Customs Officer Āpiha Taupare

Customs officers control the entry and departure of goods, ships, planes and people to and from New Zealand.

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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.

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).

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.

Personal Qualities

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.


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.


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.

Customs Officers can earn around $54K-$73K per year.

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.

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.

Years Of Training

<1 year of training required.

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.

Customs Officer