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.
Pay for customs officers varies depending on experience and responsibilities.
- Customs officers usually earn $54,000 to $73,000 a year.
- Chief customs officers with managerial responsibilities 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.
What's the job really like?
Customs officer video
Andre George talks about life as a customs officer. (Video courtesy of New Zealand Customs Service)
We work Monday to Friday mainly but we also do the odd Sunday – once a month, and our hours start from seven or 12.
When we come in we'll have a briefing and plan out the day's events either split into teams to go off-site or remain here on-site to handle the Capek examinations.
So our off-site team will go to different CCAs around Auckland. Our on-site team will remain here in the warehouse and we'll wait for Capek to drop off – so that's our DHL, TNT, Fedex, Toll and UPS packages and consignments and we'll use our x-rays and physical examinations to have a look inside the boxes.
An examination will obviously include using tools like the x-ray as well as physically opening the package up to find out what's in it.
So one of the challenges here at AACIF is the amount of paperwork that you get out of the job. Every box you open comes with a report, every intercept that you get comes with not only a report but your job sheet and photos, exhibiting. That’s half the fun obviously.
Some of the rewarding aspects of working here is obviously the results – it is the intercepts, it is finding something.
Finding drugs here is very satisfying because you're getting it off the streets - you're stopping it from coming into our country and into our kids and families, so it's really rewarding to know that you're actually stopping this stuff from coming in.
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 2022