What would a Customs career be like?

The New Zealand Customs Service is a large and complex organisation employing over 1,000 people in a variety of occupations drawing on many types of skill sets and qualifications. Customs employs airport officers, maritime officers, specialist dog handlers, intelligence analysts, lawyers, managers, criminal investigators, human resource specialists, clerical workers, technical experts, and everything in between. In other words, Customs may well have a position which is ideal for you.

One thing is for sure in Customs – no two days are the same… one day you might be welcoming and immigrating people in to New Zealand at the airport, the next you might be dealing with a drug smuggler on a private yacht!

This description was last updated on: Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Detailed information related to What would a Customs career be like?

Each year, Customs advertises entry-level trainee Customs Officer positions. Typically we recruit between 15 and 30 trainees in each intake. 

Short-listed candidates are invited to attend an assessment day where they will be involved in a group assessment, a short interview and various skills tests designed to assess suitability for the role. You need to pass assessment day requirements to progress to the interview stage. 

Interviews are competency-based. Candidates will be asked about specific examples or instances from their lives which demonstrate that they have the competencies outlined in the role description. 

Once accepted, trainees begin nine weeks of classroom based and practical training.

On graduation, trainees are assigned to an operational area, according to Customs’ requirements. Generally, these positions are in Auckland Airport but no location can be guaranteed. 

As a trainee Customs Officer you would enter Customs as part of a group. From day one, you would all go through your training programme together. You would develop the values, knowledge and skills to enable you to represent Customs with authority and professionalism. And you could also expect to make a lot of great new friends.

During your career, you would be expected to continue to develop and expand your technical, professional and leadership skills. This may take you to specialist training courses, technical institutions or university.

This detail was last updated on Tuesday, 22 December 2015

To join Customs, you must be a New Zealand Citizen or a New Zealand Permanent Resident, and be able to obtain and maintain the required level of NZ Government security clearance for the position applied for.

As a minimum we require employees to be:

  • a New Zealand Citizen or New Zealand Permanent Resident who has resided continuously in New Zealand for the last 5 years, OR
  • a Permanent Resident of New Zealand, who has resided continuously in NZ and preferably in one or more of the following countries for the last 5 years: either Australia, Canada, NZ, UK or the USA; and has a background history that is verifiable and can be assessed as appropriate by the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service towards a recommendation of suitability for a security clearance at a higher level.

We may require you to provide overseas police certificates for time spent outside of New Zealand. However a clearance might not be granted if vetting enquiries can't be completed. The most common reasons for this occurring are:

  • residence outside New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, or the United States for a period of 5 to 10 years before application for a clearance
  • a lack of response from referees provided in your application.

Applicants are also required to complete a Police record check and successful candidates are required to pass a drug test.

For some roles, you may be expected to:

  • show you possess a current full class 1 motor driver's license
  • operate a computer
  • analyse X-ray data
  • lift up to 25 kilograms (bending/raising/putting down)
  • stand for periods of 2 hours or longer
  • search containers or vessels (may involve searching in confined spaces, or at heights)
  • work rotating shifts including at night.

We are interested in people who can speak another language in addition to English and have an in-depth understanding of other cultures.

This detail was last updated on Friday, 05 February 2016

From time to time, Customs advertises non-operational specialist and support roles. These are jobs in areas such as: audit, risk, corporate services, finance, credit control, information services, legal services, human resources, policy, communications, strategy, planning, etc.  You will find these positions advertised in current vacancies.

This detail was last updated on Tuesday, 17 June 2014

To take up an operational role with Customs you need to join us as a Trainee Customs Officer. Newly graduated Trainee Customs Officers are usually appointed to Auckland International Airport. Please refer to the Range of occupations section for further information on becoming a Trainee Customs Officer.

Work areas
Operational roles include airports, marine, inspections, investigations, intelligence, service delivery, and compliance audits. 

Throughout your career with Customs you may be involved with any number of border protection roles, including inspecting parcels at the International Mail Centre, investigating drugs imported into New Zealand and prosecuting those involved, facilitating passengers through an international airport, providing advice to importers, or even be deployed on maritime patrols.

Physical demands
Some operational roles can be physically demanding, so you need to be physically fit and well. Customs officers working in a sea cargo inspection facility might unload every item in a shipping container, exam it, then repack the container exactly as it was. Those involved in searching ships can be working within very confined and dirty spaces, while at the airport officers can be on their feet for the majority of the day, talking to passengers, and patrolling the border. 

As a Customs Officer, you need to be agile and flexible in your approach to work. All Customs officers must be prepared to moved around work areas depending on operational requirements. From time to time we require our officers based at the airport to assist with inspecting cargo at an inspections facility. Or, from other work areas officers might be bought into the airport to assist with facilitating passengers over the busy Christmas period. 

This detail was last updated on Tuesday, 22 December 2015

​Once you gain experience as a Customs Officer, many other occupations will become open to you over time.  

For instance, perhaps you are interested in becoming a detector dog handler or trainer? How about creating intelligence profiles, investigating criminal offences, joining the dive team or patrolling New Zealand’s maritime border in a Customs patrol boat? All of these fascinating jobs are available in the New Zealand Customs Service.

This detail was last updated on Tuesday, 22 December 2015

With a career in Customs you can look forward to a positive work environment with a team-based culture and structured career pathways.

Benefits include:

  • Active rotation programmes for operational officers
  • A well-structured career path
  • Learning and development opportunities
  • Leadership programmes
  • Active social clubs
  • Vibrant Māori cultural groups
  • Social and competitive sporting activities
  • Free gym access (at some sites)
  • Flexible working arrangements (in some locations)
  • Free flu vaccinations to permanent staff
  • Discounted health insurance for permanent staff
  • Subsidised vision assistance (for some staff).

This detail was last updated on Tuesday, 22 December 2015

​Customs supports and encourages tertiary education. We know that a staff member’s educational development also benefits our wider Customs community and helps us do our job better.

You will find that we provide excellent opportunities for career-long training and development. In-house we offer an NZQA-accredited Certificate in Border Management. We also offer New Zealand's only NZQA-recognised Diploma and Certificate in Intelligence Analysis.

This detail was last updated on Tuesday, 22 December 2015

​Customs is a team-based culture with a strong tradition of mutual support. We have active social clubs and vibrant Māori cultural groups at all our main locations. We also encourage staff to participate in sporting activities at both social and competitive levels. And we have a number of our own sports teams who are always on the lookout for new members.

This detail was last updated on Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Related forms & documents

There are currently no forms or documents listed in this category...

View all forms & documents

Related events

There are currently no events listed in this category...

View all events

Related notices & updates

There are currently no notices or updates listed in this category...

View all notices & updates

Related news stories