Customs officers control the entry and departure of goods, ships, planes and people to and from New Zealand.
Customs officers usually earn
$54K-$73K per year
Chief customs officers usually earn
$98K-$125K per year
Source: New Zealand Customs Service, 2022 - 2025
Pay for customs officers varies depending on experience and responsibilities.
- Customs officers usually earn $54,000 to $73,000 a year.
- Chief customs officers in management can earn $98,000 to $125,000 a year.
Source: New Zealand Customs Service, 'Collective Employment Agreement, 2022-2025', 2022.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Customs officers may do some or all of the following:
- inspect mail and goods for illegal items
- patrol wharves and search ships and aircraft for prohibited and restricted goods
- check passengers' passports and travel documents
- check passengers for prohibited and restricted goods
- assess and collect taxes on goods coming into the country, and on alcohol and tobacco made in New Zealand
- gather import and export data
- gather intelligence and assess security risks
- carry out drug and commercial investigations
- keep notes and evidence for legal investigations.
Skills and knowledge
Customs officers need to have knowledge of:
- legislation relevant to customs work
- customs documentation, procedures and policies
- border protection methods
- illegal items
- search and investigation techniques
- how to evaluate whether people are a potential risk.
- do shift work, which can include nights, weekends and public holidays
- work in offices, ports, on ships, and in airport terminals and freight depots
- work in all weather conditions when they work outdoors
- may work in hazardous, dusty or noisy conditions, with heavy machinery operating
- may have to deal with tired, angry and upset people.
To become a customs officer or an assistant customs officer you need to:
- be a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident
- have lived in New Zealand (or in a country approved by the New Zealand Customs Service) continually for the last five years
- have a current driver's licence.
Applicants shortlisted for trainee customs officer positions attend an assessment centre where they complete:
- one-to-one interviews
- written activities
- group activities
- cognitive (thought processes) testing.
Successful applicants are then formally interviewed and must pass a medical assessment, drug test and security check.
Training for customs officers
Assistant customs officers are responsible for stamping passports, and customer service at airports and wharves. They complete a three-week training programme in Auckland.
Customs officers complete an eight-week training programme in Auckland, and then six months of on-the-job training.
There are no specific secondary education requirements to become a customs officer, but NCEA Level 2 English and maths are preferred.
Customs officers need to be:
- skilled at communicating
- able to relate to people from a range of cultures and backgrounds
- polite, patient and helpful
- firm when dealing with people
- skilled at analysing information and solving problems
- good at planning
- observant, with an eye for detail.
Useful experience for customs officers includes:
- customer service roles involving dealing with the public, managing complaints and handling conflict
- work involving legislation or law enforcement
- being able to speak and understand other languages.
Customs officers need to be reasonably fit and healthy, and have good eyesight (with or without corrective lenses).
They must pass a medical exam for entry into the role, and ongoing fitness tests (for some customs officer positions).
Find out more about training
- New Zealand Customs Service Careers
What are the chances of getting a job?
More customs officer applicants needed
Opportunities for customs officers are good because vacancies come up regularly and there is a shortage of applicants.
New Zealand Customs Service runs up to six intakes of trainee customs officers a year.
According to the Census, 1,002 customs officers worked in New Zealand in 2018.
One employer of customs officers
All customs officers work for the New Zealand Customs Service.
- Bendall, B, HR recruitment specialist, New Zealand Customs Service, careers.govt.nz interview, August 2018.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 'Occupation Outlook – Customs Officer', accessed 2018, (www.mbie.govt.nz).
- New Zealand Customs Service, 'NZ Customs Service Annual Report 2017', 2017, (www.customs.govt.nz).
- Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
- Timms, F, HR recruitment specialist, NZ Customs Service, careers.govt.nz interview, August 2018.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Customs officers may move into chief customs officer and managerial roles.
With further on-the-job training, customs officers may progress to jobs in areas such as:
- criminal investigation
- dog training and handling.
Last updated 24 November 2023