Customs Agent Career, Job, Degrees and Training Information

Customs agents, also know as Customers Border Patrol Officers (CBP Officers), investigate money laundering, smuggling, child pornography, narcotics smuggling, and enforce the Arms Export Control Act. Customs agent utilize electronic and physical surveillance, establish a network of informants, review records from couriers, importers and exporters, banks, and manufacturers. Agents obtain search warrants, coordinate with other agencies on joint operations, and conduct interviews.

Customs agents inspect luggage, shipments, and people, while also inspecting cargo on trains, ships, airplanes, and vehicles entering or leaving the United States. Agents coordinate efforts to exam, weigh, count, and gauge commercial and noncommercial cargo leaving or entering the United States, and confiscate smuggled or illegal cargo. Customs agents also supervise efforts to prevent contraband from entering the country and arrest people breaking U.S. law.

CBP officers are required to be duty at one of the U.S.'s 300 international ports of entry which include seaports, airports or land border crossings (i.e. Mexican or Canadian borders.) Ports of entry are America's frontline of defense against variety criminal activities including terrorism, human trafficking, drug smuggling, money laundering, illegal immigration, weapons trafficking, smuggling of contraband as well as a host of other border and customs violations. As a U.S. Federal law enforcement officer, CBP officers are required to wear a uniform, carry firearms and work overtime as is dictated by the office they work for. Many CBP Officers are trained to handle dogs as part of their law enforcement effort.

Because of frequent and never ending interaction with travelers, CBP officer must be patient, even tempered and have good judgment. In additional to more traditional duties CBP officers are also collect intelligence and may even conduct anti-smuggling and anti-terrorism activities in cooperation with FBI, DEA and other U.S. law enforcement agencies. Some of the more specialty assignments handled by CBP Officesr may require a short-term relocation overseas.

Common CBP Officer activities include:
  • Supporting and carrying out the CBP's anti-terrorism initiatives
  • Performing physical checks of cargo, international travelers and vehicles entering and leaving the country
  • Inspecting passenger and commercial trucking vehicles at various land border crossings
  • Interacting with the traveling public arriving from international destinations, as well as inspecting airborne cargo and luggage, in airports
  • Inspecting ships, cruise passengers, containers, luggage and all types of seaborne cargo at variety seaports
  • Working with other law enforcement officers from CBP and state and federal law enforcement agencies
  • Employing state-of-the-art technology and tools as well as traditional methods, such as K-9 teams to wage a war on crime
As a CBP officer you're launch your career with 15 weeks of intensive paid training in Glynco, Georgia at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Academy located at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC), that combines rigorous hands-on training, including firearms and advanced technology-based inspection techniques with intensive classroom lessons. If you are chosen to work in Puerto Rico, Miami, the state of Florida or anywhere along the Southwest Border, you will be required to pass a Spanish language proficiency exam or successfully complete an additional 6 weeks of Spanish language training — whereby extending your initial basic training from 15 to 21 weeks.

How to apply for the CBP Officer position

To apply to become a customs border patrol officer you must register for a written test online during an open period. During open periods, the announcement for job postings can be viewed at either www.cbp.gov (in the Careers section), or on the Federal jobs' web-site www.usajobs.opm.gov.

Specific instructions explaining how to register for the written CBP Officer test will be included in the vacancy announcement found online. During the registration process, applicants are asked a variety of questions designed to assess their suitability for the CBP Officer job as well as their willingness to accept the conditions of employment. All applicants are screened for preliminary qualifications; required to answer specific questions about the position of CBP Officer; and asked to select one preferred location for which they would ideally like to be considered, as well as where they are going to take the written CBP Officer test.

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