What is a Custom House Agent?

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  • Written By: John Lister
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 08 October 2019
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A custom house agent is somebody entitled to act upon a company’s behalf on actions involving the import and export of goods. The phrase is most commonly used in India. There such agents must be licensed under section 146 of the Customs Act.

The purpose of a custom house agent is to tackle the problem that management of many businesses simply do not have the resources to personally deal with import and export issues. This is a particular concern given that India is traditionally a trading nation. There is also a high degree of bureaucracy in Indian business.

The laws governing these agents specifically state that any action they take is treated legally as if it was made by the company itself. In legal terms, the agent is treated as if they were the legal owner of the goods they deal with. One exception to this is that a custom house agent cannot normally be held personally responsible for any duty that is not paid by the company.

A custom house agent must be licensed by the local Commissioner of Customs. This is a two stage process, involving an initial temporary license. Application is only open to university graduates with legal employment status and sound finances.


To be eligible to become a custom house agent, a candidate must have experience working in customs-related issues. This experience must be at least a set amount of time. In most cases this is three years, but a commissioner may reduce this to one year if the candidate makes an acceptable case to do so, in writing.

Once somebody has a temporary license, they have one year to become a regular license holder. This is done by passing an examination, which is held twice a year. If a candidate has not passed the examination by the end of their first year, they may be granted a six-month or one-year extension to allow further attempts. Such extensions are only granted to candidates who can show they have carried out a set level of work during their time as a temporary license holder. Candidates are allowed a maximum of three attempts at passing the examination.


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What are the responsibilities of custom house agents?

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