The Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) is issued by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) as a common identification credential for all personnel requiring unescorted access of port facilities, outer continental shelf facilities, and vessels regulated under the Maritime Transportation Security Act, or MTSA, as well all U.S. Coast Guard credentialed merchant mariners. Any person that requires unescorted access to these areas needs to apply for a TWIC card.
Transportation Worker Identification Credential
The history of the Transportation Worker Identification Credential dates back to the introduction of the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 (MTSA) which was enacted to strengthen the security of port and marine security. The MTSA legislation was introduced as a part of the security review after the incidents of September 11th.
By 2009 all workers who needed unescorted access to areas of ports or other transportation facilities regulated under the MTSA were required to apply for and obtain the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC). The TWIC card contains a tamper-resistant credential containing the worker's biometric to allow for a positive link between the card and the individual. Each TWIC card contains a Federal Agency Smart Credential Number (FASC-N) on its integrated circuit chip. The FASC-N uniquely identifies each TWIC card. When the card is read by a card reader, the FASC-N is one of the pieces of information the reader obtains from the card.
Eligibility for the Transportation Worker Identification Credential
US citizens and other workers with some non-citizen immigration statuses can apply for a TWIC card. For example, non-US workers who perform maritime services in the United States and require access to secure areas of facilities and vessels can apply for this new type of B-1 visa, specifically designed for the TWIC program.
All applicants for the TWIC card must provide biographic and biometric information, for example fingerprints, digital photograph, and successfully pass a security threat assessment conducted by TSA. The assessment considers convictions, arrest warrants, and indictments for certain offenses and other background information. Some workers can be permanently disqualified from obtaining a TWIC card if they are convicted of a crime involving a transportation security incident, or improper transportation of hazardous material, as well as more serious crimes such as murder, bomb threats, and serious racketeering offenses. Applicants who are denied a TWIC will be notified of the reason for denial and can apply for an appeal or waiver.
Some workers who apply for the TWIC card can be disqualified for a certain period of time. There are a number of offenses which are deemed less serious such as immigration violations, smuggling, and fraudulent entry into a seaport, which will disqualify an applicant for a period of time, rather than permanently.
Issues with the Transportation Worker Identification Credential
There have been some issues with the TWIC program since its inception. Initially in 2006 there were concerns from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) as to whether the TSA ha provided sufficient management of the TWIC program. The GAO believed the TSA lacked sufficient oversight as well as poor coordination with the maritime industry. The TSA addressed those issues by added program management staff and establishing monthly reviews with the martime industry. But by 2007 the GAO still found that TWIC had issues with the card readers, as well as a lack of a plan to address the cost and implementation of the program.
A further issue arose after with some of the initial TWIC cards. In November 2011 the TSA issued a notice informing card holders that the integrated circuit chips (ICC) on around 26,000 TWIC cards were improperly encoded and may not work with TWIC card readers. The issue was due to a card production system error. The number of characters in the FASC-N on some TWIC was shortened which led to card readers to not recognize the card as a valid TWIC.
In 2013 the number of cards coming up for renewal has caused a delay in the process which is leading to card owners looking at the possibility of their cards expiring without receiving a new card. This not only is a problem for TWIC card holders, but for their employers and the ports they service, as it is not possible to escort every driver that does not have a TWIC card. Employers are asking workers who have less than four months before the expiry of their cards to process the renewal to ensure continuity. Of course, this method will increase the number of renewals being received by the TSA and cause more of a strain on the process. The TSA have indicated that TWIC card holders can apply for a three year Extended Expiration Date (EED) TWIC. The EED TWIC is a one time temporary extension option intended to provide convenience to workers in advance of the deployment of TWIC readers. However, TWIC holders who are not U.S. citizens or U.S. nationals are required to enroll for a standard 5-year replacement upon expiration of their current TWIC.