You could get top secret clearance with bad credit. But a poor score will make things harder, and you’ll likely need a good explanation for the cause of the situation and why it won’t affect your work. Your finances are just one of 13 main things the government and military look at when deciding if you’re eligible for clearance. Others include how loyal you are to the U.S., whom you associate with, and even alcohol use. But if your financial situation is bad enough, it could disqualify you. The reason behind this, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is that financial irresponsibility may indicate or lead to irresponsibility in other areas of life. People who are in a lot of debt are also more susceptible to coercion or corruption for money.
But context matters. Financial problems can mean a lot more than bad credit. For example, someone could have a lot of debt that has yet to become unsustainable and cause credit score damage. Bad credit histories aren’t all the same, either. Someone with limited experience borrowing whose credit report has nothing but a small collections account balance might have bad credit, for instance. So might someone who recently went through bankruptcy. But the second person’s bad credit would probably be a bigger barrier to getting top secret clearance.
Of course, the full details of credit’s impact on clearances aren’t disclosed. But there is some publically available information that should be useful.
Here’s what you should know about getting top secret clearance with bad credit:
- Finances are one of 13 areas the government looks at. Some of the others include loyalty to the U.S., foreign influence, personal conduct and drug involvement.
- “A history of not meeting financial obligations” (meaning not paying on time) is one of the things that may disqualify you from clearance. “Inability or unwillingness to satisfy debts” is another.
- If your financial problems are connected to a habit like gambling or alcohol addiction, that also raises red flags.
- You have better chances if your troubles were largely out of your control, caused by something like a loss of employment, business failure, divorce, etc.
- If you’ve been making an active effort to fix your situation, for example paying off debts regularly and improving your credit, that could help too.
- Illegal financial activities – such as embezzlement or tax evasion – will almost certainly disqualify you.
It’s tough to say for sure whether you’ll get a top secret clearance with bad credit. But if you’re actively working on rebuilding your credit, your chances will improve. You can sign up for a free WalletHub account to get daily credit reports and scores, along with a personalized credit analysis to tell you exactly how to rebuild.