When the status of an ESTA application shows as pending, it simply means that CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) has for some or other reason decided to review the details that you entered on your application form. They will normally notify you of their final decision regarding the application in no more than 72 hours. Otherwise, you are also able to check the status of your ESTA application online whenever you want to.
Why would an ESTA application show as ‘pending’ for as long as 72 hours?
The most common reason an ESTA application would be flagged is for further security checks. If your ESTA application shows as ‘pending’ it is a sign that further screening is required to process the application to make 100 percent sure that you do not pose an immigration or security risk. One possible reason could be that you recently traveled to Syria, Sudan, Iraq, or Iran. Your ESTA application will then be flagged by the system and a human agent will have to check whether you qualify for one of the exceptions, or whether the application should be denied.
Normally CBP advises applicants to allow 72 hours before checking their ESTA status again to see if there is an update. However, a decision is usually reached within two days (48 hours) of submitting an ESTA application. Applicants should be advised they do not have any authorization to fly or sail to the United States while their ESTA application status still shows as pending.
What happens if the CBP denies my pending ESTA application?
If someone’s ESTA is rejected, he or she will receive an email notification. They will also get instructions on how to apply for a United States visa. The response from Customs and Border Protection will typically also contain a link to a web page where they can apply for a business, transit, or tourist visa.
What happens if the CBP approves my pending ESTA application?
This is the alternative that all applicants would of course prefer. If CBP approves your ESTA application, you will get an email with your authorization number and approval notification. This email will be sent to the email address you entered on the ESTA application form. If for some or other reason, you do not get an email, you will also be able to get the authorization number online at the same URL where you normally go to check your ESTA status.
Once you have an authorization number, you will be able to embark on a trip to the U.S., except if your ESTA is later revoked for some or other reason. One possible reason could include that the circumstances around your ESTA application have changed.
What should I do if my ESTA application has been showing as pending for longer than 72 hours?
It’s very unlikely that your ESTA application will ever still be pending after such a long time. If it happens, however, your best option is to contact Customs and Border Protection to check whether a final decision has been made or not. Another alternative is to fill out a new application form and submit it.
An ESTA application with a pending status can cause distress in the lives of travelers who are ready to embark on a trip to the United States. This is due to the uncertainty about whether or not they will be permitted to enter the U.S. A traveler without an approved ESTA will not be allowed to embark on a commercial flight or sea vessel to the U.S.
There is only one way to avoid a situation where you might be forced to change your travel plans at the last moment: apply for an ESTA as early as possible to make sure that, if there is a delay in getting it approved, you will have enough time to wait for a decision, or should it be necessary, to submit a new ESTA application.
Around 24 hours before your departure to the U.S., you should check your ESTA status for the last time to make sure that some unforeseen circumstance hasn’t caused things to change and that your ESTA authorization is still valid.
At this stage, we would just like to remind you that, even if the worst happens and your ESTA approval is rejected or later revoked, you should still be able to apply for a U.S. visa. You should prepare for a circumstance like this by applying for an ESTA as soon as possible after you decided to travel to the United States.