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 sit academic, physical capability, and personality profile tests. 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 five months training. This includes five weeks of residential training – usually in Wellington – and approximately 15 weeks of on-the-job training in Auckland. Here they are rotated through all the different operational areas of Customs, such as airports, marine, client services and inspections. Throughout the programme trainees are continually assessed to ensure they are meeting the required standards. 

On graduation, trainees are assigned to an operational area, according to Customs’ requirements. Generally, these positions are in Auckland 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, 02 December 2014

To join Customs in any role, you must be a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident. Due to the nature of Customs work, all candidates must have a clean Police record. Security clearances are mandatory and are conducted by Customs before job offers are made. Successful applicants are also required to pass a drug test.

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

For some roles, you may be expected to:

  • show they 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.

This detail was last updated on Tuesday, 17 June 2014

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 Trainee Customs officer section for further information.

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, 17 June 2014

​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, 17 June 2014

With a career in Customs you can look forward to a competitive salary with annual performance reviews, structured rank progression, and a positive work environment with a team-based culture.

Benefits include:

• Active rotation programmes for operational officers

• A well-structured career path

• Learning and development opportunities

• Leadership programmes

• Active social clubs

• Vibrant Maori 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, 17 June 2014