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What Is Included in a TSA Background Check?

Working in the secure area of an airport is a role with huge responsibility and it is, therefore, no surprise that it also requires extremely thorough background checks. In this guide, we will give you the low down on what to expect when you apply for a job through the TSA. We will tell you how their background checks work and what information they are looking for. We will also tell you how to check your own record to give you the best possible chance of landing the job.

The Transport Security Administration (TSA) is responsible for the hiring and management of many of the personnel who work in secure areas in and around airports.

All airport jobs involve an increased level of vetting, particularly since 9/11. But because the TSA employs people who work exclusively in secure areas at airports, their checks are particularly robust.

With more than 19,700 airports in the USA, 5,170 of which are open to the public, this means that the TSA hire an enormous number of people. But if you are planning to apply for a job with them, exactly what can you expect to happen?

How does the application process for a TSA job work? How does their background checking process work? And, perhaps the question we are asked most frequently, what information does a TSA background check look at.

In this guide, we are going to tell you everything you need to know about applying for a job with the TSA, including full details of their background checks. We will tell you what information they will be looking at and also advise you on how you can check your own record to see if you are likely to get the job of your dreams with the TSA.

How does the TSA recruit staff?

The TSA advertises for all its jobs on the official US Government recruitment website, USAJobs.org. This is a specialist public sector recruitment website and the application process it uses is pretty standard.

Once you are on the site, you can search for relevant jobs. You can search by location or keyword, which can include things like job title, department, agency, job series, or occupation.

This search is likely to throw up a great many vacancies so you can then narrow things down by filtering the results through things like location, pay, agency, appointment type, security clearance level, and whether the role is open to everyone or just veterans.

Once you have found an appropriate TSA position, click on the title and you will be able to read more about the job description including things like salary, appointment type, a summary of the duties and responsibilities, and details of what qualifications and experience are required.

If you meet all the relevant requirements and are keen to apply for the position, there is a large blue Apply button on the right-hand side of the screen.

Clicking on this will ask you to log-in or create a USAJobs.org account (if you haven’t already done so). It will then guide you through all the steps involved in applying for this role. This will vary from job to job, but generally speaking, will involve submitting a resume and cover letter or application form.

If you have any problems using the USAJobs.org website, there is a really helpful ‘Help’ section which addresses all of the most common problems.

How does the TSA background check work?

Since the terrorist attacks on 9/11, the TSA has beefed up the security around its positions considerably. This includes significantly enhancing the security checks of airport workers in order to try and keep airlines safe.

This has generally proved effective although one incident in 2015, where a baggage handler was caught smuggling firearms aboard commercial airlines did see the TSA enhancing their security checks still further.

These checks are now a fundamental part of the TSA’s hiring process and because of that will generally be run at an early stage in the hiring process. This can vary from job to job but, generally speaking, the initial application process for a TSA role is likely to include a form granting permission for them to run a background check on you.

If anything does come up on your background check that they are uncomfortable with you will either be asked about this in your interview or not be invited to an interview in the first place if the offense or issue is severe enough.

If this is the case, you should be informed of the fact and provided with a copy of the background check in question. This is a legal requirement for all employers under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

What information does a TSA Background Check look for?

The question that we get asked most about TSA job applications is exactly what information will they be looking at in their background checks. The truth is that this will depend to an extent on the role.

If the job is a more senior one or involves a great level of security clearance, the vetting of applications will obviously be more thorough. But as a bare minimum, they will also look into the following:

  • Criminal Records – The TSA will conduct a full felony and misdemeanor criminal record check. This will include all criminal records held at federal, state, and county levels.
  • Fingerprints Record Check – In addition, you will also have to submit your fingerprints which will be checked against the FBI fingerprint database.
  • Drug or alcohol related incidents – the TSA will look through all records over the past two years to check you do not have any drug or alcohol-related offenses on file.
  • Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Records – Full checks will be run against FAA files to ensure that any medical certificates or licenses issued by the FAA are genuine.
  • Air Carrier Record review – Your air carrier records will be thoroughly checked to ensure you have completed all the relevant training.
    • Driving record check – Your driving history will be checked to ensure that there are no vehicle violations, license suspensions, or other red flags on your file.
  • Social Security Number validations – Your social security number will be checked to ensure your identity and check your current address and any records of fraud.
  • License and certificate verifications – All licenses and certificates will be checked to ensure you have all the qualifications you have claimed.
  • Worker’s compensation history – This will be checked to see if you have a record of workplace accidents, injuries, or settlements.
  • References – The TSA are always through in checking all references to ensure your resume and other information proved checks out.

If you get through this process and are offered a job, you can then expect to be subjected to what the TSA describes as “real-time, recurring background checks”. This is a process that involves running regular checks on existing staff to ensure that the TSA is aware of any changes in your records or new offenses on your file.

How can you check your own record?

Such comprehensive background checks are justifiable from a security perspective but for applicants, it can still be a nerve-wracking time. With such detailed background checks, even people without a criminal record can still be worried that something on their file could cost them a dream job.

If you are in that position, you are probably wondering if there is anything you can do to put your mind at rest. There is one option open to you that can help you see in advance what information is on your record and, potentially do something to get information you are worried about removed.

You can run a background check on yourself.

There are two main types of background checking sites. Professional background checking sites are used by companies and organizations like the TSA to vet potential staff. They can dig out all public records and are also compliant with all relevant laws and regulations such as the FCRA.

Public background checking sites are open for anyone to use. They can access much of the same information as professional sites but are not bound by the restrictions and legal requirements of professional sites. As a result, a public background checking site can often find out more information.

The best thing is that a public background checking site is simple and easy to use and can generate accurate information in no more than a few minutes. They are a great way to see what information is on your record. The only hard part is choosing which public background checking site to use.

Best background checking site for TSA roles

There are dozens of different background checking sites around and, inevitably, they all claim to be the best in the business. The truth is that some are much better than others. So, the question for TSA applicants is which one they should opt for.

Fortunately, we can help. Our researchers have been testing all the top background checking sites to see which are best at digging up the most detailed and accurate information.

It has been an extensive project but the results are now in and there were two sites which performed head and shoulders above the rest. We can, therefore, recommend the following sites as the top two sites to use ahead of an application for a TSA role:

1. Instant CheckMate

Instant Checkmate - Editors choice

Instant CheckMate is the fastest site we tested. Regardless of what search we ran, it was able to return results in moments, even if we gave it misleading information. These lightning-fast speeds don’t come at the expense of quality either. Its results were comprehensive and impressive with false positives an extremely rare occurrence.

Instant CheckMate has a well-designed desktop dashboard and neat mobile apps that all subscribers can access. Its final reports are simple to navigate and the customer support staff are friendly and helpful. As user-experiences go, this is up there with the very best.

Subscription rates start at $34.78 per month or $27.82 per month if you sign up for a three-month deal. This is a little more expensive than some other background checking sites, but if you need fast results, Instant CheckMate is well worth the money.

2. TruthFinder

TruthFinder - Editors choice

TruthFinder is a thorough and in-depth background checking site that is capable of digging out information on you that even you had forgotten. It’s is perhaps the most comprehensive and detailed site on the market and has a hugely impressive ability to get the right results even when fed with the wrong information.

Its results are pulled together in a detailed yet easy-to-read report. They also offer user-friendly apps and a desktop dashboard that make using their service simple and fun. Our researchers were also very impressed with their customer support which is available on a toll-free number and open 24/7.

A one-month subscription to TruthFinder is just $27.78 or you can bring it down even more to just $23.02 if you sign up for two months. If you pay a little more for their premium package, you can be sure of getting every last bit of information out there. As an all-round background checking service, TruthFinder is up there with the very best and our researchers were unanimous in their recommendation.

EXCLUSIVE DEAL: Looking for deep insight into your own public record? Try TruthFinder, one of the industry titans. Get the service with our generous reader discount.

What to do if your background check finds something

Running a background check is the best way to find out if there is anything on your record that might stop the TSA hiring you. But if your background check does return something that concerns you, what can you do about it.

In some cases, the answer will be nothing. For example, if you have a recent criminal record on file, it is impossible to hide it. Your best bet is to be upfront and truthful about it and try to explain what happened and why you are worth giving a chance too. This approach can work with some jobs, but because of the focus the TSA puts on security, you will have to make a very convincing case.

If your criminal record is older, you might be ok. Like all employers, the TSA has to comply with the FCRA and one of its rules is that you cannot consider a criminal record that is more than seven years old. Some states have made the threshold even shorter. There is still a chance that they could find out through references, social media content, or if a database has not been updated, but by law, they cannot use this as an excuse not to hire you.

There are a few other options open to you as well. Minor criminal offenses can sometimes be taken off your record if you can convince a court to seal or expunge the record. Some judgments will be wiped automatically once you have completed the necessary training courses or community works the court sets for you.

An unwelcome result on a background check doesn’t have to be the end of your employment hopes. Instead, it gives you the power of knowledge and lets you do everything possible to clean up your file and make yourself eligible for the job.


The TSA is one of the strictest employers in the USA and understandably so. The risks involved for them in hiring the wrong staff don’t bear thinking about so it is absolutely right that they vet all applicants thoroughly.

In this guide, we have explained how that application process works and also outlined the type of information their background checks are looking for. We have also shown you how to check your own records using a public background checking site and recommended the two best ones to use. We have also given you some tips on what to do if you do find a record that could be problematic.

Have you ever applied for a job with the TSA? How detailed was the background check? Did you have to explain away any records that came up? Do you have any tips for our readers on how to do this that we haven’t covered?

It is always helpful to hear the thoughts and experiences of all our readers so please do share yours with us using the comment box below.

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