The TSA (Transportation Security Administration) requires extensive background checks for personnel before they are permitted to access restricted areas in and around airports. These checks became more rigorous after September 11th, 2001 to close any security gaps that might make it possible to compromise the safety of an airport or airplane.
TSA background checks have also been updated since the terror attacks of 2001 in response to various incidents and security breaches. In 2015, the TSA announced updates to its personnel background checks after discovering a baggage handler had been smuggling firearms aboard commercial flights.
A TSA background check is extremely rigorous and includes the following items:
- Fingerprinting and fingerprint processing to check against FBI criminal databases and FBI terrorist watch lists
- Felony and misdemeanor criminal searches at the county, state, and federal level
- Checks of Federal Aviation Administration records to verify pilot licenses, medical certificates, and more
- Air carrier record reviews to ensure personnel have gone through proper training processes
- Searches for drug- or alcohol-related crimes or incidents dating back two years
- Driving history checks in search of past motor vehicle violations, license suspensions, or other red flags
- Social Security Number validations to check for fraud and verify a candidate’s current residential address
- License or certificate verifications to make sure the candidate is qualified to work in a TSA-approved capacity
- Workers compensation history to see if the candidate or employee has a history of workplace accidents, injuries, or settlements
- Reference checks to verify information provided by the candidate or employee
In addition to these checks, the TSA announced in 2015 it would start using “real-time, recurring background checks” to keep tabs on existing personnel. These checks help the TSA catch the latest charges and convictions on an employee’s record.
The 2015 rule change also means airline and airport personnel would have to go through standard TSA security checks when flying as passengers. Previously, TSA employees could bypass airport security, even if taking a personal flight.