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The Transportation Worker Identification Credential (or TWIC) program is a Transportation Security Administration and U.S. Coast Guard initiative in the United States. The TWIC program provides a tamper-resistant biometric credential to maritime workers requiring unescorted access to secure areas of port facilities, outer continental shelf facilities, and vessels regulated under the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002, or MTSA, and all U.S. Coast Guard credentialed merchant mariners. An estimated 750,000 individuals will require TWICs. Those seeking unescorted access to secure areas aboard affected vessels, and all Coast Guard credentialed merchant mariners, must obtain a TWIC. The new measures were fully implemented on April 15, 2009. To obtain a TWIC, an individual must provide biographic and biometric information such as fingerprints, sit for a digital photograph and successfully pass a security threat assessment conducted by TSA.
The issued card (pictured right) contains computer chip, known as an Integrated Circuit Chip (ICC), which stores the holders information and biometric data. The chip can be read by inserting it into a reader or holding it near a "contactless" reader. There are also a magnetic strip (similar to a credit card) and a linear barcode on the back as alternative reading methods.
While TWIC may be implemented across other transportation modes in the future, the TWIC Final Rule, published in the Federal Register on January 25, 2007, sets forth regulatory requirements to implement this program in the maritime mode first.
The program's goals are:
Workers required to obtain a TWIC include credentialed merchant mariners, port facility employees, long shore workers, truck drivers, and others requiring unescorted access to secure areas of security-regulated maritime facilities and vessels.
Each TWIC applicant undergoes a security threat assessment. The assessment considers convictions, arrest warrants, and indictments for certain offenses and other background information. In the case of arrests that do not indicate the disposition, the applicant will be notified by TSA, and the applicant must provide TSA with written proof that the arrest did not result in conviction for the offense.
An applicant is permanently disqualified if convicted of the following felonies: Espionage, sedition, treason, terrorism,[Note 1] a crime involving a transportation security incident,[Note 2] improper transportation of hazardous material, unlawful acts involving explosives, murder, bomb threats, serious racketeering offenses, or attempts/conspiracy to commit these acts.
An applicant is disqualified for a period of time for other convictions, if the applicant was convicted in the past seven years and/or released from incarceration resulting from conviction within the past five years, for: Unlawful acts involving firearms, extortion, fraud (does not include welfare fraud and passing bad checks), bribery, smuggling, immigration violations, drug distribution/importation, arson, kidnapping, rape, assault with intent to kill, robbery, fraudulent entry into a seaport, and lesser racketeering offenses, or attempts/conspiracy to commit these acts.
In addition to criminal offenses, TSA will determine immigration status and look for records indicating mental incapacity. TSA may conduct other analyses, including searching international databases, terrorist watchlists, National Crime Information Center (NCIC), other databases, and may search to see if other extensive foreign or domestic criminal convictions exist.
In addition to the maritime sector, the TWIC may be required in the future for other security-sensitive transportation sectors, such as airports, railroads, chemical plants, and refineries. One chemical manufacturing industry representative says it's only a matter of time before the entire manufacturing industry requires workers to have TWIC cards.
The Government Accountability Office has said the TWIC program has suffered from lack of oversight and poor coordination. Delays regarding developing and implementing card reader technology have meant that for the initial period TWIC cards will not be used in card readers. Additionally, a number of organizations have complained at the financial impact the program will have on already highly regulated industries.
According to a report by the National Employment Law Project, some TWIC applicants have experienced significant delays. Specifically, many applicants that receive initial denials based on background check returns face waits of six to eight months to complete the process to obtain a TWIC. Over 10,000 applicants out of the 1.5 million port workers could not work for an average of 69 days because they had not obtained a TWIC by the implementation date.
In November, 2011, the TSA announced that approximately 26,000 TWIC cards issued before April 5, 2011 would not work when inserted into a TWIC card reader. Each card contains a Federal Agency Smart Credential Number (FASC-N), which uniquely identifies each card in Federal databases, encoded on its ICC. On the faulty cards, the FASC-N has not been fully encoded, causing the readers to view the card as an invalid card.
The agency has posted a list online with the serial numbers of affected cards. They say that they will replace the faulty cards at no further cost to the affected individual.