Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Easy TWIC'ins

As I promised in my previous post, here is a quick report on progress to get my TWIC. I began by using the Internet to 'Pre-Enroll', and to make an appointment at the closest TWIC enrollment center. All of this is done in conjunction with renewing my USCG Masters license.

The TWIC center was easy to find, in part because the Internet offers a "map it" link when making an appointment. I arrived a few minutes early, and was given a simple questionnaire to fill out; basically some Yes/No check boxes about past criminal activity.

After a brief wait, I was escourted to a table with a nice lady who began by collecting the $132.50 fee. Payment with credit card is encouraged. NO CASH is accepted. The receipt says you just paid Lockheed Martin. So, now we know who the sub-contractor is.

Now, here is where the Pre-Enrollment comes in. When you finished pre-enrolling online, you were instructed to print out a single page that has your name and a large bar code printed on it. You bring that page to the TWIC center with you. They scan your page, and all of information about you that you entered on the internet is now right there. Your name, address, SSN, date of birth, etc, just zip right up on the screen. This saves time, as the nice lady doesn't have to type all this in again; she just shows you the info on a computer screen, and you confirm that it is correct.

Now, you get electronically fingerprinted. No more messy ink pads. They take a lot of prints, but it only takes a few minutes to do.

Finally, you sit for a quick digital photo (presumably this photo will appear on your actual TWIC card). No smiling allowed. No really, you are not allowed to smile for the TWIC photo. If you don't like the first photo, ask them to take another. I blinked on my first try, and she took a second one.

That it. the whole process at the enrollment center only took 10 minutes. Perhaps this is because its all run by a private company and not government employess.

One reminder to you, these folks are very serious about your identity and proof of citizenship. A current US Passport is the only document you need here, but if you don't have one of those, be sure you check the list of acceptable documents.

So, now I wait a few weeks while the TSA and DHS calculate the likelyhood that I intend to blow something up, and then they call me and I have to go back in person to pick up my TWIC. That is the one unavoidable objection to this entire process; you have to make two trips to the TWIC center. For me, its a two hour drive each way. For some of you, it will probably be worse.

Once I finished there, I went over to the USCG Regional Exam Center to file my license renewal application. They had to do three things: take my money ($95.00), take my fingerprints, and check that I had filled out my paperwork properly. Total time at REC: about 1.5 hours.

At both stops, I inquired about how this process might be streamlined for professional mariners. And if there were plans to perhaps join the expiration dates of TWICs and licenses.....mostly I received blank stares and polite shurgs in reply.

DEADLINE NOTE: The deadline for getting TWIC'ed is Sept 25, 2008.