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How to become a Customs and Immigration Officer in Canada – A job as a Border Services Officer

This post is to help those of you interested in becoming a Customs and Immigration Officer for Canada. In Canada, the duties of a customs or immigration officer are performed by a border services officer. In 2003, the Canada Border Services Agency was created in a response to 9/11 to amalgamate the enforcement and front line processing of Customs, Immigration and the Food plant and animal legislation. The goal was to create an Officer that can perform all functions at the port of entry. I.e. land border, seaport or airport.


Prior to 2003, there were 3 different types of officers at the port of entry, Customs officers, immigration officers and officers from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Now, they are all one…the border services officer.


The mandate of the CBSA is to “provide integrated border services to support national security and public safety priorities and free flow of people and goods, including animals and plants that meet all the requirements under the program legislation.” The official mission is to ensure the security and prosperity of Canada and Canadians by managing the access of people and goods to and from Canada.


In a nut shell, the above paragraph captures what the Agency you possibly hope to work for is all about. The CBSA is Canada’s version of the Department of Homeland Security in the US.


Below is the basic overview of the hiring process. Keep in mind that you need to be screened or pass to move on to the next level.


Educational Requirements
I have noticed that this seems to change from time to time. The minimum education requirement I have seen on a job poster is 2 years of post secondary education. That means 2 years of college or University. Previously, high school was sufficient but not any more.


* note that you will have to prove your education through diploma, degree, or official transcript.
*When applying, it helps to get screened into be invited to write the exam for your area of study to be law or enforcement related.


No experience is required to apply, however to get screened in to write the entrance exam you must show that you have experience applying rules, by-laws, legislation, or enforcement, or been in a position of responsibility, position of authority, dealt with the public etc…anything that would help in preparing you for a job where you deal with the public and have to uphold the law or some kind of rules or regulation. Many officers I noticed used to work in banks, customs brokerages, and some type of security.


Where to apply
All applications are now processed online through the Government of Canada Jobs site at www.jobs.gc.ca . If you’re interested you should check periodically or sign up an account and set up an email alert for the type of job you are interested in. At the bottom of the job posting you will see where you can apply directly online. You can complete all the required information directly or copy and paste your cover letter and resume from somewhere else.


In order to get screened into write the test I recommend reading over the key words in the posting and ensure that you have addressed how you meet the requirements or skill sets.
There are many Border Services Officers retiring in the next few years so there should be lots of openings if the economy begins to improve.


For more detail on the entire process visit the CBSA Website where the CBSA breaks down the entire process.


The Border Services Officer Test
This is not an easy test nor is it extremely difficult. It is 4-5 hours in length and is basically an aptitude test. You will need to know Math and English (grammar and spelling). You will need to do memory work and be able to apply logic and reasoning.


You need a minimum pass mark of 585 out of 900.


When I prepared for the exam I used a book called the Police Prep Test available at Chapters or Indigo. Now the same company has Test prep book specifically for Border Service Officers called the Comprehensive Guide to Canadian Military, Border Services, Corrections and Security Exams. I highly recommend this.

Click on the image below to purchase this book through Indigo Chapters.

The Comprehensive Guide to Canadian Military, Border Services, Corrections and Security Exams

 The reason I recommend this book is because it teaches three crucial aspects to successfully passing the test.


    1. Understanding the format of tests. Going in blind is a huge mistake. The examples on the CBSA website are not indicative of the level of difficulty of the actual test.


    1.  Practising and learning basic memory, logic and reasoning skills, and knowledge of math and English. The book also gives basic training in all these areas.


    1. And lastly, Time! Because the test is timed and the test is broken down to different section, each with a time limit…practising with a timer is crucial. The prep book has practice tests and how long you have for each section so I highly recommend practicing within the time constraints. There are no deduction of marks for wrong answers so the last thing you want to do is not answer a question.


 So if you want the best chance in passing the BSOT I would prepare for it using the above study guide and practice tests.


The CBSA Learning Centre in Rigaud, Quebec
The college in Quebec is where all new recruits must attend and pass POERT, which is Port Of Entry Recruitment Training. The course has varied in length of time. It has run anywhere from 13 weeks – 9 weeks. With the arming of Border Services Officer, at some point firearms training will be part of the curriculum and the length of time at the college will probably increase.


During this time, if you are not already an employee of the Government of Canada, you will not be paid. There is a small weekly allowance now but it’s not even worth mentioning and you most likely won’t see a penny until near the end or when you’ve already finished. There are 2 determination points or testing phases in Rigaud. You must pass both to graduate. The college is stressful and there’s a lot to learn. But if you survive you will come out of it with a job/career with the CBSA and the Government of Canada.


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