The TWIC Card: What It Is and When You Need It

In the course of your trucking career, you may bring loads to a variety of places. However, if you need to drive to sensitive or protected locations, it's likely that you'll need to go through additional security steps or provide government identification. The TWIC card is a type of identification that allows you access to maritime facilities.

What Is a TWIC Card?

A TWIC card is a Transportation Worker Identification Credential. It is administered after a background check by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to those who need unrestricted access to maritime areas, including ports, port facilities, boats, and continental shelf facilities. This is a federal credential that is used by the U.S. Coast Guard and other transportation professionals.

Do You Need a TWIC Card?

If you need a TWIC card, your employer will likely tell you that it is a requirement during the hiring process. If your work will regularly take you to ports, government boats, and other government maritime facilities, a TWIC card will likely be required as a condition of employment. Holding a TWIC card may qualify you for more prestigious or high-level jobs.

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Getting a TWIC Card

First, you need to check your eligibility. U.S. citizens and permanent residents can apply. In addition, the TSA deems you eligible if you are a "nonimmigrant alien, asylee, or refugee who is in lawful status." Certain criminal offenses disqualify you from getting a card, including treason, terrorism, a transportation security crime, racketeering, and robbery.

The process of getting this identification card can be fairly long. From application to card pickup, the entire process generally lasts between six and eight weeks. However, government agencies recommend applying 12 weeks in advance to avoid delays.

There are two ways to apply. First, you can apply online through the Transportation Security Administration. You can also go to an application center in person and complete the entire process there. You may wish to schedule an appointment ahead of time, although TWIC card locations do accept walk-ins.

You must provide a significant amount of documentation to apply for a card. You need a passport, an enhanced driver's license, an enhanced tribal card, or a certified copy of your birth certificate. If you bring a birth certificate, you must also supply your current driver’s license. The name that you use to apply for the card must exactly match everything on the documents you provide. If your name has changed due to marriage or divorce, you must have certified documents proving the marriage or divorce.

Once your documents have been verified, you provide fingerprints and a photo. At this point, you must pay the TWIC card fee. The fee is $125.25, but you may be eligible for a reduced rate of $105.25 if you have a FAST (Free and Secure Trade) card or a hazardous materials endorsement.

During this process, you undergo a rigorous background check. If you make it through this process and get approved, you'll be notified of your TWIC card status. When the card is available, you can either have it mailed to your home address or pick it up at the application center. It is valid for five years after issuance.

Renewing a TWIC Card

TWIC card renewal occurs every five years. Since this credential gives you access to sensitive government facilities, you must undergo the same process every time you apply for a card. This includes supplying the proper documentation, filling out a new application, paying the licensure fee, and undergoing a background check. TWIC card renewal fees can be paid via credit card, money order, company check, or cashier’s check. You should renew well before your card expires to avoid lapses in your clearance.