A customs officer is a specialized law enforcement official who is typically stationed in locations that people and cargo normally enter the country, such as airports, harbors and roads that cross national borders. Customs officer work to ensure that illegal cargo is not brought into the country, as well as detain and arrest individuals who may be involved in smuggling or are on watch or wanted lists.
In an airport or at a border crossing, a customs officer often works mostly with people entering the country. In these situations, the officer checks documentation and passports to determine that a person may legally enter. Typically, the officer assesses each person's identification, asks routine questions about the purpose of the visit and asks if the traveler has any items that he or she would like to declare. Some customs officers may work with contraband crews that include drug detection mechanisms such as specially trained animals. Customs officers also check manifests of international shipping operations. Cargo must be fully disclosed and declared along its shipping route, and customs officers may perform routine inspections of arriving freight, matching it to the provided manifests before clearing and quarantining it for pickup and shipment to its end destination.
Customs officers typically undergo training that incorporates aspects of customer service and problem solving, as well as knowledge of the law and enforcement procedures. There are specialized vocational and technical schools that provide this training and perform the necessary background checks that officers need to provide in the application process.
Customs Officer Tasks
Interview people to determine their right to enter or leave a country.
Interact with the public to explain and enforce customs and laws.
Confiscate items and goods, document findings and explain reasoning.
Inspect paperwork, luggage, cargo and items to control border crossings and collect payments.
Participate in criminal proceedings and prosecution.