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What Is a TWIC Card?

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TWIC stands for Transportation Worker Identification Credential. As part of the Maritime Transportation Security Act, the U.S. Congress mandated this identification card to safeguard ships and facilities in secure areas of seaports. The TWIC card identifies the workers who have authorization to access these secure maritime areas without an escort.

Workers Who Do or Don't Need a TWIC

The list of occupations requiring a TWIC includes merchant marines credentialed by the U.S. Coast Guard, longshore workers, truckers entering secure port areas, employees of port facilities and anyone else who needs to enter secure maritime facilities and ships. On the other hand, cruise ship workers on foreign-flagged ships don't need a TWIC. For employees of U.S.-flagged cruise ships, a TWIC is required to access secure locations, but not for passenger areas. First responders don't need a TWIC to answer emergency calls in secure areas.

General Eligibility Requirements

Workers apply for the credential at a TWIC enrollment center when the employer notifies them that they need a TWIC. To qualify, a worker must be a citizen of the United States or have other legal immigration status and present unexpired documentation of this status. For example, a worker can qualify with a permanent resident or green card. A worker who presents a security threat or has any connection to terrorism doesn't qualify. For example, serious offenses, such as espionage, treason or murder, disqualify a worker permanently. Lesser crimes, such as arson or smuggling, disqualify a worker for seven years after conviction or for five years after leaving prison.

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Card Appearance and Contents

The front of the TWIC card features a tamper-resistant pattern of mostly blue ink and a facial photograph of the cardholder. The front also displays an integrated circuit chip, the name of the cardholder, the card expiration date and the letters "TWIC." The reverse side contains a magnetic stripe and bar code, plus printed information that includes a mailing address for lost cards. The data stored digitally in the card includes only the holder's name, card expiration date, photograph and two digital fingerprints. The fingerprints and digital photo permit biometric identification of the worker.

Using the Cards

TWIC cards permit a visual comparison of the photo and the worker presenting it and also allow several ways of accessing the digital data, including the fingerprints. For example, port officials can read the integrated circuit chip by inserting the card into a card reader or by holding it close to a contact-free reader. They can also access the digital data by swiping the TWIC card through a magnetic stripe reader or scanning the bar code with an optical scanner.

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