Airport retail and security clearance
April 6, 2005 10:34 PM   Subscribe

This summer, I plan to work at a retail store in an international airport (in the US). What is the procedure to get security clearance for a job like this?

It would be past security, in a terminal, but without any access to the nitty-gritty of the airport hub. What can I expect them to do? FBI background check? Drug tests? Psych test? It's not that I have anything to hide, but these things always make me really nervous.
posted by MostHolyPorcine to Law & Government (2 answers total)
As a (US) governnment contractor, I have had a Secret clearance. On the other hand, I have no experience with working retail inside an airport (although I have done volunteer work at LAX) but I imagine the people who do work in terminal shops are made to pass through the metal detector on their way to work, like any passenger. It is a source of irritation to me that the TSA is oblivious to the people they're checking -- everybody's treated the same. Seems to me that if you have something like a TS, since the government's already gone to lot of trouble of verifying your character, you should be waved through an express line at the security checkpoint, with minimal hassle; but different governmental entities are involved, and the one could care less about the other. Therefore, even though a passenger has a DoE or DoD clearance, to get into this new "Trusted Traveller" program (or whatever TSA is calling it) will involve starting from scratch, with a whole new application. -- and those in that program will still have to pass through a metal detector.

Some confuse a background check with a clearance -- the latter definitely involves the former, but having passed the former doesn't mean you've received the latter. Depending on who's granting the clearance, the FBI may be responsibile for doing background checks, but for me, being a contractor, that chore was farmed out to DISCO, the Defense Investigative Service Company, another contractor. I'm guessing that companies which insist on background checks for their retail workers (many of whom are also required to pass psych and drug tests, these days) hire some private-detective organization to do this.

My recommendation, for acquiring your desired information: find somebody who's already working where you'll be, and ask them what they had to undergo. Anybody here work at the airport?
posted by Rash at 9:11 AM on April 7, 2005

I briefly worked in an airport bookstore post-Sept. 11, same situation as you: in the terminal, past security. Once I was hired, one of the managers took me up to the security offices and I filled out a fairly standard looking application form. They did want SSN, DL #, etc., but that was to be expected. Then I was fingerprinted and had a head-shot taken for my badge, and the manager handed over their end of the paperwork and the $70 badge deposit. (I think it was a deposit, anyway; doesn't really matter as I think generally the employers foot the bill for it.)

The background check took about 3-4 days to come back in my case. I'm told it can take a week or so for some people. I don't know who they ran it with, but I assume they were mainly ensuring that I didn't have a criminal record. Once that was done, I was issued my badge, and that was it. No psych test, no drug test.

I know that people with higher security clearances (e.g., people who work out on the tarmac) also had to have their fingerprints scanned for a biometric reader, but I don't know what additional screening they went through. Your experience will probably be similar to mine. A possible benefit to all this: you'll learn quickly how to dress and prepare to get through security as fast as possible, since you'll be doing it every day.
posted by Aster at 7:04 PM on April 7, 2005

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