a federal civilian law enforcement position covered by 5 U.S.C. § 8336(c) or 5 U.S.C. § 8412(d).

Motor Vehicle Operation: Applicants must possess a valid state-issued automobile driver's license at the time of appointment.

Conviction of a Misdemeanor Crime of Domestic Violence: This position requires the incumbent to carry a firearm. According to the Lautenberg Amendment, 18 U.S.C. § 911 (g), any person who has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence cannot lawfully possess a firearm or ammunition. A "misdemeanor crime of domestic violence" is generally defined under the statute as any offense involving the use or attempted use of physical force, or the threatened use of a deadly weapon, committed by the victim's current or former domestic partner, parent, or guardian. The term "convicted" as defined in the statute, excludes any person whose conviction has been expunged, set aside, or pardoned, or any person whose civil rights have been restored unless the pardon, expunged or restoration of civil rights expressly prohibits the possession of firearms or ammunition. Candidates who have been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence within the meaning of the referenced statute are not qualified for this position. Candidates under consideration will be required to certify whether they have ever been convicted of such an offense. False or fraudulent information provided by candidates is criminally punishable by fine or imprisonment (18 U.S.C. § 1001).

Felony Convictions: Candidates cannot have any felony convictions to be considered for the Criminal Investigator position. Candidates under consideration will be required to certify whether they have ever been convicted of such an offense. False or fraudulent information provided by candidates is criminally punishable by fine or imprisonment (18 U.S.C. § 1001).

Mandatory Completion of Basic Training: Once officially selected, applicants are required to attend 22 weeks of paid training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Brunswick, Georgia. The training is a formalized course of required basic technical instructions that must be successfully completed according to the standards of ICE. Failure to successfully complete the training will be grounds for mandatory removal from the position. Failure will result in either reassignment to a different position, demotion, or separation by appropriate procedures.

Firearms: Criminal investigators are required to carry a firearm while performing duties of this position. Maintaining firearm proficiency is also mandatory. You must satisfactorily complete (or have previously completed) the firearms component of the Criminal Investigation Training Program (CITP) at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Brunswick, Georgia.

Fitness Program: During basic training, you will be required to undergo regular physical examinations and you may, in the future, be required to maintain a level of physical fitness in accordance with the standards and policies of the agency. Failure to maintain such a level of fitness may lead to removal from the position or other actions as specified by the Program. This job may soon be covered by an agency Mandatory Fitness Program for law enforcement positions.

Mobility: Mobility is a major factor in this occupation. Applicants must be willing to accept employment at any location offered. Assignment at the first duty station will be at least three years; however, completion of the three years does not imply that a transfer is guaranteed. Additionally, criminal investigators may be reassigned at any time in their career to new locations based on the needs of the service.

Travel: Positions may require periodic and sometimes extended travel in addition to the initial basic and other mandatory training.

Online Application: Applications for HSI criminal investigator positions will be accepted during an open vacancy announcement. Criminal investigator vacancy announcements will be posted online through the Office of Personnel Management's (OPM) USA Jobs website. During an open announcement period, applicants will be required to submit a résumé with his/her original application. If the applicant is a preference eligible veteran, additional opportunities may be available. Preference eligible applicants may find additional information at the following website: http://www.opm.gov/staffingPortal/Vetguide.asp.

Veterans: Certain veterans may receive an additional five or 10 points to their numerical score on the Occupational Questionnaire (refer to the Occupational Questionnaire section below for scoring details). To determine whether you qualify for veterans' preference, please see: http://www.fedshirevets.gov/job/vetpref/index.aspx.

ICTAP/CTAP Eligible: If an applicant has never worked for the federal government, he/she is not ICTAP/CTAP eligible. Information about ICTAP or CTAP eligibility is on the OPM's Career Transition Resources website at http://www.opm.gov/ctap/index.asp. To be considered well qualified under ICTAP/CTAP an applicant must earn a score of 85 or above on the rating criteria developed for this position.

Occupational Questionnaire: If an applicant meets the minimum qualifications requirements, his/her experience, education, and training will be rated using an online assessment (occupational questionnaire). Based on the responses, an applicant will receive a score between 70 and 100. For those applicants who meet the minimum score requirements, their résumé and supporting documentation will be reviewed to ensure they meet the basic qualification requirements. If an applicant meets the minimum qualifications and minimum score requirements, his/her name will be referred to take the Special Agent Test Battery and Writing Sample Assessment.

Special Agent Test Battery and Writing Sample Assessment: Applicants who meet the minimum score requirements will be invited to schedule and complete a computerized competency-based assessment battery, also known as the Special Agent Test Battery. The Special Agent Test Battery is administered via the Web at more than 500 test centers. Applicants can schedule a time to take the Test Battery over a two-week period. The test measures applicants’ reasoning and writing skills, as well as his/her experience. A study guide for the Special Agent Test Battery is available on ICE.gov.

In addition, applicants undergo a Writing Sample Assessment, where he/she provides a narrative report describing the details of a photograph. This assessment evaluates an applicant’s overall writing ability, organization, how they present ideas, grammar, punctuation, spelling and vocabulary.

Applicants who pass both the Special Agent Test Battery and the Writing Sample Assessment and meet the minimum score requirements will be scheduled for a structured interview.

Structured Interview: Three senior-level criminal investigators administer the structured interview. The interview consists of situational questions that do not require technical knowledge. The structured interview assesses an applicant’s judgment and decision-making skills, emotional maturity, cooperativeness, sensitivity to the needs of others and conscientiousness. These qualities are essential to success as a criminal investigator. The structured interview is a pass/fail interview. Candidates must receive a "pass" in all areas in order to progress in the hiring process.

Personal Interview: Two senior-level HSI management officials conduct the personal interview. The personal interview assesses candidates' individual background and employment history. It ensures that every candidate being interviewed is presented with standardized information about the HSI criminal investigator position.

The personal interview covers the following topics:

  • HSI mission,
  • HSI criminal investigator duties,
  • academy and training requirements, and
  • job locations/life changes.

In addition, every candidate must answer a series of essential functions questions. Candidates must be willing to carry out certain actions to be considered for the HSI criminal investigator position.

Drug Testing: Criminal investigator applicants must satisfactorily complete a drug test as a mandatory condition of employment with ICE. ICE is a drug-free workplace. ICE will schedule, provide and pay for the drug test. Once onboard, employees are subject to random drug testing throughout their careers.

Physical and Environmental Conditions: The criminal investigator position requires moderate to arduous physical exertion involving walking and standing, use of firearms and exposure to inclement weather. The work requires physical strength and stamina. Individuals must be able to conduct long periods of surveillance, pursue and restrain suspects and carry heavy equipment to be utilized in investigative efforts. The environment involves work indoors and outdoors in a variety of potentially dangerous and stressful situations, as well as exposure to physical attack, including the use of lethal weapons.

Medical Requirements: Appointment will be contingent upon a candidate passing a pre-employment medical examination to ascertain possession of the physical, emotional, and mental requirements for the position. Any chronic disease or condition affecting the respiratory, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal, digestive, nervous, endocrine or genitourinary systems that would impair full performance of the job duties is evaluated on a case-by-case basis and may disqualify the individual. Since the duties of these positions are demanding and involve the responsibility for the safety of others under trying conditions, applicants must possess emotional and mental stability. Any condition that hinders full, efficient performance of the duties of these positions or would cause the individual to be a hazard to himself/herself or to others can result in disqualification. Common reasons for medical disqualification include the inability to meet the hearing and vision medical standards.

Background/Security Investigation: The criminal investigator position is categorized as a "sensitive" position in law enforcement. Therefore, tentatively selected applicants must undergo, and successfully complete, a background investigation as a condition of employment for this position. This investigation will examine your activities during at least the last 10 years, including any arrests, convictions, and dismissals from previous jobs, outstanding debts or financial issues, use of alcohol and illegal drugs, and the sale and distribution of illegal drugs. A history of problems in any of these areas may result in your disqualification for this position. Keep in mind that because DHS has a law enforcement mission, it sets very high standards for its employees.

Some ICE entry-level law enforcement occupations require applicants to pass a written test as part of the application process. Two of these tests are the ICE HSI Special Agent Test Battery and the ICE Immigration Enforcement Agent Test. Although the actual tests are only available during scheduled hiring periods, these preparation manuals are provided to assist prospective applicants with sample questions, test-taking tips and other guidance.

HSI Special Agent Test Battery Preparation Manual

This manual will help you prepare for the Special Agent Test Battery. It will help familiarize you with the Logical Reasoning Test, the Arithmetic Reasoning Test and the Writing Skills Test. You will also have the opportunity to review some sample questions. Explanations for correct answers are provided in the manual.

Preparation Manual for the ICE Special Agent Test Battery (PDF | 1.2 MB)

Immigration Enforcement Agent Test Preparation Manual

This manual will help you prepare for the Immigration Enforcement Agent Test. It will help familiarize you with the Logical Reasoning Test and will give you a chance to review sample questions. Explanations for correct answers are provided in the manual.

Preparation Manual for the Immigration Enforcement Agent Test Battery (PDF | 3.9 MB)