How to Become a Customs Officer in Canada in 10 Steps

The job of a customs officer in Canada is a sought after one but you must undergo an intense exercise.

To become a customs officer in Canada is one of the desires of many people. Without a doubt, it is one of the ways of serving your country and becoming a responsible citizen or permanent resident. A customs officer has the duty of protecting the country’s border, carrying out surveillance and enforcing immigration and customs services. They are majorly needed around the airports and must be passionate about law enforcement.

Canadian customs officers work for the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA), which is also referred to as border service officers (BSOs). Furthermore, Canada has 11,000 different service points where they work and they include the airports, highway crossings and rail ports.

Their duties also involve enforcing federal laws to keep the country safe and at the same time, keep legal travel and trade possible.

It is in your best interest to understand how to become an officer in this noble field. That is exactly what this article will help you to achieve. Apart from knowing how to become a customs officer in Canada, you will understand the steps, training and other things involved.

What does a customs officer in Canada do?

It is the responsibility of a customs officer to carry out the following functions:

  • Inspecting the personal belongings of people who enter the country
  • Arresting and charging people who break or pose a risk to the law
  • Collecting duties on valid items, including alcohol and cigarettes
  • Regulating exports by filing proper documents with each consignment.
  • Checking for any contraband on personal or commercial items that enter the country

In addition to the above, the CBSA received an official permission to carry arms in 2006. Subsequently, five years later, they could wear their sidearms while working at large airports in Canada. They must also ensure that people who enter the airports declare their firearms and any other weapons to CBSA.

If such people fail to heed instructions, they may have to forfeit their firearms and even face some criminal charges. The customs officers must also make sure the items that enter the country are transported safely and are properly documented.

Further, certain weapons are banned from entering Canada. Examples of such include switchblades, stun guns, brass knuckles, nunchaku sticks and spike wristbands.

As part of their training, customs officers in Canada must know how to identify and remove such lethal weapons from travellers and be ready for any kind of reactions. Regardless of the kind of reaction, they must remain calm and peaceful when handling such a potentially dangerous situation.

How much do customs officers make in Canada?

The salaries of customs officers in Canada are not static. However, your position will determine what you will earn. Students who attend the CBSA College are offered free accommodation and meals, in addition to an allowance they can use to take care of their basic living expenses. Upon graduation, the students can begin the development program where they receive payments. Besides, their annual salaries range between $64,234 and $71,525 in Canadian dollars.

After this stage, the recruits are assigned points of entry where they will work and become full-fledged customs officers in Canada. At this point, their salaries rise to $69,486 – $82411 per year. BSOs (Border Service Officers) are entitled to benefits after six months of recruitment. They are also entitled to dental and health benefits, plus pensions through the Treasury Board of Canada.

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What are the ways to become a customs officer in Canada?

Here are the possible ways to enable you to successfully become a customs officer in Canada:

1. Meet the requirements

You need to possess, specifically, three major requirements to become a customs officer in Canada and they are your high school diploma, valid Canadian driver’s license and Canadian citizenship or permanent residency. In addition, you do not need to serve in the military before you can become a customs officer.

2. Complete your studies

Whereas a high school diploma is a major criterion to become eligible to apply for the customs officer in Canada, obtaining a college diploma or degree certificate can put you in a more competitive position than other applicants.

Equally, you can major in such courses as criminology, psychology, security, law or policing to qualify you for the application. If you have foreign education, the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) can also accept you if they have the same standard as Canadian education.

3. Pass the Officer Trainee Entrance Exam (OTEE)

This is explicitly an online exam with multiple-choice questions. The questions are all hypothetical, meaning you do not need to know much about the CBSA before you can take the exam. The core aim of the question is to assess if you possess the four key competencies required by a customs officer trainee.

If you can pass the test, the results are valid for life. However, if you did not make it, you have one year to retake the exam. You must not retake it before one year if not, your results will be nullified and the waiting period reset for one year again for you.

Additionally, you have 150 minutes to write the exam and one week to commence once you register. Also, the core competencies of the exam bother on the following skills:

  • Reasoning skills:

This mandates you to conclude the information provided to solve the given problems

  • Logical skills:

You must arrive at a tolerable conclusion for the stated problem using analytical thinking

  • Client service orientation:

This section majors on your customer service skills and tests you on timeliness, competence, knowledge interpersonal skills

  • Writing skills:

This tests your ability to generate written documents.

4. Interview

After the exam hurdle, the next step to become a customs officer in Canada is to receive an invitation for an interview. The key areas of the interview include decisiveness, client service orientation, dealing with complex conditions, values and ethics, personal integrity, interpersonal skills, and diligence, among others.

There are three stages of the interview process. The first stage involves a group test. You will meet with the three interviewers during the second stage and they will ask you questions like the reason you want to become a customs officer. Additionally, the third stage of the interview focuses on the selection of the best among the best. If you did not succeed at the final interview, you can apply again after 2 years.

5. in a firearm safety course

There are basically two firearm courses you must complete two firearms courses in preparation for your job. They include the Canadian Firearm Safety Course (CFSC) and the Canadian Restricted Firearms Safety Course (CRFSC). These exams involve written and practical aspects. Moreover, they do not require you to have a possession application license to complete the courses.

6. Complete a physical assessment

Also known as the Physical Abilities Requirement Evaluation (PARE), the physical evaluation assesses your ability to complete the severe physical training that each recruit must undergo. The test involves obstacle courses, push and pull workouts, and weight exercise stations.

7. Undergo a second language assessment

Some positions to become a customs officer require you to be proficient in both English and French as Canada’s official languages. On the other hand, some positions will require you to be fluent in just one of them.

Thus, the CBSA will carry out a secondary land language evaluation. If you scale through, you may upgrade to a bilingual customs officer position. If, on the other hand, you did not make it, you may get another chance to retake the test. Equally, the test results are valid for five years.

8. Undergo a psychological evaluation

A psychological assessment is needed by many law enforcement agencies in Canada. This helps your recruiter to evaluate your psychological and emotional ability to use lethal and non-lethal equipment such as firearms.

You must, likewise, undergo the utilization of force training, which is very mandatory for your job position. More so, clinical psychologists in Canada are in the best position to conduct the test. You will undergo two exams and an in-person interview concerning that. Your results are valid for only two years and so, you must to undergoing regular retests every two years.

9. Medical examination

After undergoing the above physical and mental exercises, you will need to undergo a medical exam to become a customs officer in Canada. Thus, you will need designated medical personnel to complete your Occupational Health Assessment Report. The aim is to certify that you are physically healthy to assume your position as a customs officer in Canada.

You will be required to take both eye and ear exams as a requirement by the customs office. It is the physician who assesses your medical condition that would determine if you are eligible for the job or not, regardless of how you have scaled through other tests.

Moreover, your results are just valid for a year, meaning that yearly, you must undergo medical examinations to retain your position as a customs officer in Canada.

10. Obtain secret security service

Lastly, on how to become a customs officer in Canada, you will need to get security clearance through an evaluation by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).

To commence, you will need to send a copy of your digital fingerprints for the CSIS to carry out a background check on you. You will equally need to take the completed digital fingerprint request form to the nearest commissionaire’s office to you. They would have to take your fingerprints in person and upload a digital copy to the CBSA’s security division.

Additionally, there may be a need for you to answer some security verification and law enforcement questions, pass a credit check and partake in a telephone integrity interview. Moreover, you will need to submit the details of your past jobs, current qualifications, travel history outside Canada and references.


To become a customs officer in Canada requires a lot of rigorous exercises. However, it is achievable if you meet the requirements. We believe this guide was able to help you achieve that. You can read more on how to get a job in Canada here.