Customs officer

A customs officer


Customs officers combat the importation of illegal goods, firearms, drugs or other dangerous or illegal items while checking the legality of items brought across national borders. They are government officials who control the documents to ensure entry criteria and custom laws are complied with and control if the custom taxes are paid correctly.

Excludes customs and excise officer.

The duties of a customs officer include, but are not limited to:

  • Inspecting cargo containers to ensure that they are properly labeled and sealed
  • Interpreting laws, regulations, and policies regarding trade and travel to ensure compliance
  • Collecting data such as prices, volumes, weights, foreign exchange rates, and other statistics
  • Inspecting vehicles at border crossings or dockside facilities to ensure that they are not carrying contraband or are unsafe for travel
  • Collecting data from x-ray scans, drug dogs, and other sources to determine whether there is reason for further inspection of a particular package or vehicle
  • Coordinating with other agencies to identify risks to public health and safety
  • Auditing records to ensure that companies are complying with laws and regulations regarding imports and exports
  • Investigating possible cases of fraud involving customs laws or regulations
  • Issuing permits or certifications for items that legally enter or exit the country, such as food or animals

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to customs officer:

customs and excise officer
customs control agent
border guard
detection officer
border force officer
customs and excise duty officer
customs & excise officer
customs control officer
governmental customs agent
customs inspector

Working conditions

Customs officers work in a variety of settings, including airports, seaports, and land border crossings. They may work indoors in offices or outdoors in all weather conditions. They typically work 40 hours per week, but they may be required to work overtime, weekends, and holidays. They may also be on call 24 hours a day.

Customs officers must be able to stand for long periods of time and lift and carry heavy objects. They must also be able to work in a fast-paced environment and make quick decisions.

Minimum qualifications

Most customs officers have at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Some customs officers choose to earn a bachelor’s degree in international business or international relations. These degrees provide customs officers with a strong foundation in international trade and customs regulations.

Most customs officers receive on-the-job training after they are hired. This training is usually part of the orientation process and may last a few weeks. During this training, new customs officers learn about the agency’s policies and procedures. They also learn about the computer systems they will use on a daily basis.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Customs officer is a Skill level 3 occupation.

Customs officer career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to customs officer.

licensing officer
passport officer
civil registrar
grants administrator
immigration officer

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of customs officer. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of customs officer with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

programme funding manager
grants management officer
intelligence officer
election observer
emergency response coordinator

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of customs officer.

  • Customs law: The legal regulations that govern the import of goods in a country.
  • Licences regulation: The requirements and rules that must be compliant for a permit or licence.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of customs officer.

  • Advise customers: Give information to people regarding import and export restrictions, tariff systems and other custom-related topics.
  • Manage import export licenses: Ensure the effective issuing of permits and licenses in import and export processes.
  • Prevent smuggling: Stop people from moving illegally objects such as dutiable, excisable or prohibited goods into or out of a country.
  • Check official documents: Check an individuals’ official documentation, such as driver’s licenses and identification, to ensure compliance with legal regulations, and to identify and assess individuals.
  • Advise on licencing procedures: Advise individuals or organisations on the procedures involved in requesting a specific licence, instructing them on the necessary documentation, the application verification process, and licence eligibility.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of customs officer. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Attention to detail: Performs tasks conscientiously and effectively, taking into account all their aspects, no matter how detailed they are.
  • Surveillance methods: Surveillance methods used in the gathering of information and intelligence for investigation purposes.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of customs officer. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Execute analytical mathematical calculations: Apply mathematical methods and make use of calculation technologies in order to perform analyses and devise solutions to specific problems.
  • Undertake inspections: Undertake safety inspections in areas of concern to identify and report potential hazards or security breaches; take measures to maximise safety standards.
  • Think analytically: Produce thoughts using logic and reasoning in order to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
  • Provide testimony in court hearings: Provide testimony in court hearings regarding a variety of social matters and other events.
  • Use communication techniques: Apply techniques of communication which allow interlocutors to better understand each other and communicate accurately in the transmission of messages.
  • Pose questions referring to documents: Revise and formulate questions in regards to documents in general. Investigate about the completeness, confidentiality measures, style of the document, and specific instructions to handle documents.
  • Write work-related reports: Compose work-related reports that support effective relationship management and a high standard of documentation and record keeping. Write and present results and conclusions in a clear and intelligible way so they are comprehensible to a non-expert audience.
  • Listen actively: Give attention to what other people say, patiently understand points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times; able to listen carefully the needs of customers, clients, passengers, service users or others, and provide solutions accordingly.

ISCO group and title

3351 – Customs and border inspectors

  1. Customs officer – ESCO
  2. Customs Officer Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More – Climb the Ladder
  3. Featured image: By CBP Photography –, Public Domain
Last updated on December 26, 2022

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