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Interpreting your ESTA Application Status

Travelling to the USA under the Visa Waiver Programme is a simple and convenient way to visit as a tourist or on business. UK citizens qualify under this programme, and can apply for ESTA as an alternative to the more length process of acquiring a visa.

When you apply for ESTA online, you are asked a short but thorough set of questions that will determine your application status. One way or another, you will receive the status of your application almost immediately, which is sent to the email address you provide at the time of your application. Applications are either approved or denied. 

Though the vast majority of applications are approved, a denied ESTA can be very frustrating. There are several reasons for which an ESTA application can be denied, so consider whether any of the following are relevant to you:

  • You have previously travelled to the USA and outstayed your permitted length of stay (whether on a visa or with ESTA).
  • You have travelled to the USA in the past with ESTA and engaged in authorised work during your stay.
  • You have applied to travel to the USA previously and were denied entry.
  • You answered one or more of the ESTA application questions incorrectly.
  • You included passport details for a passport that you previously reported lost or stolen (even if you then found it).

As the ESTA is particularly beneficial for its speedy process, its denial is comparatively inconvenient, as it requires considerably more red tape. Essentially, if your ESTA is denied, you must go down the traditional visa route. Visa processing times can be quite long, and for this reason we recommend applying for ESTA as early on in the travel planning process as you can (even before booking transport and accommodation).

Nevertheless, you may reapply for ESTA within as little as 24 hours following its denial. Bear in mind, however, that the first refusal will be a red flag when considering a new application, and if you answered all of the questions truthfully, there is no reason to attempt a new application. The exception to this is if your passport had previously been reported lost or stolen; in this instance, you simply need to update your passport and reapply.

Important: do not answer questions untruthfully in order to ‘cheat the system’. The application questions are chosen very specifically and are all very important, therefore if your application is denied there is certainly a good reason for it.

Of course, most applications are approved within 24 hours, thus allowing you to get on with your trip! Be sure to respect the conditions of the ESTA (particularly with regard to the duration of your stay and working in the USA) so that you can avoid any of the above problems in the future. 

Travelling to the United States? Do you have your pre-planning checklist in order? Visit our ESTA Guide for more information about obtaining your travel permit. We'd love to hear from you. Send us your comments or questions for travel assistance.