TSA Announces TWIC Extension Option

On June 15th, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) TWIC website announced a forthcoming option for many holders of the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) to extend the expiration date of their TWICs pending implementation of the US Coast Guard’s long-awaited Final Rule on TWIC reader requirements.  The website announcement includes links to an EED TWIC Overview and Frequently Asked Questions, a Policy Bulletin (which is also posted on the USCG National Maritime Center website), and an Exemption Notice scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on June 19th.

Effective August 30, 2012, US nationals who held a valid, unexpired, and unrevoked TWIC that expires on or before December 31, 2014, will be able to apply for a three-year “extended expiration date” (EED) TWIC.  They may do so by calling the TWIC Help Desk (1-866-347-8942), which will confirm their eligibility, and order an EED TWIC.  TSA recommends doing this at least 30 days before the expiration date of one’s existing TWIC.  The EED TWIC should be available for pickup and activation at a TWIC enrollment center within ten business days.  The fee is $60.00, payable either by credit card over the phone when ordering, or by cashier’s check or money order when picking up.  The EED TWIC will expire three years after the expiration date of the worker’s original TWIC, which must be surrendered when picking up the EED TWIC.  To pick up their EED TWIC, either by appointment or on a walk-in basis, individuals will have to present “a government-issued photo identification to verify that they are the authorized TWIC holder.”  Apparently, holding the TWIC itself (with embedded digital photograph and biometrics) is insufficient verification. (While TSA’s list of acceptable IDs includes an unexpired TWIC, it’s on List B, which requires the production of two IDs.)

This “one-time temporary extension” is apparently TSA’s effort to get in front of Congressional pressure to extend TWIC expiration dates pending the TWIC reader rule.  The most recent expression of this pressure was in Section 206 of H.R. 4251, the SMART Port Security Act that was passed by the House Committee on Homeland Security June 6th and is awaiting consideration by the full House.  Whether an extension that includes requirements to pay $60 and to make a visit to an enrollment center is what the Congressmen concerned really have mind remains to be seen.  H.R. 4251 is worded in terms of “any” TWIC issued before its enactment “shall not expire.”  The TSA approach does solve some technical issues, however that simply declaring all TWICs don’t expire would not.  For facilities and vessels using TWIC as a simple photo ID card, and thus required to visually check TWIC expiration dates, it provides a card that has not expired on its face.  For those entities already using TWIC readers, it provides a card that will work in readers past the original card expiration date, whereas the chip on the original TWIC would expire on that date, preventing it from working with the reader.  Although the EED option is only available to “US nationals” (US citizens, American Samoans, and Swains Islanders), Congress probably won’t mind that Lawful Permanent Residents and Non-resident Aliens have to go through the regular TWIC renewal process since there has been concern that TSA hasn’t sufficiently tied TWIC expirations to holders’ immigration status.  Additionally H.R. 4251’s extension would only last until June 30, 2014 (or full implementation of the TWIC reader rule, if earlier), whereas the expiration date of EED TWICs would range between about autumn 2015 and the end of 2017.

The EED TWIC will work just like a regular TWIC, so there is no need to modify any current access control procedure.  Regulatory requirements on TWIC holder to report disqualifying arrests and convictions and changes in immigration status also remain in force.  What TSA has done is a rather ingenious bureaucratic sleight of hand to avoid the time a rule making would take.  The Exemption Notice will, starting August 30th, exempt eligible individuals (US nationals who held a valid, unexpired, and unrevoked TWIC that expires on or before December 31, 2014) who go through the “Approved Procedures” (as described above) to obtain an EED TWIC from the requirements of 49 CFR 1572.23(a) and (a)(1) and 49 CFR 1572.501(d).  The first regulation establishes the expiration of a TWIC at five years after issuance or issuance of a credential based on a comparable threat assessment that was used in lieu of a TWIC threat assessment to issue a TWIC.  The citation of the second regulation is a little stranger as it establishes the $60 fee for replacing a lost, stolen, or damaged TWIC.  I would have thought that TWIC holders applying for an EED TWIC would be exempted from paying the standard cost of a TWIC established through 49 CFR 1520.501(b) .  I suppose the theory is that you are being allowed to pay $60 to replace a TWIC that is not lost, stolen, or damaged.

While the new EED TWIC policy may be seen as a commendable effort to respond to Congressional frustrations with the TWIC Program as it relates to reader requirements, TSA is clearly not, at this time, making any effort to yield to pressure to relax the requirement that TWIC applicants in general make two trips to an enrollment center, first to apply and enroll and then to activate and pick up.  Section 205(b) of H.R. 4251 would require DHS to “reform the process for the enrollment, activation, issuance, and renewal of a TWIC to require, in total, not more than one in-person visit to a designated enrollment center” within 270 days of enactment.  Although the Bill would allow an exception for “cases in which there are extenuating circumstances, as determined by the Secretary, requiring more than one such in-person visit,” those pushing this provision would not be pleased if the Secretary determined that the policy of complying with the standards for issuing federal IDs constituted “mitigating circumstances” applicable to all TWIC applicants.

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