ESTA application is one of the fastest ways to get into the U.S.
If you’re lucky to be a citizen of one of the USA Visa Waiver Program countries, applying for ESTA and getting into the U.S. with it will not be a problem for you.
That said, you should note that ESTA, like every other visa scheme, can be denied, too.
Yes, you read that correctly. Although designed to facilitate entry from certain countries, the VWP is not a guaranteed ticket into the U.S. People’s ESTA sometimes gets denied.
In fact, there are so many of them.
If you think you can just walk into the ESTA website, submit your ESTA application, and get approved, then you have been misinformed. This is no straightforward route at all.
In this post, we will discuss the reasons people’s ESTA visa gets delayed/denied.
What is ESTA?
Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) is a Visa Waiver Program that lets citizens of the countries listed below enter the U.S. for business or tourism.
Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom
As a valid ESTA holder, you’re qualified to travel to the U.S. anytime within a two-year validity period for a maximum of 90 consecutive days. Ninety consecutive days, in this case, include weekends, holidays, and all of that.
Is ESTA a visa?
Many people mix ESTA up for visas, but that’s not true. ESTA is not a visa. In fact, the closest it gets to being called a visa is to be called a permit.
So, yes, ESTA is a form of permit.
As we earlier pointed out, ESTA is a product of the US VWP, which means it is a waiver for people looking to enter the U.S. quickly.
Who can apply for an ESTA?
As long as you’re a citizen of one of the countries listed above, you can apply for ESTA. After submitting your ESTA application, you will have to wait for up to 72 hours to get a response on your ESTA status.
Note that you can only apply for ESTA if your purpose is traveling business or tourism-related. Or if you need to make a stop in the U.S. en route to another country.
ESTA status check
As we said, an ESTA application normally takes up to 72 hours to generate a response. In this period, while you’re waiting to hear from the ESTA officials, it’s possible to check the status of your ESTA application.
You can do that by visiting your data page on the ESTA application website. Normally, you can expect to find three kinds of responses on this page.
This is the message you’ll see on your ESTA profile page after your permit has been granted.
In cases where your ESTA application cannot be automatically processed, maybe due to some doubts in your documents, ESTA officials will leave your application pending. This is saying that they need more time and special attention to determine whether to grant or deny your application.
Travel not authorised
This is the message you get when your ESTA has been denied. If you get this on your profile page, just know that the ESTA officials have conducted all the checks they need and have come to the conclusion that you’re not fit to enter the U.S.
Usually, mistakes are the biggest culprits here. They’re the key reasons why people’s ESTA application gets denied.
To make matters worse, when you get ‘Travel Not Authorised’ in your email, you won’t be briefed on why your application has been denied. This makes it difficult to even know what to address the next time you reapply.
But like we said, mistakes are usually the biggest culprit. So, when your ESTA is denied, the first thing to do is to reflect on the information you provided during the application to see whether no stone was left unturned.
- Did I answer the questions well
- Did I omit any section of the form
- Did I not give enough detailed information
- Did I make a mistake somewhere
Answering these questions can help you understand why your application has been denied.
Common mistakes people make while applying for ESTA
Still on the subject of ESTA pending or ESTA denial, here are some mistakes people make while completing their ESTA application.
- Providing conflicting information
Is the date of birth on your passport the same as the one you inputted while filling out your ESTA form? If there’s even a slight mismatch in this, it can cause your application to be denied. Besides date of birth, other sources of contradictory information include name arrangement, occupation, parents’ name, social media status, etc.
- Skipping sections
The ESTA application form has some optional sections. Although optional, these spaces are there for you to provide additional information to back up your purpose of travel.
If the ESTA official isn’t convinced by your application or can’t find helpful backup info on the optional pages, he may have to deny your visa.
- Thinking they can’t do it all by themselves
If you’ve never applied for ESTA before, you’ll likely make mistakes when filling out your first form. It’s advisable to hire an ESTA specialist agent to prevent this.
Other reasons your ESTA application could be pending/denied
Besides making mistakes in the form, an ESTA can also be denied on the following grounds:
- You have spent time recently in countries like Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Syria, Sudan, North Korea, Libya, and Yemen.
- You have dual citizenship with countries like Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Syria, Sudan, North Korea, Libya, and Yemen.
- You pose a health threat to the U.S. (Syphilis and Tuberculosis).
- You have existing terrorism or criminal record.
- You have overstayed your visit to the U.S. before.
What to do if your ESTA application is pending or denied
Normally, you should get a response from the ESTA team 72 hours after applying. However, if your ESTA status is still displaying ‘Pending’ after this period, you should contact the official ESTA authorisation service.
In contrast, if your ESTA is denied outright, you must contact the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to find out why.
Common ESTA questions
Before arriving at a final decision, ESTA officials will have weighed all the information you provide. Some of this information is provided by answering the following questions correctly.
1. Ever been charged for a crime that led to a serious damage to property or serious harm to another person or government authority?
How to answer: Reply appropriately. If you have been arrested/convicted, then let them know. If not, feel free to check the NO box.
2. Have you ever possessed, used, or distributed illegal drugs?
Quite similar to #2 above. You should answer appropriately.
Mind you; you should know that ESTA officials have access to police records across many European countries. If you lie about any of your status and they find out, not only will your ESTA USA be denied, but you risk getting banned from entering the U.S.
3. Ever been involved in terrorist activities, espionage, sabotage, or genocide?
Answer appropriately. YES, if you seek to engage in or have been involved in such activities. NO, if that’s not the case. Answer appropriately
4. Do you plan to seek employment in the U.S., or have you had a previous employment in the U.S.?
This is to determine whether you’ve worked or stayed illegally in the U.S. before. Obviously, you know what their decision will be if you answer YES to this question.
5. Have you ever been denied a U.S. visa before?
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