Loss of Airport Access Credentials -Secured Identification Display Area (SIDA) badge

In 2015, TSA performed almost 13 million employee screenings for individuals requesting unescorted access to secured areas in airports. These credentials, called Secured Identification Display Area (SIDA) badges are necessary for everyone from pilots to janitorial workers that need regular access to areas in the airport that are behind the security checkpoint. While terrorism concerns provide the main justification for this coveted credential, the criminal history disqualifications are much more likely to affect your average applicant or employee.

If you or your client has a job that requires airport access, it is important to consider the serious consequences that could result from a conviction for a disqualifying crime, some of which could be misdemeanors in your state.

The Process

Companies that operate within the secured areas of the airport, such as airlines, food service, and merchandise vendors must have a designated “authorized signer” who initiates the background check process for new employees that need a SIDA badge or current employees that need to renew their badge. The employee fills out a badge application(s) that include questions about criminal history and identity. The employee must also present two forms of government issued ID and non-citizens must show valid work authorization. Most airports have a centralized badging office that coordinates the process.

Employees must also submit fingerprints for the criminal history check. Different airports have different procedures for submitting the fingerprints. Some will submit their own paper-based prints and some will send applicants to law enforcement agency partners for electronic prints. The fingerprints and biographical data of the employee are checked against law enforcement, terrorism, and immigration databases and the employee’s social security number is verified with the Social Security Administration.

The background check is typically completed within two weeks. If the fingerprint and name checks come back clear, the employee must then attend a security-training course. Badges are generally valid for two years.

Who is ineligible for a SIDA badge?

Individuals who are determined to pose a threat to transportation or national security are not eligible for a SIDA badge. If anything uncovered during the background check could result in ineligibility for this reason, TSA forwards the information to the appropriate intelligence, immigration, or law enforcement agency. That agency will advise TSA as to whether the employee poses a threat to transportation or national security and TSA will adjudicate the SIDA badge accordingly.

Individuals may also be ineligible because of a criminal conviction. 49 CFR 1542.209 details the list of disqualifying crimes. When applying for the SIDA, employees are asked to disclose a conviction for any of the disqualifying crimes. Individuals who possess a SIDA badge are under a continuing obligation to report a conviction for any of these crimes within 24 hours of conviction. Furthermore, the fingerprints of employees are associated with the IDENT system that performs recurring checks and automatically provides an alert to TSA if an employee is arrested and fingerprinted.

If an individual was convicted of any of these crimes, in any jurisdiction, in the last ten years, the individual is not eligible for a SIDA badge.

The disqualifying crimes are:

  • Murder.
  • Assault with intent to murder.
  • Espionage.
  • Sedition.
  • Kidnapping or hostage taking.
  • Treason.
  • Rape or aggravated sexual abuse.
  • Unlawful possession, use, sale, distribution, or manufacture of an explosive or weapon.
  • Extortion.
  • Armed or felony unarmed robbery.
  • Distribution of, or intent to distribute, a controlled substance.
  • Violence at international airports
  • Forgery of certificates, false marking of aircraft, and other aircraft registration violation
  • Interference with air navigation
  • Improper transportation of a hazardous material
  • Aircraft piracy
  • Interference with flight crew members or flight attendant
  • Commission of certain crimes aboard aircraft in flight
  • Carrying a weapon or explosive on board an aircraft
  • Conveying false information and threats (regarding threats to aircraft)
  • Lighting violations involving transporting controlled substances
  • Unlawful entry into an aircraft or airport area
  • Destruction of an aircraft or aircraft facility

Or a felony involving:

  • Arson
  • A threat
  • Willful destruction of property;
  • Importation or manufacture of a controlled substance;
  • Burglary
  • Theft
  • Dishonesty, fraud, or misrepresentation
  • Possession or distribution of stolen property
  • Aggravated assault
  • Bribery
  • Illegal possession of a controlled substance punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of more than 1 year.

Conspiracy or attempt to commit any of the criminal acts listed above

Appealing the Denial of a SIDA badge

If an individual’s SIDA card is denied or revoked based on a determination that the individual is a threat to transportation or national security, the individual will be notified in writing and has 60 days to appeal the decision. It seems that the only real grounds for appeal is an argument that the denial is based on inaccurate information, as these decisions are usually made or advised by intelligence, immigration, or law enforcement agencies who possess the adverse information.

If a SIDA card is denied or revoked based on a criminal disqualification, the individual is entitled, upon request, to receive a copy of the report that contains the disqualifying information. It is then up to the employee to work directly with the reporting law enforcement agency to correct any information that erroneously resulted in the SIDA badge denial. Note that some individuals have been denied badges because they erroneously thought they did not have to disclose a particular conviction. If you are unsure as to whether or not you must disclose a conviction, it is highly recommended that you speak to an attorney that is intimately familiar the nuances of sentencing law in your state, before you fill out the SIDA application.

There are no waivers for either disqualification, only an opportunity to correct inaccurate information.

If you are in possession of a SIDA badge or plan on having a career in aviation and are accused of a crime, it is advisable to speak to an attorney that understands and takes into consideration, not only the consequences of your criminal conviction, but the collateral consequences that a criminal conviction could have on your career.

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About Tiffney Johnson

Tiffney Johnson is an immigration attorney in Tucson, Arizona. Tiffney has significant experience in the field of consular "crimmigration" (visa eligibility consequences of criminal convictions), complex citizenship issues, and visa and passport policy. She also focuses her practice on O visas for performing artists and procuring national interest waivers for self-employed professionals applying for immigrant visas. Prior to law school, she served as a consular officer with the U.S. Department of State for 15 years.