What is a TWIC Card and How to Get One?

Have you ever applied for a job position and been told that you require a TWIC card? Some positions and industries require that employees carry some form of identification to perform their duties: consider doctors, pilots, law enforcement officers, and researchers. The maritime transportation industry is one such work environment where identification in the form of a TWIC is a must-have.

This article reviews the meaning, uses, and ways of obtaining a TWIC Card while answering commonly asked questions about the topic.

What Is a TWIC Card?

TWIC is an abbreviation that stands for Transportation Worker Identity Card. It is a form of identification used in the United States to access secure maritime facilities and issued by the US Coast Guard and the United States Transportation Security Administration. Usually, a TWIC, which has a magnetized bar and computer chip, is swiped or scanned t gain access to the secured parts of the following facilities:

  • Ferries
  • Ships
  • Port customs office
  • Merchant ships credentialed by the Coast Guard
  • Dockside warehouses

The issuing bodies will usually require that an employee applicant submit to a biometric test such as the collection of fingerprints and pass a TSA-administered security threat assessment. The applicant’s biometric data is stored on the card’s chip and magnetized bar.

Who Uses TWIC Card?

Currently, more than 3,000,000 professionals hold a TWIC. This number includes not only people who work in the maritime transportation industry but also other professionals such as:

  • Coast Guard Employees – Responsible for carrying out search and rescue missions for lost travelers. They use the TWIC to gain access to and protect US ships, travelers, and cargo.
  • Maritime Security Personnel – Use TWIC to gain access to and supervise cargo loading and unloading. May require more safety and background tests than the standard applicant.
  • Longshore Workers – Responsible for cargo damage inspection and loading and unloading. They need TWIC to access and inspect cargo.
  • Cruise Ship Employees – Does not apply to personnel involved in guest services but to security staff, cargo supervisors, and ship officers. They use TWIC to access the secured parts of the ship.
  • Port Facility Employees – Custom officers, warehouse managers, and administrators, among other employees, use TWIC to gain access to their offices.
  • Truck drivers – If they drive beyond secure areas to drop off and collect cargo, truck drivers will need TWIC for access.

How to Obtain A TWIC Card

You can apply for your TWIC online on the TSA website or at a TWIC application center. Regardless of the mode of application, the process is as follows:

Application Fee

TWIC applicants must pay a $125.25 application fee or $105.25 for HME and FAST cardholders. If you are using a money order or company check, ensure it is made out for the exact amount as centers do not take cash or make refunds.

Background Check

Once you pay the fee, you will be required to present yourself for a background check. Essentially, a staff member submits your photo and fingerprints to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Criminal Justice Information Service (CJIS), which checks your criminal history records.

Proof of Citizenship

If your background check comes out clean, you must then provide proof of US citizenship. This step is done to ensure you meet the set requirements for TWIC credentials. You can prove your citizenship through a valid passport, birth certificate, driver’s license, or other TSA-approved documents.

Other Credentials

Next, check the TSA website, or ask the staff member of any other credentials that you must provide together with your application and present them.

Getting Your Card

If you meet all the requirements and are found eligible, your card can be mailed to your home address, or you can collect it at the application center. This will take some time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need a Transportation Worker Identification Credential?

Before hiring you, your employer will usually inform you if you need a TWIC for your job. They might even help you obtain it by paying the required fee and helping you submit the application. If they don’t require a TWIC but wish to improve your employability, you can get the card yourself.

What are the TWIC requirements?

The issuing body will usually check for the following when considering your TWIC application:

  • Your citizenship: Are you a US citizen, naturalized citizen, lawful permanent resident, naturalized citizen, lawful-status refugee, or a nonimmigrant alien.
  • Your criminal record: Have you ever been convicted of an illegal offense?
  • Your possible threat to security: Can you pass a threat assessment?
  • Your identity: Can you prove your identity and residency?

The TSA also has a list of acceptable documents, such as your driver’s license, passport, or birth certificate, that you must present during your application. You can access it on their website.

How do I apply for it?

You can apply for a TWIC online on the TSA website or at a TWIC application center. The process begins when you submit your papers and proceeds as follows:

  • Your identity and documents are verified.
  • Your photo and fingerprints are taken and recorded by a staff member
  • The staff member conducts a background security check
  • If you qualify and meet the requirements, your card is mailed, or you collect it from the center.

How much does TWIC cost?

The current one-time application fee for obtaining a TWIC is $125.25. This figure can be reduced to $105.25 if you are a Free and Secure Trade (FAST) or Hazardous Materials Endorsement (HME) cardholder. For the reduced fee option, your TWIC will expire on the same day as your FAST or HME card.

When does a TWIC expire?

Your TWIC will expire 5 years after the issuing date, but you can renew it before expiry to ensure you don’t lose your clearance while on the job. Renewals are done online (on the TSA website) or at a TWIC application center.

Final Thoughts

Getting a TWIC Card is an official and legal requirement for employees working in the maritime transportation industry. Once you obtain your card, it is crucial that you maintain it in its initial intact condition, so you never lose your access while on the job. Doing this includes not folding, bending, or punching a hole in the card, labeling, taping, laminating it, or storing it near a magnet.

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