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What is a TWIC Card and How Do You Get One?

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Key Takeaways

  • A TWIC card grants unescorted access to secure maritime areas and vessels.
  • Required for various maritime industry workers, including port and ship personnel.
  • Application involves security check, fingerprinting, and fee; valid for 5 years.
  • Enhances port and vessel security by limiting access to vetted individuals.

What is a TWIC Card?

The TWIC card, or Transportation Worker Identity Card, is a security measure mandated by the Maritime Transportation Security Act.

The Transportation Security Administration issues this card under the Department of Homeland Security or DHS.

This card grants authorized personnel unescorted access to secure maritime and vessels in the US.

It’s an identification form that allows workers to access docks, ships, ferries, warehouses, and customs offices.

Who Needs a TWIC Card?

This card is essential for various maritime industry workers.

  • Mariners with a Merchant Mariner Credential or MMC issued by the US Coast Guard.
  • Coast Guard personnel who do search and rescue missions. These include on-call responders.
  • Port facility employees who need access to the secure areas of the port, terminals, and other facilities. These include cargo handlers, tugboat operators, warehouse managers, customs officers, personnel involved in vessel maintenance and repair, and administrative workers.
  • Other maritime workers who work on passenger and cargo vessels like longshore workers who handle loading and unloading cargo. These also include workers who operate forklifts, trucks, and trailers.
  • Truck drivers who pick up cargo from ports.
  • Maritime security staff who protect cargo, passengers, and crew.
  • Most cruise ship personnel, although some guest relationships or housekeeping positions don’t have this requirement.

The Issuance Process

The TSA conducts a security threat assessment to determine eligibility for a TWIC card.

This includes a background check and applies to US citizens and permanent residents, refugees, and holders of some visas who can apply for this card.

People should provide their personal information and fingerprints. Then, they pay a fee to have their information processed. Once approved, the TSA issues a 5-year TWIC card, which requires renewal.

The TWIC card renewal process takes less time but requires paying almost half the fee of the original card.

This card makes someone eligible to access secure locations. But, the facility or vessel security officer has the final decision, as they might have additional security requirements.

How Does the TWIC Card Work?

The TWIC card utilizes a combination of features for maximum security. These personal and technological features aim to verify a person’s identity and determine if they’re eligible to access secure maritime facilities.

An embedded chip is a crucial component of this card. It’s a tamper-resistant microchip that stores the cardholder’s information. These include name, age, photo, and biometric data like a fingerprint.

For this card to work, Maritime facilities and vessels have to install TWIC readers. These contain fingerprint scanners that verify the holder’s identity.

How Do You Use the TWIC Card?

Using this card facilitates work and guarantees that only authorized personnel can access secure locations.

When a person needs to access a vessel or facility, they will present the card to the reader. The reader uses near-field communication or NFC technology to establish a secure connection with the microchip in the card.

The reader retrieves the biometric data and personal information from the card.

At the same time, the cardholder should place their finger on the scanner. The scanner captures a real-time shot of their fingerprint to send all the information to a secure database.

This database compares the stored fingerprint from the card with the real-time fingerprint. If it’s a match, the person can access an authorized location.

The Application Process

Obtaining a TWIC card involves several key steps.

  1. Check for eligibility before you apply for a TWIC card by checking with your employer’s security department.
  2. A person must pre-enroll online and enter all the required information for their TWIC card by heading to the TSA TWIC page and following the instructions.
  3. Enter your zip code to locate the nearest TWIC center to schedule your appointment.
  4. Submit your application, and you’ll receive an email with your appointment details. Highlight the documents that you need to bring to apply for your card.
  5. Arrive at the designated time and provide proof of identification and social security number. You’ll also sit for a digital photograph and be fingerprinted.
  6. Pay the fee using your debit or credit card, a company check, or a money order, although it might take more time. Cash and personal checks aren’t accepted.
  7. Establish your Personal Identification Number or PIN.
  8. You’ll receive an email that instructs you to activate your TWIC card using the PIN you specified. Processing time is usually between 30 and 45 days, but you can check the status of the application online using the information in the email.

The Importance of the TWIC Card

In 2002, the Maritime Transportation Security Act directed the US Department of Transportation to develop advanced security measures at ports, maritime vessels, and other secure maritime locations.

The TWIC card was designed as a direct response to this recommendation.

The TWIC card plays a vital role in safeguarding American maritime infrastructure, locations, properties, and personnel. It ensures that thoroughly checked personnel have access to secure areas of facilities and vessels.

All the checks done before and during the application process minimize and even eliminate the risk of infiltration of terrorists and criminals.

Since ports and waterways handle a significant portion of US trade, this card ensures that only authorized personnel can access these facilities.

Knowing that access is restricted discourages criminal attempts like theft, smuggling, and sabotage.

This program streamlines operations within the maritime industry by having a standardized system for identification and access.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a Non-US Citizen Get a TWIC Card?

Yes, if you have permanent residence in the US. You can also apply for this card if you’re a holder of certain visas, but you’ll have to provide other documents to have your application processed.

How Long is a TWIC Card Good For?

This card is valid for five years from the date of issuance. After this period, you’ll have to renew your card.

What is the TWIC Card Renewal Process Like?

You’ll have to visit an enrollment center and provide your expiring card, proof of identification, and proof of eligibility for work in the US. You’ll also pay the renewal fee.

What Happens if a TWIC Card is Lost or Stolen?

You can request a replacement card by visiting the nearest enrollment center or calling 1-866-DHS-TWIC or 1-866-347-8942. You’ll receive an email for payment details and get an update within two weeks.

Final Thoughts

The TWIC card is essential for most people working in the maritime industry, as it grants them access to secure facilities and vessels. It eliminates the risk of unauthorized access and reduces the potential of threats like theft and smuggling.

If you plan to work in the maritime industry, consider obtaining a TWIC card. You’ll find more information about this card on the TSA’s website and in our other detailed posts.

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