The TWIC Program

An Overview

The Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) was introduced through the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 (MTSA, but pronounced MITSA) and is issued through the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). It provides proof of a comprehensive federal background check for people requesting unescorted access into a marine terminals, US flagged vessel, USCG credentialed mariners, and outer continental shelf facilities.

Each TWIC card is full of security features and ways to identify a person. Each card is issued a Federal Agency Smart Credential Number (FASC-N) that uniquely identifies each TWIC. The TWIC has a barcode, magnetic stripe, smart chip, and NCF capabilities. On each TWIC smart chip contains encrypted vital personal identifying information like full name, DOB, and biometric information.

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The Purpose of the TWIC

The TWIC was brought to life to allow for maritime entities to allow people unescorted access on secure facilities. During the application process for the TWIC, the applicant undergoes an extensive federal background check. A TWIC holder has passed this background check, allowing the maritime entity to know that there is little risk to letting the TWIC holder on the facility. The TWIC background check looks at:

  • FBI criminal databases and FBI terrorist watch lists
  • Felony and misdemeanor criminal searches at the county, state, and federal level
  • Drug or alcohol-related crimes
  • Driving history checks for violations, license suspensions, or other red flags
  • Social Security Number validations to check for fraud
  • License or certificate verifications to make sure the candidate is qualified to work in a TSA-approved capacity
  • And more

After passing these background checks a maritime facility can be reasonably sure that the person requesting access does not pose a threat to the facility or maritime transportation infrastructure.

What can disqualify a person from holding a TWIC?

From the TSA directly:


An applicant will be disqualified if he or she was convicted, pled guilty (including ‘no contest’), or found not guilty by reason of insanity for any of the following felonies regardless of when they occurred:

  • Espionage or conspiracy to commit espionage.
  • Sedition or conspiracy to commit sedition.
  • Treason or conspiracy to commit treason.
  • A federal crime of terrorism as defined in 18 U.S.C. 2332b(g), or comparable State law, or conspiracy to commit such crime.
  • A crime involving a TSI (transportation security incident). Note: A transportation security incident is a security incident resulting in a significant loss of life, environmental damage, transportation system disruption, or economic disruption in a particular area, as defined in 46 U.S.C. 70101. The term “economic disruption” does not include a work stoppage or other employee-related action not related to terrorism and resulting from an employer-employee dispute.
  • Improper transportation of a hazardous material under 49 U.S.C. 5124 or a comparable state law.
  • Unlawful possession, use, sale, distribution, manufacture, purchase, receipt, transfer, shipping, transporting, import, export, storage of, or dealing in an explosive or explosive device. An explosive or explosive device includes an explosive or explosive material as defined in 18 U.S.C. 232(5), 841(c) through 841(f), and 844(j); and a destructive device, as defined in 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(4) and 26 U.S.C. 5845(f).
  • Murder.
  • Threat or maliciously conveying false information knowing the same to be false, concerning the deliverance, placement, or detonation of an explosive or other lethal device in or against a place of public use, a state or government facility, a public transportations system, or an infrastructure facility.
  • Violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1961, et seq., or a comparable State law, where one of the predicate acts found by a jury or admitted by the defendant, consists of one of the permanently disqualifying crimes.
  • Attempt to commit the crimes in items (1)-(4) of this section.
  • Conspiracy or attempt to commit the crimes in items (5)-(10) of this section.


Conviction for one of the following felonies is disqualifying if the applicant was convicted, pled guilty (including ‘no contest’), or found not guilty by reason of insanity within seven years of the date of the application; OR if the applicant was released from incarceration after conviction within five years of the date of the application.

  • Unlawful possession, use, sale, manufacture, purchase, distribution, receipt, transfer, shipping, transporting, delivery, import, export of, or dealing in a firearm or other weapon. A firearm or other weapon includes, but is not limited to, firearms as defined in 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(3) or 26 U.S.C. 5 845(a), or items contained on the U.S. Munitions Import List at 27 CFR 447.21.
  • Extortion.
  • Dishonesty, fraud, or misrepresentation, including identity fraud and money laundering, where the money laundering is related to a crime listed in Parts A or B (except welfare fraud and passing bad checks).
  • Bribery.
  • Smuggling.
  • Immigration violations.
  • Distribution, possession w/ intent to distribute, or importation of a controlled substance.
  • Arson.
  • Kidnapping or hostage taking.
  • Rape or aggravated sexual abuse.
  • Assault with intent to kill.
  • Robbery.
  • Fraudulent entry into a seaport as described in 18 U.S.C. 1036, or a comparable State law.
  • Violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act under 18 U.S.C. 1961, et seq., or a comparable state law, other than any permanently disqualifying offenses.
  • Voluntary manslaughter.
  • Conspiracy or attempt to commit crimes in this section.

The TWIC program has been received with varying levels of warmth across the maritime industry as a whole. Some believe that it is an unsuccessful program with too much room for fraud and fail to see value in it, while others believe that it makes ports safer and stronger. Either way, the TWIC program is here to stay for the foreseeable future. To apply for a TWIC, checkout the fees and application centers here.

Nick Seferos

Nick Seferos

Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, the maritime industry has surrounded Nick his entire life. His vision is to simplify and improve the efficiency of the maritime industry globally.
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