Why do debt collection agencies need a license?

In many U.S. states, collection agencies are required to have a debt collection license. While the requirements differ from state to state, a collection agency that wants to be licensed nationwide should be prepared to do the following (in applicable states):

  • apply for State Registrations (also known as "Foreign Qualification" or "Certificate of Authority")
  • purchase surety bonds
  • create trust accounts
  • hire resident managers
  • apply for collection licenses
  • background checks and investigations
  • disclose information about members of the company (i.e. work history, residence, references, etc.)

In addition to state licensing, all collection agencies must comply to the standards set forth at the federal level by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The FDCPA ensures that agencies will not contact third-party individuals for collection attempts, harass or threaten debtors, or otherwise act inappropriately or unethically while attempting to collect a debt.


How does your licensing service work?

Whether you are a collection agency, debt buyer or collection attorney, our expert licensing specialists can help you with the arduous tasks involved with getting your collection agency licensed and compliant. Theses services include:

  • Gathering required documents such as Articles of Organization, Certificate of Good Standing and Operating Agreement. 
  • Setting up registered agents in each state
  • Applying for "Certificate of Authority" or "Foreign Qualification"
  • Obtaining surety bonds for states that require one
  • Providing resident managers for states that require one
  • Applying for debt collection licensing
  • Applying for license exemptions where applicable
  • Tracking and renewals of state registrations and licensing using our management system

Whether you are licensed, want to get licensed or are looking to expand to other states, we can help you. We start with learning about your company and its operations. For example, the licensing requirements in some states are different for collection agencies, debt buyers and collection attorneys. There are also differences in licensing requirements between consumer debt collectors and commercial debt collectors. We analyze all angles of your organization and its operations in order to avoid any mistakes in applications and state compliance requirements.

How long does it take for a collection agency to get licensed?

The time required for getting licensed varies from state to state. Some states take a longer time to process your licensing application, which makes it very difficult to specify the number of days needed to complete the whole procedure. For example, the Florida Office of Financial Regulation responsible for reviewing collection licenses is known to take up to three months to review licensing applications. However, if you want to get a nationwide license for all states, you can expect it to take 100 - 180 days. You can also Contact us to determine the number of days needed for licensing your organization in a specific state in the United States.

We want to complete our applications in-house. Can you provide a licensing audit?


We offer auditing services where we review your company's operations to get an understanding of the type of licensing you will need. Your company may be eligible for exemptions in some states based on your company's structure, operations and collection methods.

After studying your requirements, we will create a detailed licensing matrix for all the states you will be collecting or buying debts in. The matrix will include details of the requirements (such as bonds, trust accounts, resident managers, licensing, exams, etc.) as well as links or files in order to complete the applications in-house. 

Contact us to find out more about a collection license audit for your company.

We are already licensed. Can you help us with maintaining our filings and licenses?


Our experts can free you from the burdens of annual renewals and compliance maintenance. Once we gather all your state registrations, bonds and licenses, we update our management system which will send us reminders to apply for renewals. We try to make the transition as hassle-free as possible.

Why work with Clearwater?

While there are several companies offering debt collection licensing services, here are a few reasons you should work with us at Clearwater:

Experienced Team
We have well-trained, educated and experienced professionals with over 20 years experience in the collection industry. These members are dedicated and willing to ensure that all the stages of getting your license are as hassle-free as possible for your organization. We are not a regular business licensing company. Our services are unique to the collection industry. Our experts understand the ins-and-outs of the collection licensing landscape and have close ties with state licensing board members, resident managers and bond issuers.

Personalized Service
Our experts will provide quick and personal attention to your organization. You will have full access to an expert via phone and email.

Competitive Pricing
Licensing for your collection business is vital for law compliance and to its overall success. While nationwide licensing state fees can be expensive, our service fees are competitive.