What is the TWIC card?
A TWIC card is a Transportation Worker Identification Credential. It is a tamper-resistant card issued by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that is required for unescorted access to secure areas of maritime facilities and vessels.
Most maritime workers, including longshoremen, truck drivers, and merchant mariners, must obtain a TWIC. In order to obtain a TWIC, workers must have a valid, government-issued photo ID, such as a passport or driver’s license, and must pass a background check.
On a number of occasions, emergency personnel such as the Coast Guard, or other maritime workers in general, need access to ports and vessels without having to go through security, customs and screening. So the Maritime Transportation Security Act was enacted, which provided a number of stipulations concerning the security and safety of vessels and port facilities. It also established protocol for these workers to have unescorted access to those vessels and ports. The TWIC card is one of the ways this access can be granted, while maintaining the security integrity of U.S. ports and vessels.
The Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) card gives important personnel the clearance to move around without wasting valuable time and without needing extra security. Those who work on boats aren’t the only ones who need the card; there are currently around 2 million active workers enrolled in the TWIC card program, and 3.3 million who have enrolled since its inception in 2007. Some of the many who need the card include truckers, contractors, maintenance personnel and anyone else requiring unescorted access to vessels and ports regulated by the MTSA.
This card is tamper-resistant, and contains an Integrated Circuit Chip which contains all of the holder’s biometric information, such as fingerprints, and also has a magnetic strip similar to a credit card along with a linear barcode. The card is nearly impossible to forge, and there are many steps which those applying for one must complete before being granted one.
how to get a twic card
To be eligible for a TWIC card, you must be a U.S. citizen, a lawful permanent resident, or a non-immigrant alien who is in lawful status. You must also need access to MTSA regulated facilities. One can complete the application process online or in person at an application center, and there are numerous TWIC office locations throughout the country, as long as you bring all of the necessary documents. There are a number of options here, but a few examples are an unexpired passport, valid ID (this could be a driver’s license, military ID or retired military ID), or your birth certificate. Upon filling out all the paperwork, one of the first things an applicant must do is complete a security threat assessment (STA).
The STA involves a lot of paperwork, and it’s recommended that you apply for a TWIC card at least 8-12 weeks in advance of actually needing it. After submitting your application, it usually takes 4-6 weeks to hear back; you can check on your application’s progress in the mean time. Here is the entire process:
- Applicant undergoes a background check – This is obviously pretty standard, and no vital information about oneself can be withheld. Everything from your social security number, date and place of birth, as well as all residential addresses from the previous five years is required for inclusion. If you have already undergone a previous STA that’s deemed relatable, you can apply for a comparability determination.
- Domestic and international government databases are then searched to confirm your identity and to determine whether you pose any threat to national or transportation security, or terrorism.
- It then determines whether you have any outstanding wants or warrants, or if you are a deportable alien. We will talk more about disqualifying factors in just a minute.
- Assuming all of the rest checks out, you will then go through a final disposition, in which the TSA submits their final determination. These include:
- Determination of No Security Threat – You’re good, and everything has passed through without problems.
- Initial Determination of Threat Assessment – This means that the TSA has determined that you do not meet the standards. They will give the basis for this, and you can appeal it within 60 days.
- Initial Determination of Threat Assessment and Immediate Revocation – The TSA believes you to be a an imminent threat to national security. You have the same rights to an appeal here, but if none is received within that 60 day time-frame then it becomes a Final Determination of Security Threat Assessment.
Appeal information is coming up in just a second, but obviously if you don’t have a clean record the work on your end will be time-consuming. But the TSA takes security very seriously in this regard. Once completed, the card itself will have your full name and photo, expiration date, and two fingerprints. It’s good for five years.
twic card cost and renewal
It costs $125.25 for a five-year registration, but you may be able to pay only $105.25 if you have already gone through the STA, have completed a background check, have a hazardous materials endorsement or a Free and Secure Trade card. The price for a TWIC card renewal is exactly the same, but there is a $60 fee if you lose it and need your TWIC card replaced.
In order to keep this from happening, the TSA recommends you care for it like you would any of your credit cards, but with a little extra delicacy. Keep it in a hard plastic case – which will be provided – do not place in direct sunlight or near a magnet, and don’t flex, bend or punch a hole in the card. If you do end up needing a replacement, you’ll be given a temporary receipt to use so that you can still gain access to facilities while you wait for the new card.
twic card disqualifying factors and appeals
The appeals process is lengthy, and depending on what grounds the TSA denied your application, there may be even more that you have to do. If you were guilty of a misdemeanor or a simple drug possession, or if the charge was dismissed, a normal appeal is all that would be necessary. However, if you were guilty of a disqualifying felony within the past 7 years or released from incarceration within the previous 5 years, a waiver is needed. The waiver process involves your personal statement, documents proving that dates of your release, as well as letters of support from your parole officer, employer and at least two family members.
Disqualifying factors are broken down into three parts, each containing a host of reasons for which a TWIC card application may be denied and a subsequent appeal necessary. Part A are the Permanent Disqualifying Criminal Offenses, and they include sedition, treason, espionage, terrorism, murder, conspiracy to commit each, and other factors that would prohibit someone from ever getting a TWIC card. Part B are the Interim Disqualifying Criminal Offenses, and it includes extortion, smuggling, kidnapping, assault and other factors. These are the offenses for which it would have to be at least 7 years after conviction or 5 years after release from incarceration for a person to be eligible. Part C covers wants, warrants and indictments; as long as any of these are active, eligibility for a TWIC card is denied.
The TWIC card is crucial for all workers on maritime vessels and ports, but in order to get one your record clearly needs to be clean.
*Featured image from SkyPixels, via Wiki Commons
TWIC Card FAQs
Q: What do I do if my TWIC card is lost or stolen?
A: You can obtain a replacement for $60.00 . Visit the Universal Enrollment Services website or call (855) 347-8371, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET, or visit an enrollment center to request a replacement TWIC® card.
Q: Does the TSA protect the privacy of my TWIC card information?
A: Yes. To ensure your privacy is protected, your data is encrypted, stored and transmitted securely using methods that protect the information from unauthorized retrieval or use.
Q: Can my employer take my TWIC card from me?
A: No.TWIC cards are the property of the TSA. There is an exception however. An employer needs to retrieve a TWIC card from an alien if their work visa has expired. The employer is required to return the card to the TSA. Law enforcement, TSA or U.S. Coast Guard personnel may also confiscate a TWIC if used in conjunction with a crime.
Q: Is there a list of TWIC card office locations?
A: Yes. Here is a full list of TWIC card office locations in the U.S.