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How Do I Become a Customs Agent?


The steps to become a customs agent include meeting the education requirements and also passing a background check. In the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, public attention focused on issues such as port security and border control. Yet the enforcement of these responsibilities dates back to the founding of the United States. At the time, the government only collected revenue from tariffs on imported goods and raw materials.

The initial corps recruited to supervise collection and verification became known as the United States Customs Service. Following the assaults on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, agencies reorganized. They combined the customs and collection functions with border control operations. The new entity is the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security.

What are a Customs Border Agent’s Duties and Responsibilities?

CBP officers prevent the entry of terrorists and their weapons into the United States. Additionally, they execute the laws governing customs, immigration, and agricultural trade. On any given day, agents may process over a million travelers coming to the U.S. by land, sea, or air. Of those, thousands are apprehended, arrested, or simply barred from entry.

Additionally, these homeland security officials seize or intercept drugs, illegal currency, and fraudulent documents on a daily basis. Charged with the protection of 7,000 miles of the border and nearly 100,000 miles of shoreline, CBP professionals operate 327 ports of entry and 144 border patrol stations. Officers serve in aviation enforcement, marine interdiction, agricultural specialists, and border patrol agents.

Educational and Work Requirements

Entry-level status for new CBP officers is GS-5. This refers to the compensation level under the General Schedule maintained by the federal Office of Personnel Management. GS-5 requires a bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) from a 4-year, regionally accredited institution of higher education. This condition may be qualified by sufficient work experience that enables the candidate to utilize strong communication skills, ability to apply standards, and capacity to exercise leadership of a team or organization.

However, applicants can’t use credits from a foreign college or university unless it is certified as equivalent by a recognized evaluation entity. Some specialist positions may rate GS-7 status, calling for t least a year of post-graduate study and work experience with direct bearing on the work of the CBP.

Background Investigation

An investigation into a candidate’s background is a necessary component of the application process for all homeland security jobs. The information garnered can include checks of citizenship, criminal records, credit reports, bankruptcy filings, legal proceedings, and acquaintance interviews. Then, they use this information to determine the character and reliability of applicants.

Physical and Mental Fitness Tests

Upon making an application and submitting credentials to CBP, a candidate may receive a tentative offer of employment. This means that they must pass certain benchmarks must prior to the training phase of the job. The physical fitness test evaluates form, repetitions, and time in five separate exercises. These are push-ups, line-crosses, sit-ups, resistance lifts, and also step exercises. Then, trainees take a second fitness test with running before they can assume their roles with CBP. Prior to this test, the candidate will receive a medical screening to certify that no physical conditions would prohibit the successful completion of the test.

CPB Entrance Examination

CBP candidates must also take an entrance examination. This test gauges logical reasoning, mathematical skills, verbal comprehension, and writing skills. Border patrol candidates are also tested on their facility with the Spanish language. As is evident, all the hiring criteria for homeland security jobs measure character, fitness, and also aptitude. So, to begin the process of consideration as a CBP officer interested parties should access the government’s employment website, USAJOBS.gov.


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