Customs officer: job description

Customs officers are responsible for helping to prevent the importation of illegal and/or dangerous goods including firearms, drugs, alcohol, tobacco and endangered animals into the UK.

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Customs officers enforce legislation to stop smuggling.

What does a customs officer do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Customs officers are employed by HM Revenue & Customs and work in UK ports and airports. They are also known as customs and excise officers. Typical responsibilities of the job include:

  • identifying people to question on the basis of prior offences/likely risk etc
  • searching baggage and individuals for smuggled items
  • making arrests of people suspected of smuggling
  • seizing smuggled goods
  • checking documentation relating to imported goods
  • detecting and prosecuting drug smugglers
  • collecting and supplying trade statistics
  • writing reports
  • fighting the increasing problem of alcohol and tobacco smuggling
  • helping to combat the worldwide illegal trade in endangered species of animals and birds
  • dealing with revenue due on imported goods
  • liaising with others, such as police officers and members of the Home Office.

Job vacancies are advertised by careers services and via the internet. You may be able to find a role through Civil Service Jobs on GOV.UK.

Qualifications and training required

It’s possible to become a customs officer both with or without a degree. Most people begin as an administrative assistant or assistant officer, before gaining promotion to the position of customs officer. Five GCSEs at grade 4 (C) or above are usually needed to begin at an officer level, while two GCSEs is the minimum requirement for an administrative position. You should check vacancies on an individual bases, as qualification requirements could vary depending on location.

Experience of and/or a qualification in legal studies or European/non-European languages may be beneficial. A relevant postgraduate qualification and/or work experience may be required for some positions.

Key skills for customs officers

All candidates should be UK nationals and free from certain criminal convictions. Customs officers need to be calm, assertive and resilient, and must possess excellent communication, teamworking and interpersonal skills.

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