At a time when national security is paramount but more goods than ever before are being moved from place to place, the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) card is essential to grant authorized individuals quicker access to secure areas, and many applicants ask “How far back does a TWIC background check go?”
Since this federal background check specifically deals with the global movement of goods and people as well as restricted areas, there is a special rule involved that applicants should know beforehand.
In fact, it encompasses a number of private companies as their workforce as well. This means that some drivers are required to pass the heightened checks required for a government security clearance background check.
This full guide explains all about the TWIC background check process and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) rule that regulates the TWIC program.
TWIC Background Check Overview: TSA Rule Explained
The Maritime Transportation Security Act14 of 2002 was passed to ensure the safety and security of maritime docks, vessels, and ports. In response, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)15 established the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC)16 program in 2007 to grant authorized individuals unrestricted access to maritime facilities.9, 11, 12
Thus, longshoremen, merchant mariners, port truck drivers, and many others require a TWIC card to access secure maritime areas.3
Rule 49 CFR 1572,17 a.k.a. “The TSA Rule” requires individuals seeking a TWIC card to undergo the TSA security threat assessment (STA) in order to obtain the card and gain access to restricted areas.
Companies that have consistent business in the ports may require their truck drivers to obtain TWIC cards.12
How Long Does A TWIC Background Check Take?
How long does a background check take for a government job? TWIC and the TSA rule are federal checks, just like those used for government jobs.
The TSA background check conducted for a TWIC card is extremely thorough.12 The background check uses fingerprints to cross-reference domestic databases such as the FBI criminal database and international sources such as Interpol and terrorist watchlists.
Thus, it is probable that a TSA background check will take longer than a typical background check. Applicants without significant criminal findings may receive their results and TWIC card within ten days, while other cases may take as long as six weeks for an individual to hear back.13
How Far Back Does A TWIC Card Background Check Go?
Wondering “How far back does a TWIC card background check go?” The TWIC background check is not limited to a pre-specified lookback period, and therefore the entirety of an individual’s history may be examined for security threats.
However, most of the offenses which can disqualify an individual are “interim disqualifying offenses” which are only grounds for disqualification if they occurred in the last seven years or the individual was incarcerated for any length of time within the previous five years.
Permanent disqualifying offenses may have occurred at any point in an individual’s adult life.8 Continue reading to learn more about the differences between interim and permanent disqualifying offenses.
Steps for Getting a TWIC Card
There are several steps in obtaining a TWIC card. These include:
Step 1: Enroll in the TWIC program.
To enroll in TWIC, visit Universal Enroll18 and click the green button labeled “New Enrollment” to complete an online application. Be sure to enter personal information completely and accurately.
Step 2: Schedule an Appointment.
After completing the application, individuals are guided to schedule an in-person appointment. Alternatively, schedule by phone at (855) 347-8371.
Step 3: Visit a TWIC center in person.
Individuals must supply the required documentation and submit fingerprints and a photo.
Required documents include:
- U.S. passport or driver’s license
- Birth certificate
Step 4: Pay the application fee.
New applicant fees are typically $125.25, though discounts may apply in some cases. This fee is paid at the TWIC application center and is valid for five years. Payment can be made via:
- Credit card
- Money order
- Company check
- Certified/Cashier check
Step 5: Undergo TSA’s security threat assessment (FBI background check) to determine eligibility.
Fingerprints collected at the TWIC application center are submitted to the FBI and cross-referenced with criminal databases. International information such as Interpol and terrorist watchlists are also investigated.
Step 6: Receive notice of eligibility or ineligibility.
Eligible individuals can receive their TWIC cards via mail or directly from the enrollment center. Ineligible individuals may be disqualified due to inaccurate information on the application, criminal offenses, or outstanding warrants.11 Ineligible individuals receive an “Initial Determination of Threat Assessment” letter from TSA with instructions on how to proceed.
Step 7: Follow TSA instructions to address the “Initial Determination of Threat Assessment.”
Individuals are advised to request a copy of all materials used in making the initial determination so that they may be reviewed for errors. Workers may then file an appeal if the assessment was in error or request a waiver for accurate assessments. If the initial determination is not addressed within sixty days, it becomes a “Final Determination of Threat Assessment.”
NOTE that although the TWIC application process is fairly straightforward, it can take up to twelve weeks to receive the TWIC card, and longer if an appeal or waiver is required.
What Disqualifies You From Getting A TWIC Card? (TWIC Card Background Check Disqualifiers)
Fortunately, misdemeanor offenses are usually not sufficient grounds for disqualification from a TWIC card. Yet, there are many criminal offenses that can disqualify someone from getting a TWIC card, all of which are felony-level offenses. These offenses fall into one of three groups: interim disqualifying offenses, permanent disqualifying offenses (waiver eligible), and permanent disqualifying offenses (waiver ineligible).9
An individual may be considered ineligible due to an interim disqualifying offense if the offense occurred within seven years of TWIC application of incarceration ended within five years of TWIC application. Interim disqualifying offenses are eligible for a TSA waiver and include:9
- Weapons offenses
- Drug offenses
- Fraud and deception
- Immigration violations
- Sexual Assault
- Assault with intent to kill
- Fraudulent entry into a seaport
- Conspiracy to commit any of these crimes
An individual may be considered ineligible due to a permanent disqualifying offense no matter how much time has passed since the transgression.
Many permanent disqualifying offenses are still eligible for a TSA waiver. These include:9
- Transportation security incident
- Improper transportation of hazardous material
- Unlawful dealings in explosives
- Threat or false information concerning explosives
- Racketeering is based on a preceding permanent disqualifying crime
- Conspiracy or attempt to commit one of these crimes
Permanent disqualifying offenses which are not eligible for a waiver include conspiracy to commit or actual commitment of:
- Federal terrorism
Aside from these felony-level disqualifying offenses, an individual may also be disqualified due to inaccurate or misleading application information, a finding of criminal insanity in a court of law, or active warrants or indictments.9, 13
Can A Felon Get A TWIC Card? TWIC Background Check Requirements
It is important to know the answer to “How far back does a TWIC background check go?” to understand the implications for convicted felons who may be nervous about a background check. So, can a felon get a TWIC card? The short answer is YES, it is possible for a felon to get a TWIC card, but possible is not the same thing as easy. Most felony-level offenses within the last seven years or those with incarceration time within the last five years will be grounds for disqualification on a TWIC background check.
Additionally, some felony-level offenses which occurred over a decade ago may still result in disqualification. However, all but four of the disqualifying offenses are eligible for a TSA waiver (see section above).
Therefore, if an individual receives an “Initial Determination of Threat Assessment” letter due to a disqualifying felony offense, they may choose to pursue an appeal or waiver for the disqualifying offense within a specified time period. If successful, a TWIC card can be obtained.9, 11
TWIC Background Check vs TSA Background Check
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA)19 was established in 2001 under the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA),20 just two months after the terrorist attacks of September 11. The TSA was created to strengthen and protect the primary transportation systems in the U.S.
The TSA is well-known for its role in ensuring the safety of passenger aircraft, but it is also instrumental in securing the nation’s rails and land transportation. Thus, the TSA regulates:12
- Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC)
- TSA Pre-Check
- Hazmat Endorsement (HME)
The TSA background check or security threat assessment is used in each of these domains.2 The following sections examine the TSA Pre-Check and HME in some detail.
TSA Precheck Background Check Explained
TSA PreCheck21 is a program established by the U.S. Government which allows a streamlined, faster security check at United States airports for individuals who are determined to be a low-security risk.10 To be eligible for TSA PreCheck privileges, an individual must submit an application, partake in an in-person appointment, and pass the TSA security threat assessment which examines domestic and international criminal history to determine an individual’s risk level.10
TSA Hazmat Background Check Explained
Per the “TSA Rule” 49 CFR 1572,17 commercial truck drivers who transport hazardous materials must pass a security threat assessment to obtain a Hazardous Materials Endorsement (HME)22 on their Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). This is the same background check used for TSA PreCheck and TWIC, and similar to TWIC, the HME must be renewed every five years.5
Per the TSA Modernization Act,23 states can issue an HME to drivers with a valid TWIC without requiring an additional application and application fee. The TWIC must be verified before the HME is issued, and the HME is valid only until the TWIC expiration date.
Can You Pass A TSA Background Check With A Felony?
Considering the thorough nature of the TSA background check, it makes sense for people to wonder whether a TSA background check can be passed with a felony conviction on record. The majority of felony convictions result in a disqualification only if they occurred in the previous seven years or the individual was incarcerated within the last five years. Thus, in most cases, an individual can still pass a TSA background check with a felony older than seven years.
The most severe and security-related crimes can result in a failed background check no matter how much time has transpired.13
If an individual has a felony conviction within the last seven years on their record, there is a strong probability that the initial TSA background check will be ineligible, resulting in an “Initial Determination of Threat Assessment” letter. This initial determination letter is sent to individuals who were found ineligible during the TSA security threat screening process.
However, this is not the final say in the matter, as an individual may still appeal inaccurate record information within sixty days of the initial determination or petition for a waiver of the disqualifying offense. Some statistics indicate that more than ninety percent of waiver petitions may be resolved in favor of the individual.9
TSA Background Check Disqualifications
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA)24 has very specific guidelines on what can and will disqualify an individual on a TSA background check. These disqualifications are largely consistent across the various domains the TSA regulates.
They can include:13
- Citizenship issues
- Inaccurate or misleading application information
- Active wants, warrants, or indictments
- Violations of transportation security regulatory requirements
- A period of imprisonment (foreign or domestic) exceeding one year
- A ruling of criminal insanity or incompetence to stand trial
- Can include an involuntary commitment to an inpatient facility
- Any of the disqualifying offenses listed in the previous sections
Failed TSA Background Check? Failed TWIC Background Check? Do This
When an individual fails a TSA background check, they receive an “Initial Determination of Threat Assessment” (IDTA) letter from the TSA. The letter outlines the investigative findings which resulted in disqualification and directs the worker on the next steps. An individual who receives an initial determination letter should follow these steps to address it.9, 11
Step 1: Request a copy of all investigative materials used in making the determination.
Upon receiving the initial determination letter, the individual should evaluate the IDTA letter for any inaccuracies or confusing information. If there is cause to believe a mistake has been made, the individual should make a request to the TSA for a copy of the materials used in making the decision.11
NOTE that the TSA can take up to sixty days to deliver materials. The individual can use this time to prepare their appeals case.
Step 2: Submit an appeal to address erroneous findings in the IDTA.
Action must be taken by the individual within sixty days of receiving the IDTA to prevent the IDTA being upgraded to a “Final Determination of Threat Assessment.” Qualifying action includes:
- Requesting materials
- Submitting an appeal
- Requesting an extension
- Petitioning for a waiver
If timely action is not taken and a “Final Determination of Threat Assessment” letter is received:
Step 3: Petition for a waiver of the disqualifying offense.
Once the IDTA is upgraded to an FDTA, it is no longer eligible for an appeals process. However, an individual may still petition for a waiver. In fact, the TSA encourages workers to use the waiver process to establish that they no longer pose a threat.9
Step 4: Gather character validating materials to support the waiver petition.
During the waiver process, an individual will be required to present evidence of character change. Where applicable, some examples of useful materials include:11, 13
- A personal statement
- Documentation showing compliance with probationary terms
- Evidence of rehabilitation
- Parole officer letter
- Employer letter
- Family members’ letters, etc.
Step 5: Await TSA’s decision.
The TSA Waiver Review Board makes recommendations to the director based on the application and supporting information. The final decision should be received within sixty days of the initial request.11
In seeking to obtain a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC), many individuals wonder how far back does a TWIC background check go, and while the levels are consistent with many federal background check requirements, a knowledge about TWIC background checks and the TSA rule that governs them is helpful.