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What is a TWIC card?

Truck drivers who are new to the transportation industry often ask what is a TWIC card and who needs one?

A Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) card is essential for all truck drivers who will pick up and drop off at the ports. The ports are secured by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Plus, you won’t be able to gain access without a valid TWIC card or you’ll need to be escorted the entire time. Here’s what you need to know about getting a card.

What Is a TWIC Card Used For?

The Maritime Transportation Act of 2002 requires that all people coming and going from US ports must have a TWIC card or be escorted by a port representative. Truckers are not the only ones who need the card. 

If you’ll be accessing the docks in any way, such as working to load and unload cargo, you’ll need the card for clearance. During the application process, TSA will conduct a threat analysis and full background check on the applicant. 

This security measure helps ensure that only eligible people can access the docks. The U.S. Coast Guard also uses TWIC cards to validate mariners to protect access to the waters near the docks.

Who Qualifies for a TWIC Card?

TSA limits who can have a TWIC card to ensure only essential personnel access US ports. Here’s what you need to know about qualifying for a TWIC card.


You’ll need to demonstrate that your work requires maritime access. Truck drivers do have a requirement for accessing the docks and will need TWIC clearance, but you’ll need to show proof of employment to qualify for a TWIC card.

Citizenship Status

You must be a US citizen, naturalized citizen or nonimmigrant alien, asylee, or refugee residing in the US legally. 

Background Check Requirements

You’ll need to submit to a thorough background check and provide your fingerprints and a recent photo for TSA to conduct a threat assessment. The background check analyzes both US and international databases looking for illegal acts and signs of terrorism. 

The background check can evaluate 10-28 years. If you’ve been convicted of a misdemeanor or drug possession, you’ll be disqualified. Or if you were convicted of a felony or released from prison within the last five years, your application will be rejected. 

Under no circumstances will a person who is guilty of treason, espionage, or terrorism be granted a TWIC card. Or if there are outstanding warrants or indictments against you, TSA will deny your application.

Drug Testing Requirements

You’ll also need to pass a drug test proving you have not used illegal substances recently to receive your TWIC card. 

What Is a Waiver on a TWIC Card?

Sometimes truckers do not meet the eligibility requirements for a TWIC card but they do not believe that they pose a security threat. In that case, the truck driver can appeal their TWIC application denial or apply for a waiver. Waivers can provide access to those whose application denial is accurate based on eligibility requirements, but still require access and pose no risk to the ports of entry. 

How Much Is a TWIC Card?

A TWIC card is good for five years. New applicants must pay $125.25. If you hold a valid driver’s license with a hazardous materials endorsement or a Free and Secure Trade card, you are eligible for the reduced rate of $105.25. Replacement cards cost $60. You can pay the fee with a valid credit card, money order, certified/cashier’s check or company check.

Application Process for a TWIC Card

The process for receiving a TWIC card is not simple and you’ll want to be sure you are careful and thorough in your application to avoid unnecessary delays or possible denial. Here are the steps involved in getting your card.

Online Application

The process starts with filling out the online application or visiting a TWIC application center to complete a paper form. You’ll need to include your legal name as it is shown on identification documents as well as your date of birth, social security number and contact information.

Scheduling an Appointment

You’ll then need to schedule an appointment. You can use the online appointment form or call 855-347-8371. You can also do a walk-in between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. but you might not get through the process since individuals with appointments get priority over walk-ins.

Final Appointment at TWIC Application Center

During your appointment, you’ll present the required documentation that proves your identity and citizenship. An easy way to do this is to bring a valid US passport that has not expired. But if you don’t have a passport you can also use one of these alternative documents

You’ll need to be prepared to pay the fee for your application on-site as well. Part of the appointment is getting fingerprinted and taking a photo for the TSA to use during your background check and to have on file. 

How Long Does It Take To Get a TWIC Card?

You should allow 30-45 days for the application process, though the process can take longer if you fill out the forms incorrectly or TSA finds disqualifying factors. TSA recommends that you apply for the card 12 weeks before you need it. 

The 3 Benefits of Having a TWIC Card

Although the application process has strict eligibility requirements and makes truck drivers undergo several steps to obtain the card, the benefits of becoming a cardholder can be immense. Here’s a look at the top reasons you should consider getting a TWIC card.

Saves You Time & Money

Truck drivers who do not have a TWIC card must wait for an authorized port escort. This added time can mean a loss in revenue because when you aren’t transporting goods, you aren’t earning money. The time you spend waiting for an escort whenever you deliver or pick up goods could add up quickly.

Qualifies You for TSA PreCheck

When you have a valid TWIC card, you can use TSA PreCheck since you have met the stringent background check requirements for TSA. That means that when you fly, you’ll get through security faster and with fewer requirements.

Can Be Used as a Passport

TWIC cards can be used as a passport, meaning you can carry fewer documents with you when you travel. That way you can go from picking up a load at a port to taking it across the border. That’s because the card demonstrates citizenship since you will have provided the necessary documents during the application process.

How Long Is a TWIC Card Valid for?

A TWIC card is valid for 5 years. To renew your card, you’ll need to go back through the same process as you did to obtain it the first time. The biggest difference in the process is that you’ll pay about half as much ($60) to renew your card. 

What Is the TWIC Canceled Card List?

TWIC cardholders can have their card revoked and be added to the TWIC canceled card list if they no longer meet the eligibility requirements. Or, if you report your card as lost or stolen, TSA will add it to the canceled card list. 

When your card expires, it does not go on the canceled card list. Because TWIC cards are government property, you should turn in canceled cards. However, your employer cannot confiscate the card unless the employee has an expired work visa. 

Faster, Easier Port Access

Although the application process is anything but simple, having a TWIC card makes it faster and easier to pick up and drop off loads at US ports. Plus, you’ll find other processes, such as flying or crossing the border, to be much simpler since TSA has done an extensive background check on you. And the card is good for 5 years, meaning it is a worthwhile investment. 

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