What Is a Customs Broker? (Responsibilities and Requirements)

What Is a Customs Broker? (Responsibilities and Requirements)

When businesses or individuals want to import goods into the country, customs brokers are essential in helping them navigate complex import and export regulations and clear customs. These experts use their various skills and in-depth knowledge of customs processes and shipping routes to offer essential guidance to their clients. Understanding what customs brokers do and what they require to succeed can help you determine if this might be an appealing career choice for you.

In this article, we answer the question, “What is a customs broker?”, list their core responsibilities, describe their key skills, and explain what they require to qualify for the role.

What is a customs broker?

If you’re interested in the import and export industry, you may have wondered, “What is a customs broker?” These licensed professionals work with businesses and individuals to ensure their imports are in compliance with regulations and can clear the Canadian border effectively and efficiently. Companies involved in importing large quantities of items, whether they are controlled goods or not, can use the expertise of customs brokers to facilitate their operations. For controlled substances, such as alcohol or tobacco, customs brokers help their clients ensure compliance with federal and regional regulations.

Aside from ensuring the entry of clients’ shipments into the country, brokers can also work to optimize their shipping and customs operations to avoid excessively high costs and help expedite import times. Brokers might work as licensed individuals, in a partnership, or as part of a larger business.

Key responsibilities of customs brokers

Below are some of the key responsibilities that customs brokers perform in their roles:

Help clients clear customs

Customs brokers are essential for helping businesses navigate customs clearance procedures. They communicate with customs officials on their clients’ behalf to represent them throughout the import or export process. Brokers also help clients resolve any unexpected clearance issues that happen during customs processes.

Comply with customs regulations

Businesses rely on their customs brokers to help them ensure their shipments comply with federal and regional customs regulations. This requires them to stay up-to-date with legislative and regulatory changes. Brokers might also perform audits and reviews on their clients’ export and import activities to ensure that they’re legally compliant.

Process export and import documents

Customs brokers are experts at processing import and export documentation. They prepare and submit the necessary documentation to customs officials to ensure smooth and efficient customs clearance. Relevant documentation might include commercial invoices, inventories, packing lists, permits, or bills of lading.

Sign import and export documents

The licences that customs brokers hold authorize them to sign documents for the export and import of goods on behalf of their clients. This allows them to relieve responsibility from their clients and expedite import and export processes. They can also help their clients understand the purpose of these documents before submitting them.

Coordinate payments of taxes and duties

Customs brokers help their clients coordinate payment of necessary taxes and duties related to their shipments. They might calculate the duties and taxes their client owes to help them make their payments on time. Brokers can also help their clients navigate reduction programs to minimize their duty and tax liabilities.

Negotiate with shippers and transporters

Brokers help businesses negotiate with transporters and shippers to secure competitive rates. They can also help clients during the negotiation process to obtain financially beneficial commercial terms and fast and efficient shipping.

Optimize shipping routes

Customs brokers are experts in the best ways to optimize shipping routes to avoid delays, unnecessary complications, and costly border clearances. They understand how to plan for transit times, shipping costs, and international regulations to create unique customs clearance plans. Their services help clients save time and money when importing goods or materials.

Requirements for becoming a customs broker

Below are some aspects that customs brokers require to qualify for the role:


The first educational qualification for customs brokers is a high school diploma. This foundational qualification establishes a baseline of skills and knowledge in mathematics or language that they can develop throughout the rest of their education. After graduating high school, customs brokers are typically required to pursue postsecondary education in a related area, such as business or accounting. A diploma or bachelor’s degree helps prepare aspiring brokers to enter the industry, gain hands-on experience, and obtain the required licence for this role.


Aspiring customs brokers require several years of on-the-job training in entry-level roles such as release agent or junior customs rater. Practical experience can help those training to become customs brokers to understand the typical workflow and daily tasks they may expect in their future careers. This also provides them with sufficient knowledge of import and export processes.

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