How to Become an Import Specialist

Job applicants interested in learning how to become an Import Specialist with U.S. Customs should possess the following basic qualifications:

  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Ability to pass a thorough background check and polygraph test
  • Ability to pass an initial and subsequent drug tests
  • Possess a bachelor’s degree
  • Work within a team or independently
  • Resided in the United States for the three years prior to application
  • Register with the Selective Service if male and born after 12/31/1959

Academic and Certification Options when Becoming an Import Specialist

Degree holders in accounting, business management and economics enjoy an advantage in the application process.  Applicants with an advance degree like an MBA, master’s, or JD, are likely to receive more serious consideration during the application process, as well as a higher initial pay grade.

For candidates seeking to distinguish themselves from their competitors, there are professional certifications available that can demonstrate skill and experience with customs protocols, which may provide a competitive advantage during the application process.

  • The National Customs Brokers & Forwarders Association of America ( NCBFAA) offer a Certified Customs Specialist (CCS) Certification program, which covers major areas in import regulations.  Successful completion of a comprehensive exam is required.
  • Unz & Co offers an International Trade Certification Program that includes topics on imports and exports. A series of courses must be taken along with the corresponding exam.

Applying to Become an Import Specialist

The application process for becoming an Import Specialist begins with finding a job opening on  Upon following the link to the Office of Personnel Management, the applicant will be queried about basic job qualifications

If the applicant meets all of the basic qualifications, they will be required to submit an application package, which should include:

  • Resume
  • College transcripts
  • Documents confirming military veteran, law enforcement or federal employee status
  • Self-assessment questionnaire detailing technical and professional competencies

If the application package meets with approval, the documents will be relayed to a US Customs and Border Protection hiring manager.  The hiring manager will then notify the candidate about the subsequent interview and written tests.  In most cases, the candidate will be required to sit for a Structured Interview with a panel of three CBP Import Specialists who will assess the candidate’s character, emotional maturity, situational decision making and professional abilities.

The candidate may also need to complete a second interview with a CBP hiring manager along similar lines.  Some candidate may also be required to complete a written exam that will assess written communication skills and technical proficiencies.

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