In 2012, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency was tasked with admitting over 66,000 truck, rail and sea containers into the country each day from various importers. The goods in these containers all required the appropriate documentation before being allowed entry. Your job as the customs entry writer is to ensure the proper completion and coordination of such documents so that no goods are unnecessarily refused or delayed.
You must accurately classify all goods being imported and then request or compile the necessary documentation, including cargo-control papers, customs invoices and certificates of origin. This requires a familiarity with current compliance procedures and applicable laws, which you can maintain by attending conferences or reading literature. You will sign documents for clients using power of attorney, monitor any customs rejections, and respond to client inquiries regarding the status of their goods. Additionally, you will track all duties and taxes owed, process payments on behalf of the client, and apply for duty drawbacks, tariff concessions and other refunds. In some cases, you may be tasked with representing clients in meetings with customs officials and arranging for the transportation and storage of goods that have cleared customs.
You should be highly organized, well-versed in customs regulations, and have an eagle eye for detail, as incorrect documents or inaccurate information can cause significant problems for shipments at the point of entry. You must be a strong time manager with the ability to meet demanding deadlines and prioritize tasks based on the importance or urgency of shipments. Proficient computer skills are also crucial, as much of your day will be spent in front of a terminal entering and reviewing data. You should be able to effectively communicate with superiors, clients and customs officials, both verbally and in writing, handle multiple tasks at once, and use analytical thinking to solve problems.
Background & Education
Typically, a high school education or GED is sufficient for work as a customs entry writer, although some organizations may require you to have a four-year degree in a related field like communications or logistics management. The majority of employers are more interested in your basic knowledge of customs regulations, the harmonized tariff schedule and Incoterms – a series of predefined commercial terms published by the International Chamber of Commerce and used heavily in trade. Employers who accept entry-level writers will provide on-the-job training, while those who don't may require anywhere from two to five years of previous experience in the field.
Salary & Economic Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary in 2010 for information clerks such as customs entry writers was just under $30,000 per year, or about $14.42 per hour. Yet those with past work experience or a college education were in a position to make significantly more; the top 10 percent of earners averaged $47,700 per year. Unfortunately, the estimated growth rate for these jobs is an underwhelming 7 percent over 10 years, which is just half the rate for all U.S. occupations. Only 108,900 new jobs are expected between 2010 and 2020. However, as the U.S. continues to run a trade deficit, knowledgeable customs entry writers will continue to be valuable in handling the vast number of imported goods.
Mark Heidelberger has been writing for more than 22 years, from articles and short stories to novels and screenplays. He is a consummate foodie, loves to travel and has run several businesses, all of which influence his work. He also holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from UCLA.