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Customs Officer

Āpiha Taupare

Alternative titles for this job

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

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as a customs officer are good due to a shortage of workers.


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.

Working conditions

Customs officers:

  • 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.

Entry requirements

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.

Secondary education

There are no specific secondary education requirements to become a customs officer, but NCEA Level 2 English and maths are preferred.

Personal requirements

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
  • responsible
  • observant, with an eye for detail.

Useful experience

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.

Physical requirements

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, interview, August 2018.
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 'Occupation Outlook – Customs Officer', accessed 2018, (
  • New Zealand Customs Service, 'NZ Customs Service Annual Report 2017', 2017, (
  • Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
  • Timms, F, HR recruitment specialist, NZ Customs Service, 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:

  • intelligence
  • criminal investigation
  • dog training and handling.
A customs officer in uniform at a booth at an airport

Assistant customs officers check passports at airports (Photo: New Zealand Customs Service)

Last updated 24 November 2023