As the world continues to become more interconnected and trade with other countries has burgeoned, complying with all the legal requirements have become more complex. Every year billions of dollars worth of commercially imported goods enter the country and they have to be classified and appraised. In addition, laws that protect public health and safety, intellectual property rights, fair trade practices, and the like will also have to be enforced before these goods can enter the country and this requires legal and technical knowledge. Smuggling, commercial fraud, and counterfeiting are real challenges faced by Federal government authorities that designating people who can prevent these activities is a must. For the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the government agency in-charge of keeping our borders secure from terrorists, illegal aliens, and unlawful trade, this responsibility falls on the hands of Import Specialists.
Import Specialists are part of the CBPs Operational and Mission Support Team. They are tasked mainly with protecting our commerce. Their job includes the following activities: 1) Mastering a particular commodity of import/export goods (e.g. textiles, industrial machinery or pharmaceuticals); 2) Joining a team of other Import Specialists in a particular field who track and inspect goods going in and out of the country at a land border crossing, seaport, or airport; 3) Inspecting cargo manifests and documents in an office and also making physical inspections in cargo holds and terminal facilities; 4) Maintaining your discipline by constantly updating your knowledge, both in your commodity area and in changing U.S. import/export laws and regulations; 5) Working side by side with law enforcement officers and legal professionals; and 6) Having the authority to issue penalties and fines, to seize prohibited or suspect cargo and to participate in negotiations and legal prosecution.
If this sounds like the job you would be interested in, you need to meet the basic requirements to qualify when the CBP announces that they are hiring. Import Specialist applicants must be U.S. Citizens who meet the residency requirement. They must also possess a bachelors degree in a job-related area. Your education could be in the field of economics, business, or accounting. Without this kind of education, three years of general work experience reflecting your ability to meet and deal with people and apply a body of facts will help you qualify. It is also possible to qualify based on a combination of education and experience. Applicants must also work equally well in independent situations and as part of a team and be able to successfully complete a thorough background investigation and drug test.
In the event that you make it through the rigorous selection process, you will undergo seven weeks of specialized training to enable you to develop an expert knowledge of import and export trends, commodities, and industries, as well as complex international trade agreements.
So who succeeds in this job? First, those who can use their intellect, discipline, organizational abilities, and analytical skills to perform the work required will be highly-valued. Knowing how to interact well with others is also a must. You will be interacting with international shippers and freight forwarders, domestic and foreign manufacturers, ship captains, corporate lawyers, small business owners and law enforcement personnel from CBP and other U.S. Federal agencies. Most of the time, you will be dealing with very senior level officers so impeccable interpersonal skills are a must.