Ministry of Business and Innovation - Occupation Outlook

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Customs Officers

Job Prospects

Job Prospects... At a glance

Job prospects for customs officers are good. There are few vacancies and competition is tough when there are openings. New technology is also replacing some of the jobs that customs officers do today. On the other hand, tourism and immigration is increasing, which should give rise to more positions for customs officers and for the related occupation of immigration officer.

How to become a customs officer

What they do

Customs officers control people and goods coming into New Zealand to make sure everything coming in is legal, properly declared and taxed. Some closely related roles are immigration officers and biosecurity officers. Immigration officers make sure only people with the legal right to be in New Zealand can enter the country, whereas biosecurity officers work to try and make sure no foreign wildlife that could threaten our native plants and animals can enter the country.

Their tasks may include:

  • searching aircraft, vehicles, premises and people, and checking documents and goods to detect illegal activities such as undocumented cargo, prohibited goods and illegal aliens
  • examining and assessing visas and residency applications
  • testing applicants' ability to operate a motor vehicle, assessing applicants' suitability to hold learner's permits and probationary licences, and issuing learner's permits and probationary licences
  • identifying pest and weed problems and determining treatments and management
  • assessing claims for government benefits
  • carrying out random checks of taxation documents to detect non-compliance with taxation legislation
  • conducting visual checks of the mechanical, structural, electrical, pneumatic and hydraulic systems of railway wagons, carriages and locomotives for condition and correct classification
  • ensuring that train, tram and bus services are provided according to schedule, monitoring the cleanliness, presentation and condition of vehicles, and recommending. improvements and changes to services
  • receiving and assessing applications for licences to use water, investigating the ability of water resources to meet new requirements, and conducting site inspections


No specific qualifications are needed to work as a customs officer. You need to be a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident, and to have a driver’s licence. Successful applicants are selected at an assessment centre, and must then pass a medical before starting training. Training for customs officers takes nine weeks.

Prospective immigration officers also need to have New Zealand citizenship or permanent residency. They go through training and assessment, and if successful, they go through a longer period of on-the-job training. A tertiary qualification is not required, but can be useful.

Biosecurity officers usually need a degree in botany or zoology, as well as a driver’s licence.

Cost of study

Customs Officer Training

Successful applicants to entry-level customs officer roles receive training for free. There could be costs involved for applicants in order to meet the minimum requirements to apply, for example getting a driver’s licence.

Training is also free for immigration officers, whereas the cost of a relevant degree for biosecurity officers varies between different universities.

Rents vary from place to place. Estimated market rents by region, city and suburb are available on the MBIE Tenancy Services website.

The StudyLink website provides general budget advice for students, and the Sorted website provides help with detailed budget planning.

Tenancy Services:

Where to study

Initial training for customs officers is located in Auckland.

Biological subjects like botany and zoology can be studied at most universities in New Zealand.

Income and employment prospects


In 2019, the annual income for customs officers is estimated to be around $61,300. Income depends on experience and the specific role.

Estimated Average Income

Source: MBIE estimates based on Statistics NZ Census and Labour Cost Index

Employment and skill shortages

Customs officers’ employment

HistoricProjected Growth
2006 2013 2023 2028
4,248 3,888 4,210 4,480
  -1.3% 1.3% 1.0%

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections. Percentages are compound annual growth rates.
* Growth projections are based on the category “Miscellaneous Clerical and Administrative Workers”.

The number of customs officers in employment decreased from 2006 to 2013. However, employment is projected to increase by 1 % per year out to 2028.

Many immigration, customs and biosecurity officers work at the airport in Auckland. This is where most people and some goods enter New Zealand.  Others work in offices assessing applications and answering queries from the public.

 Employment chart

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections

Customs officers are not on Immigration New Zealand's skill shortage list

Immigration NZ, skill shortage list:

Where to find job vacancies

The number of online job vacancies in the broader category ‘Inspectors and regulatory officers’ has grown steadily since 2013.

Jobs advertised chart

Source: Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment

Customs officer vacancies are advertised on the web page of NZ Customs Service.

NZ Customs, careers:

Career path

Customs officers can move into senior or managerial roles or specialise, for example, as an investigator or dog handler. Some also go into other roles within the government.

Related occupations

The following occupations are related roles or alternative titles. Some of the roles may require a higher level of skill than entry-level customs officers.

  • Administration Officer
  • Biosecurity Officer
  • Environmental Health Officer
  • Fishery Officer
  • Health and Safety Inspector
  • Immigration Officer
  • Police Officer
  • Quarantine Officer
  • Taxation Inspector
  • Water Inspector

Other information


More information on customs officers is available on the Careers New Zealand website and through the "Just the Job" video.

Careers New Zealand:
Just the Job video clip: A Career in Customs


The Australian New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) is the official classification of occupations in New Zealand.

The occupation of customs officers has been coded to the following ANZSCO code for the purpose of this report:

5995 –Inspectors and Regulatory Officers