What is a TWIC Card?
Some workers employed in certain industries like trucking who need ready access to marine vessels and maritime facilities are required to obtain a Transportation Worker Identification Credential, or “TWIC card.”
TWIC cards became necessary after the 107th Congress passed Public Law 107–295, the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002, to enhance security at ports after the terror attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. President George W. Bush signed the bill into law on November 25, 2002.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is the agency responsible for issuing TWIC cards after a thorough screening and background check of all applicants. The first TWIC cards were issued in 2007.
Prior to the passage of the Act, America’s ports were known to be inherently vulnerable to security breaches due to their open and exposed nature. As noted by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) for the Port Performance Freight Statistics Program in its 2023 Annual Report to Congress, the United States imported and exported almost $6 trillion in goods in 2021, the latest year for which data is currently available.
In addition to protecting our country from further terrorist attacks, this enhanced security was deemed necessary to combat criminal activities like smuggling, theft of cargo, and human and drug trafficking at the nation’s ports.
What Are the Features and Benefits of a TWIC Card?
TWIC cards are specially designed to be tamper-resistant. Their biometric features make them very difficult to be used by anyone but the authorized user, thus protecting the ports and the companies doing business with them from bad actors engaging in criminal activities or terrorism.
Below are some of the security features on the new TWIC cards:
- Holographic lamination
- Tactile printing
- Integrated circuit chips containing the photo and name of the TWIC card holder
- Dual biometric fingerprint templates
- Expiration date of the TWIC card
TWIC NexGen cards use color coding on the expiration dates to further enhance the security features.
Benefits of TWIC Cards for Companies
Shipping and trucking companies benefit from the additional layers of security TWIC cards provide. Businesses can also save money and time through TWIC card usage, as the cards eliminate the need for authorized escorts to and from the ports.
TWIC cards also streamline the transportation of goods and materials from port to business (and vice versa) because their tracking abilities eliminate much of the paperwork that can easily get industry professionals bogged down by red tape.
Benefits of TWIC Cards for Workers
For truckers, having a TWIC card is beneficial because it increases their employability, and potentially, their income. Truck drivers can apply for a Hazardous Materials (Hazmat) Endorsement. Once this endorsement is added to their TWIC card, the truckers can command a higher salary from the companies that employ them.
Another benefit of having a TWIC card is that it can be used as a secure ID when traveling. Because it is issued by the TSA, those with TWIC cards are automatically qualified to use TSA PreCheck because they have already had background screenings. TWIC cards can also be used in lieu of passports when crossing borders or traveling for leisure — another way to save time and money.
Which Industries Require TWIC Cards?
Besides truckers, the following employees may benefit from having or be required to obtain a TWIC card to start or continue working in their industries:
- Pipeline workers
- Bulk liquid handlers
- Customs workers
- Petrochemical plant employees
- Various cruise ship workers
- Employees of biomedical facilities
- Those in the aviation industry
- Industrial cleaners
- Some hospital workers
- Fire watchers
- Employees in federal buildings
Traditionally, those working in the transportation and maritime industries were the only ones who needed TWIC clearances. But over time, the industries requiring this level of security scrutiny have expanded to make the workplace and the country safer.
The expanded security programs strengthen any perceived security weaknesses across multiple industries that could jeopardize the safety of the nation or commerce.
Guide to Getting a TWIC Card
In order to get a TWIC card, you have to submit the required documentation, get your picture taken, and be fingerprinted. Once you have done all of the above and paid the fee, you then must wait for the screening process to be completed. TWIC cards can be picked up at the center where you completed your application or sent via the United States Post Office (USPO) to your home address.
If you want to check the status of your application, you can do so online.
Online Versus In-Person Application
Workers can apply online for their TWIC cards. But they can also make applications at one of the physical locations. It is recommended that applicants schedule an appointment. But walk-ins are accepted (pending any local COVID restrictions). Use this site to find the TWIC site nearest to your location.
Requirements for TWIC Cards
To qualify for a TWIC card, you have to be one of the following:
- United States citizen
- Naturalized citizen
- Lawful permanent resident
- Nonimmigrant alien
- Refugee in lawful status
Acceptable documents for TWIC card application include either the original or certified copies of the following valid documents of identification and/or citizenship status:
- United States passport (either card or book)
- Enhanced tribal card
- Free and Secure Trade (FAST) card
- NEXUS card
- Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI) card
- U.S. enhanced driver’s license (EDL)
- Global entry card
- Enhanced identification card (EID)
- Permanent resident card (I-551), aka “green card”
- Foreign passport, together with immigrant visa that has I-551 annotation of “Upon Endorsement Serves as Temporary I-551 Evidencing Permanent Residence of 1 Year”
- Re-entry permit (I-327)
All of the above must be the originals or certified copies of the originals that were issued by state, municipal, federal, county, tribal, outlying possession authorities. They must be imprinted with the agency’s official seal.
The documents you present must be in accordance with your legal name. In cases of name changes due to marriage, divorce, or other circumstances, provide either the original marriage license or its certified copy showing the name was legally changed.
In the event you are unable to provide one of the above, you may instead submit two of the following identity and citizenship status documents to establish eligibility.
- Valid drivers license or CDL from any state or US outlying possession
- Temporary driver’s license or CDL with expired license
- Expired U.S. passport (within a year of expiration)
- State university IDs
- Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC)
- Active or retired military ID card
- Native American tribal document and photo
- Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/ Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC)
The above must also be accompanied by the following secondary documents:
- U.S. birth certificate
- U.S. Certificate of Citizenship (N-560 or N-561)
- U.S. Certificate of Naturalization (N-550 or N-570)
- U.S. Citizen Identification Card (I-179 or I-197)
- Consular Report of Birth Abroad (FS-240)
- Certification of Report of Birth Abroad (DS-1350 or FS-545)
- Expired U.S. passport (within a year of expiration)
What About Background Checks?
All TWIC card applicants are subject to extensive background checks. Those submitting incomplete applications, who include false information on their applications, and those with disqualifying offenses on their records may be denied TWIC card access.
Some disqualifying offenses or conspiracies are permanent, including convictions and no contest pleas for:
- Espionage, treason, sedition
- Federal or state terrorism convictions
- Crimes involving transportation security incidents (TSI)
- Improper hazardous material transports
- Illegally using, possessing, selling, distributing, manufacturing, purchasing, receiving, importing, exporting, shipping, storing, or dealing explosives
- Threatening or conveying maliciously false information regarding lethal devices and explosives against public places or transit systems, government buildings or infrastructure
- RICO violations
Those who show up on terror watchlists, Interpol lists, and other government terror databases are also permanently barred from obtaining TWIC cards.
Other disqualifying factors include official determinations of mental incapacity, posing threats to others and oneself, legal incompetence and insanity, and inpatient psychiatric confinement.
Some criminal offenses may lead to interim disqualifications for TWIC cards for serious and violent offenses if the person was released from prison less than five years from the date they apply for their card.
Applicants who are wanted or who are under warrant or indictment by military or civilian authorities are disqualified until or unless the above are dismissed or released.
Fees & Payment
If this is your first TWIC card application, most applicants must pay fees of $125.25. But some applicants may qualify for a $93 reduced rate. Those renewing their applications in person must pay a $125.25 renewal fee, but renewing online is somewhat cheaper ($117.25).
Those who lose their TWIC cards while they are valid must pay a $60 replacement fee.
Mode of Payment Accepted for TWIC Cards
You cannot pay cash for your TWIC card. The only acceptable forms of payment for TWIC cards are:
- Certified or cashier’s checks
- Credit or debit cards
- Company checks
- Money orders
Who Is Responsible for Paying for the TWIC card?
It depends. Because it is a government-mandated requirement to have a TWIC card to work in certain industries, some companies willingly absorb the costs of TWIC cards for their employees. If you are in a trade union, your union dues may cover the costs of getting your TWIC card.
Some nonunion companies agree to pay for workers’ TWIC cards with the caveat that the employees must remain working for that company for the duration of the years the workers’ cards are valid. In those cases, should the employees quit or be terminated from their jobs, the cost of the TWIC card may be deducted from their final paychecks.
A worker may have to absorb the cost of the TWIC card. But this cost is considered tax-deductible for both contract workers who receive 1099s and employees with W-2s. Workers should ask their tax preparers where to deduct this expense on their federal income tax return.
TSA collects the applicant’s biometric and biographic information. This shall include a photo, all 10 fingerprints, the applicant’s name, birthdate, home address, telephone number; the applicant’s employer and job title.
How Long Are TWIC Cards Valid?
Unless otherwise revoked, TWIC cards are valid for five years. Due to backlogs, applications and renewals should be planned in advance. Initial approvals may take as long as a dozen weeks. Renewals may take 45 days (some longer due to COVID backlogs).
Help! My TWIC Card Got Stolen or Lost
If you lose your TWIC card or suspect that it is stolen, it is incumbent upon you to report this to both your employer and the TSA and pay the $60 replacement fee.
- How long does it take to get a TWIC card?
Plan ahead to get your TWIC card, as the application process can take as long as 12 weeks to get screened and complete the stringent background checks that are required.
- What is the TWIC canceled card list?
If you are a TWIC cardholder your card can be revoked. Your name will then be listed as canceled because you are no longer eligible under TSA regulations. Other ways to wind up on the list are losing your card or having it stolen.
- What should you do if your card is revoked?
TWIC cards are government property and must be returned if canceled.
- Can those with non-conforming gender identity and non-binary gender apply for a TWIC card?
Yes. TSA allows applicants for TWIC cards to select “Male,” “Female,” or “Another Gender” on their TWIC application.
- Can my employer confiscate my TWIC card?
No. The only way an employer can confiscate an employee’s or former worker’s TWIC card is if they are here on a work visa and it has expired.
Links to Relevant Documents
Applicants may find the below links helpful when applying or renewing their TWIC cards.