Understanding the TWIC Annotated B-1 Visa
A TWIC annotated B-1 visa is a visa designation granted to a visiting foreign maritime worker who requires access to secure U.S. maritime facilities.
Once granted, the foreign worker may apply for a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC), issued in the form of a biometric identification card. The annotation was necessary due to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) not including the B-1 visa on the list of TWIC-eligible immigration categories back in 2007, when the guidelines were first introduced.
These guidelines are in compliance with Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 (MTSA).
In the maritime industry, foreign nationals traveling on a B-1 visa often require access to U.S ports and ships to carry out the official duties of their positions. These positions may include port superintendents, compliance security officers, and crew managers, for example. And their duties may entail the following:
- Conducting routine maintenance
- Inspecting ships to ensure their proper condition
- Overseeing cargo movements
- Providing crew and personnel training
- Performing audits
Prior to the TWIC annotation becoming available for a B-1 visa, foreign nationals with maritime positions had a difficult time gaining access to U.S. ports, ships, and secure areas, which hampered their efficiency and caused lengthy delays.
It wasn’t until maritime industry leaders, both foreign and domestic, requested remediation from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of State (DOS) that the new process was finally enacted.
As it stands, foreign maritime workers requiring a TWIC must request this explicitly at the same time they apply for the B-1 visa. In support of their TWIC request, the application should be accompanied by a letter from the employer outlining the circumstances and situations where access to secure U.S. maritime facilities will be necessary.
TWIC applicants are well vetted. In fact, they are subject to being photographed, fingerprinted, and assessed an enrollment fee.
Additionally, they must undergo comprehensive background testing, which includes checks against international criminal databases, terrorists lists, and immigrations department records.
Even if a B-1 visa holder is successful in getting a TWIC, this does not entitle him or her to unrestricted access to any secured maritime area they desire. Indeed, the areas in which the TWIC holder may have access is totally at the discretion of the supervisor of the particular MTSA facility.
A TWIC is generally valid for 5 years from the date of issuance. When a B-1 visa expires, the TWIC must be turned in to the TSA. Furthermore, if the B-1 visa holder is terminated or quits, the employer has five business days to notify the TSA.