Border force officer: job description

Border force officers ensure the legality and safety of goods and people passing through the UK border by carrying out immigration and customs checks at ports.

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You’ll need to work flexibly: in terms of timings, altering your approach according to changes in priorities and possibly in terms of location.

What do border force officers do? Important requirements | Physical fitness | Qualifications | Training | Key skills

The UK border force is part of the home office so, as a recruit, you’d be employed by the government. Border force officers use the intelligence and materials available to them, along with their understanding of the law and strategic objectives from the government, to make sure the UK border is secure and safe at all times. As a border force officer, you could work at airports, seaports and ports located at railway stations.

Typical duties include:

  • asking those entering the country about their reasons for doing so and identifying those who appear to be suspicious
  • checking that people have the travel documents required of them (such as passports)
  • conducting searches (of people, luggage, vehicles and cargo) for illegal or prohibited items, such as drugs, firearms and endangered plants or animals
  • discovering whether illegal immigrants are being transported (eg by searching vehicles)
  • making arrests
  • standing as a witness in court
  • reporting concerns to the security services
  • gathering intelligence, which may be used to influence future approaches to border control
  • supporting strategic objectives, such as helping to counter terrorism or human trafficking.

Important requirements

As a border force officer, you will have to:

  • be at least 18
  • have a full driving licence
  • be a UK national with a full and valid passport
  • provide the documentation required for pre-employment screening and the security clearance.

Physical fitness

The role of border force official can be physically demanding. New recruits have previously been required to undertake and pass Personal Safety Training (PST), which taught skills in maintaining personal safety, as part of which they would complete a health declaration. While the guidance on the PST has been removed from the GOV.UK website, it’s likely that you’ll still be expected to meet or attain a certain level of health and physical fitness.


Many people go on to be a border force officer after having gained a university degree. The knowledge gained by studying a related subject may stand you in good stead for grasping the theory side of the role. Good examples are:

  • a HND in policing
  • a law degree
  • a psychology degree
  • a criminology degree.

To start your border force career without a degree, you could become a border force assistant officer and progress to the level of border force officer. For this, the chances are you’ll need five GCSEs at grade 4 or above (A* to C). Alternatively, if you have two A levels at grade E or above (or equivalent), you could apply directly to train as a border force officer.


Training for this has previously lasted for 14 weeks and is designed to ensure that your knowledge of the law, procedures and personal safety is up-to-scratch. During this time, you will also gain preparation for the practical side of the job as you’ll work with trainers in classrooms and operational areas.

Key skills

If you’re great at staying calm during stressful situations and can communicate tactfully with others, you may be suited to the role. The key qualities are:

  • strong observational skills
  • the capacity to understand and solve problems using logic
  • excellent communication skills, including the ability to adapt your approach to different people and cases
  • the ability to write clearly
  • basic computer skills, allowing you to keep records and input data
  • the ability to think and work objectively, using analysis.
  • strong teamworking skills
  • a keen eye for detail.

As a border force officer, you’ll also need the willingness and ability to work flexibly: in terms of timings, as you’ll work in shifts so that the 24/7 operation is covered; in terms of altering your approach and actions according to changes in priorities (eg strategies from government), and possibly in terms of location, as strategic objectives may mean you’ll work across different sites.

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