Some people applying for security clearances may have worries that their application will not be approved due to their spouse having poor credit history. While it is certainly not impossible that a spouse’s poor credit will affect a security clearance application, it is not automatic. What matters more is whether or not the applicant’s credit history is tainted by the spouse.
Although it is possible that an individuals' credit history could affect their spouse's government security clearance, it should not be expected. That being said, debts which are shared by spouses may have a larger impact on an individuals application for security clearance.
Secret Security Clearance
The website for the FBI describes the process for two types of security clearances. The first type it mentions is a secret clearance. A secret clearance application typically takes about 45 to 60 days to process. The FBI performs record checks with federal and local law enforcement agencies. The candidate must complete forms SF-86 and FD-258. A credit history check is performed as well.
Top Secret Security Clearance
The FBI notes that a top secret security clearance has all of the steps that a secret clearance does but with two major differences. First, the applicant’s history dating back 10 years is analyzed. Lastly, this type of clearance can take six to nine months to process. The background check the FBI conducts is extensive. Citizenship is verified for family members, the applicant’s birth date, educational history, employment history and military history are all analyzed and verified. Interviews are conducted with those who know the candidate include current spouses or spouses who have been with the applicant within the last 10 years. Current and prior residences are confirmed and current or former neighbors are interviewed.
Credit History Implications
As part of the security clearance screening process, credit history is checked and public records are scrutinized. Any information relating to bankruptcies, divorces and criminal or civil litigation is found, as it exists, and analyzed. The FBI does state that credit troubles do not automatically disqualify someone from gaining a security clearance. However, it also says that it can indeed cause an application to be rejected.
Spousal credit history may or may not affect someone who is applying for a security clearance. Whether it does depends on one major factor. If an account jointly shared by two people is in default, both of their credit ratings can be affected.
A delinquent account that is in one spouse’s name will not affect the credit of the other spouse unless his name is on that account as well. However, in some states, known as community property states, spouses are automatically liable for each other's debts Individuals who wish to keep their credit clean need to make sure that any account with their name on it, whether it be only their own or held jointly, remains current. As long as this is done, the credit history of the other spouse should not be an issue when the credit check is done.
- FBI: Security Clearance
- Office of Personnel Management: Form SF 86
- FBI: Applicant Fingerprint Form (FD-258)
- NerdWallet: Authorized User vs. Joint Cardholder: Choose Wisely, Spare Your Score
- BankRate: Don't Check Your Spouse's Credit Report
- Credit.com: What Happens to Your Credit When You Get Married?
- Nolo: Debt and Marriage: When Do I Owe My Spouse's Debts?
Ryan Donovan has worked in payroll and human resources since 2004. A certified payroll professional with the American Payroll Association, he also holds an M.B.A., a master's degree in human resources and a B.A. in information technology from Ottawa University in Ottawa, Kan.