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Customs officer

Customs officers stop banned items from entering or leaving the country, and collect taxes & duties.
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What does a customs officer do?

As customs officer, also known as a detection officer, you would work in airports and seaports collecting customs duties and preventing smuggling and illegal trade.

You might:

  • search luggage, vehicles and travellers
  • check customs documents
  • question people who have been found with illegal items or goods over the allowance
  • arrest and charge people
  • prepare reports and witness statements
  • take on specialist roles such as dog handling or undercover and surveillance work

When necessary, you would go to court as a witness and would work closely with other agencies, like the police and the Home Office.


What do I need to do to become a customs officer?

You would normally join as an administrative assistant or assistant officer and earn promotion to customs officer or detection officer. Recruitment directly to officer grade sometimes takes place.

To join at officer grade you will probably need five GCSEs (A-C) including English and maths, plus two A levels or equivalent qualifications. You will normally need two GCSEs (A-C) to join HMRC as an administrative assistant, and five GCSEs (A-C) including maths and English for assistant officer jobs.

If you do not have these qualifications, you could take a test to prove your skills and abilities in areas like teamwork and communication. Please check entry requirements for each vacancy.

You must also meet the civil service nationality requirement. All jobs are open to British nationals and many are also open to Commonwealth citizens or European Union nationals.


Related skills

  • Attention to detail
  • Communication
  • Teamwork

Vocational route

You would be trained on the job through a mixture of in-house training and learning from experienced staff. Training usually lasts around nine months, and may include some residential training courses.

Essential qualifications

  • Administrative assistant: five GCSEs (A-C) including maths and English for assistant officer jobs.
  • Officer grade: five GCSEs (A-C) including English and maths, plus two A levels or equivalent qualifications.

Where to find out more

GOV.UK: civil service nationality rules

UK Visas and Immigration 

HM Revenue & Customs 

Border Force 

Working for the Civil Service


Where could I be working?

You would be based at airports and seaports. You would also travel to court when necessary. 


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