Dealing with ESTA Technical Problems

ESTA Website Problems

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is an online application system built to pre-screen people traveling to the US via ship or air plane before boarding. ESTA was started in the first quarter of 2019 and runs under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). With an approval rate of between 24-72 hours, ESTA is an easy way for U.S. visitors to get a travel authorization to enter the United States.

Who Should Apply?

  1. People who do not already have visitor’s visa to the United States
  2. Eligible nationals or citizens of a Visa Waiver Program county
  3. People planning to apply for a new authorization for an individual or a group of applicants
  4. People traveling for 90 days or less
  5. People planning to travel to the US for pleasure or business

ESTA Website Accessibility Issues

During the application process, however, technical issues may arise. A number of triggers could be causing the faults. Before attempting to apply, ensure that your computer meets the set configuration standards. The ESTA requirements require that the user’s internet browser must support 128-bit encryption and must be JavaScript enabled. The minimum required version of Windows is 5.0 to use the ESTA website. Your internet browser must also accept cookies. If you are using Netscape, your version has to be a minimum of 6.2.

If your configuration appears to meet the website standards, technical issues could be linked to your web browser or firewall. Should you have problems applying, check to confirm that your internet security settings are correct and that your security software is not blocking the website connection. Internet Service Providers (ISP) can also block some websites. In such a situation, you will need to contact your ISP.

ESTA Form Validation Issues

Phone Numbers

There are times when the application form does not accept the phone numbers of applicants. If you experience this problem, try re-entering your number and be sure not to include any spaces or special characters such as hyphens.

Passport Numbers

Sometimes, the systems also fails to accept passport numbers. In such occurrences, re-enter the number, being careful to avoid hyphens and spacing. Understand that the system will also not accept any special characters, including those present in names. Your name must appear as it does in the passport’s machine-readable zone (MRZ). It means the two lines comprising of chevrons and numbers at the bottom part of your personal info page.

ESTA Form Submission Errors

Should the system detect errors in any field of the submission, it will automatically reject your attempt to move on to the next page. Resolve the error and advance. At times, the system may freeze, preventing you from making your application. In these cases, the problem could be due to your browser, meaning you may need to use a different computer or web browser.

When checking your ESTA status, if you receive an application message saying there is an already existing application with a similar passport number, it means you have applied before, and the submission is still valid. The validity of an application in ESTA is usually 30 days. However, should you have any biographical information that is incorrect on the previous application, it then becomes invalid and will need to be modified.

ESTA Payment Errors

In cases where you experience a payment error, try using a different debit or credit card. Alternatively, you can also contact your bank for more information on reasons for the denied charge. You can also reattempt your application using a different web browser or internet enabled device is you continue to experience payment, or any other issues.

In that case, click continue and proceed with your application. The 2009 Travel Promotion Act proposes a fee for all ESTA applications. For every new submission, you will be charged as follows:

  1. Processing Charge: When requesting an electronic travel authorization, the application will be charged the processing charge.
  2. Authorization Charge: Receiving an approved authorization under the Visa Waiver Program will cost an additional fee which will be charged to your debit or credit card.

Should your travel authorization be denied, you will only be charged for the application’s processing. Any additional third party transaction fees paid by applicants are non-refundable.

Getting Help on Other Errors

For any other technical error, visit the CBP Q&A page to see if your problem has a resolution on the website. If you don’t find any resolution, click on (Ask Question) on the CPB INFO centre page. You are advised to write out your technical issues in English as well as include the details of your internet browsing device (e.g. laptop or smartphone) and web browser (e.g. Chrome).