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Does the TSA Background Check?

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Have you thought about having a job at the airport as a screener?

As a felon, you know your options are likely limited.

So, you might want to work for the TSA.

Does the TSA run background checks?

  • Does the TSA Hire Felons?
  • Understanding the Application Process
  • What to Know About the TSA Background Check
  • Does the Type of Felony Matter?
  • TSA Background Checks on Passengers?
  • What to Do if You Fail the TSA Background Check


Does the TSA Hire Felons?

Well, it depends. The TSA doesn’t have a policy against hiring felons, but that doesn’t mean they will hire all felons.

On the contrary, this may be a challenging position to get.

You will have to meet the standards TSA sets for hiring.

So, it won’t exactly be the easiest thing you’ve ever done, but there’s a chance if you are serious about it.

Let’s read on to find out more about how to do that.

Understanding the Application Process

Let’s look at the application process for getting a job with the TSA.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was created after 9/11 and oversees the security of the national transportation system.

TSA workers are considered to be federal government employees within the Department of Homeland Security. 

The most typical job for the TSA, especially at an entry level, is as a screener.

TSA screeners provide security screening at airports, railways, subways, and seaports.

They are responsible for screening passengers, luggage, and cargo to make sure they comply with all security requirements.

TSA screeners have a variety of duties.

Most important is to screen passengers in an effort to discover and stop transportation security threats.

During normal travel time there are approximately 42,750 TSA screeners in the U.S. at over 450 locations.

Additional duties are related to the security process at the airport and other transportation centers.

The minimum requirement to become a TSA agent is one year of experience in security or as an X-ray technician.

Education and experience requirements for TSA jobs vary according to the position, but for an entry-level screening position, that is the most likely place to begin with the TSA, you must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Possess a high school diploma or GED
  • Be able to pass a drug screening and medical evaluation
  • Pass a background investigation, including a credit check and a criminal check

If you meet the agency’s minimum requirements, you will complete an application on the TSA website.

You will be evaluated with a variety of assessments, which include:

  • Computer Based Test – Tests English language proficiency and X-ray interpretation aptitude
  • Color vision test
  • A structured interview to assess your decision-making abilities and the ability to work with teams and with the public
  • Drug screening
  • Medical evaluation that includes a vision screening, hearing exam, and a joint mobility exam
  • Background investigation

Yes, the TSA will put you through a lot.

But they are very serious about who they consider hiring because of the security measures in place for transportation at the federal level of government.

In addition to the factors listed above, the following could disqualify you:

  • Combined delinquent debt of $7,500 or more
  • Unpaid state or federal tax liens in any amount
  • Delinquent child support in any amount
  • Unpaid court judgments in any amount
  • Delinquent student loans in any amount
  • Criminal offenses in the past 10 years

The list grows longer, but remember the importance of the TSA and the essential screening they carry out.

What to Know About the TSA Background Check

The TSA background check is a quite thorough investigation that you must go through after you complete your application.

That is if you’re still interested in being considered by this agency.

The TSA requires an extensive background check before you can be permitted access to restricted areas in airports or other transportation centers.

You can be expected to be evaluated on these standards.

  • Fingerprint verification
  • Felony and misdemeanor criminal searches at the county, state, and federal level
  • Check of Federal Aviation Administration records to verify licenses
  • Air carrier record reviews
  • Search for drug or alcohol-related crimes in the past two years
  • Driving history checks for past motor vehicle violations and license suspensions
  • Social Security Number validation 
  • License or certificate verification to ensure you are qualified to work for the TSA
  • Workers Compensation history to look for a history of workplace accidents, injuries, or settlements
  • Reference checks to verify the information you provide

We know that’s a lot, but it is the TSA after all, and they want to keep U.S. transportation safe.

Some positions with the TSA, such as a screening job, require verification of the most recent five years of employment, education, and unemployment.

Any gap of 12 months or more must be verified.

So, if you have spent time in prison, this could prevent you from gaining a TSA job.

Does the Type of Felony Matter?

The type of felony does makes a difference.

What the TSA is doing is essentially a threat assessment on you as an applicant.

The TSA may determine you are ineligible if a security threat assessment reveals: 

  • Foreign or domestic criminal convictions
  • A conviction for a serious crime
  • Imprisonment exceeding 365 consecutive days

You may not be eligible based on security-related offenses at an airport or on an aircraft.

You might also be disqualified when lacking mental capacity or being involuntarily committed to a mental health facility. 

Then there are the felony convictions that will be problematic for you.

You will be disqualified if there is a conviction or a guilty plea or you have been found not guilty by reason of insanity for any of the following felonies:

  • Espionage
  • Sedition
  • Treason
  • Federal crime of terrorism
  • Crime involving a transportation security incident
  • Improper transport of a hazardous material
  • Unlawful possession, use, or sale of explosives
  • Murder
  • Maliciously conveying false information regarding explosives in a public place or government facility
  • Racketeering

Conviction of any of the following felonies or pleading guilty within the past seven years will also eliminate you from consideration:

  • Unlawful possession, use, or sale of firearms
  • Extortion or fraud
  • Bribery
  • Smuggling
  • Immigration violation
  • Distribution or possession of a controlled substance
  • Arson
  • Kidnapping
  • Rape or aggravated sexual abuse
  • Assault with intent to kill
  • Robbery
  • Fraudulent entry into a seaport
  • Racketeering
  • Voluntary manslaughter

You will be disqualified if you are under indictment for any of the offenses listed above.

We realize how long these lists are, but the TSA would rather be safe than sorry in making such important decisions that could affect national security.

TSA Background Checks on Passengers?

We realize that the emphasis here is whether or not the TSA runs background checks on job applicants.

However, there is another area in which the TSA could run background checks.

That is on passengers.

Airlines do not run a criminal background check on passengers since they do not have any police authority.

If a screening is done on passengers, it is under the guidance of the TSA. 

It will rely on an identity authentication and a risk assessment by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

The TSA screens passengers before they arrive at the airport using government and private databases containing personal information.

The TSA uses the information to make a risk assessment of passengers.

The air travel background check involves comparing a passenger’s name, gender, and date of birth to a terrorist watch list.  

Those passengers whose name shows up in the risk assessment may not be allowed aboard an aircraft or ship.

Threat assessments are done by the TSA in routine screening for such things as for a student pilot seeking licensing to achieve full pilot status.

They are also run threat assessments in cases of individuals seeking some type of security clearance that involves the transportation industry.

What to Do if You Fail the TSA Background Check

It’s not an easy road through the TSA background check. You won’t be alone if you don’t pass it.

You could challenge their background check results if you think there was a mistake made in yours.

Even after doing your own background check, the TSA may still not hire you based on their results or for many other reasons.

As you can probably tell, they don’t hire all felons. In fact, they hire very few with a criminal history.

If you don’t get a job at the TSA, it won’t be the end of the world.

Regardless, you can learn from this experience, and be ready for the next job application. 

There are other employers that could give you an opportunity.

Look in other areas and find a specific job that might be a better fit.

Don’t give up.

There is an employer who will give you a chance.

You just haven’t found that one yet. It takes perseverance, but you have to be persistent.

Keep on looking until you find the one that will give you an opportunity.

So what do you think about this blog post about whether the TSA runs background checks?

Have you or someone you know had the TSA run a background check?

What was that like and what happened with it?

Please tell us in the comments below.

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