Customs brokers help control items entering the U.S. and must be well versed in the hundreds of laws that apply to imports, so a clear background is critical for anyone who wants a customs broker license. To become a customs broker, you must be at least 21, not a current federal employee and possess good moral character. Although consumer credit reports are more common in the lending industry, employers such as the U.S. government also check reports to judge the moral character of a potential employee.
Credit reports, along with additional records such as a criminal history, help government officials verify an applicant's identity, but, more important, those reports help gauge an applicant's integrity. Customs brokers control millions of dollars of goods entering the U.S. A poor credit history, especially if it includes serious negative entries such as a tax lien or bankruptcy, may indicate the applicant is in poor financial standing and may be more prone to accept bribes or sell information.
Nothing on a credit report automatically disqualifies an applicant from becoming a customs broker. The hiring manager assesses an applicant's entire profile. A credit score damaged by late payments to unexpected medical bills, for instance, might hurt the an applicant's chances less than a poor credit rating resulting from poor financial management. The government cannot discriminate against an applicant only because of a previous bankruptcy filing.
Explaining Bad Credit
The June 2009 Custons and Border Protection (CBP) application -- which is the most current application as of the time of publication -- allows applicants to explain any serious derogatory items in section 18. Applicants should note if the acquisition of bad debts was beyond their control and that all attempts were made to resolve the situation. For instance, an applicant can argue that filing bankruptcy was a responsible action, because he used a government process to handle the debt rather than ignore it.
Start repairing your credit well before you apply to the Customs Border Patrol. Even if your credit history only slightly impacts your ability to obtain a license, a good credit history is helpful in other facets of your life. For instance, a poor credit score may prevent you from obtaining loans at favorable interest rates, and other employers may reject an application based on a poor credit history. The first step to repairing your credit is repaying as much debt as possible and paying bills on time. Before you even get to the background check, you must pass the customs broker licensing examination.