After you have submitted your ESTA application online, it often takes only a few minutes for it to be processed. So you could have a reply very quickly – but it can also take much longer. It is, therefore, very risky to wait until the day of your departure to the United States to apply for ESTA because there is no guarantee that your application will be approved before you leave.
The official waiting period is 72 hours – but that is provided that the authorities aren’t struggling to cope with large numbers of applications or they do not pick up some or other issue with your application that they wish to pursue further.
There is nothing that stops you from submitting an ESTA application as soon as you make the decision to embark on a trip to the United States. You might just save yourself a lot of unnecessary trouble.
How can I check the current status of an ESTA application?
If this is an individual application, you need to visit the ESTA homepage and choose Check ESTA Status from the menu. Then select Check Individual Status.
You will be asked to provide the following information:
- Application Number
- Date of Birth
- Passport Number
Alternatively, you can enter the following:
- Passport Issuance Date
- Country of Citizenship
- Passport Expiration Date
In the case of a group application, visit the ESTA homepage and also choose ‘Check ESTA status’ from the menu. Then proceed by clicking ‘Check Group Status’.
You will be asked to provide the following information:
- Group ID
- First name
- Family name
- Date of birth
- Email address
You must also provide the group “point of contact”. If you don’t know the Group ID, you can choose the relevant menu option to retrieve it.
What are the possible responses I can get to my ESTA application?
There are three potential outcomes:
This is the outcome you have been hoping for. It means the authorities have approved your ESTA travel authorization under the WVP (Visa Waiver Program), and you will now be allowed to embark on a trip to the US. The system will show confirmation that the application has been approved, and there will also be a receipt of payment notice showing the total amount charged to your credit or debit card or Paypal account.
An approved ESTA does not guarantee that you are going to be allowed to enter the United States. The final authority here is the CBP (Customs & Border Protection) officer at your port of entry to the US.
Travel not Authorized
The name says this: you will not be allowed to proceed with your journey to the US under the WVP or Visa Waiver Program. It does, however, not mean that you have been completely prohibited from traveling to the US. You might still be able to apply for a visa successfully. As long as you remember that this will take much longer than applying for ESTA approval, so you are most likely going to have to adjust your travel plans.
If you decide on the visa route, you can get more information about the process of applying for a US visa at the website of the United States Department of State.
Getting this response means that your ESTA application has been placed under review because the authorities were not able to make an immediate determination. Getting this response is not an indication that there were adverse findings. You will most likely still get a decision within 72 hours. Just relax, wait 72 hours, and then come back to check your ESTA status. When you return, ensure you have all the relevant information (passport number, application number, birth date, etc.) to check your ESTA status again.
Something went wrong, and I didn’t complete my ESTA application. How can I complete it later?
Luckily that should not be too much of a problem. Simply return to the ESTA website, log in, and choose Continue Existing Application from the menu. You will then have to retrieve your semi-completed ESTA application by providing either your Application Number, Date of Birth, and Passport Number or your Passport Issuance & Expiration Date and Country of Citizenship. Once you have successfully retrieved the application, you can proceed where you left off the first time.
I made a mistake on my ESTA application. How can I correct it?
The ESTA site makes it possible for all applicants to review their data before they submit the application form and to make the necessary corrections. Before you submit the form, the system will also ask you to confirm the passport number. If you made a mistake when replying to any of the eligibility questions, you should click on the link that says ‘CBP Info Center’ at the bottom of every page.
Once you have submitted the application form with the necessary payment information, however, you can no longer change any of the following fields: country of citizenship, passport number, date of birth, and the country where the passport was issued.
If you make a mistake with any of these, you will have no choice but to submit another application and pay the relevant fee.
Can I submit an ESTA application if I have not yet finalized my travel plans?
Yes, confirmed travel plans are not compulsory at the time when you apply for an ESTA. You will, however, need to have a point of contact in the United States.
Even though the authorities do not require you to have specific travel plans, it is, nevertheless, recommended that you should already have an address in the US where you intend to stay. If you plan on visiting more than one location, you don’t have to enter the rest, just the first one. If you do not yet have a complete address, it is sufficient to enter the name of the location or the hotel where you will be staying.
If you will be in transit, you should answer yes to that question in the form’s Travel Information part.
My application was rejected. How can I find out why?
The ESTA program has been carefully developed by the Department of Homeland Security to make sure that only those people whose visit to the United States would represent a security or law enforcement risk or who do not qualify to travel to the US under the VWP (Visa Waiver Program) are denied a travel authorization.
Although there is a link to the DHS TRIP (Travel Redress Inquiry Program) website on the ESTA website, there is no way to be sure that a redress request via TRIP will help to resolve the issue, particularly if the reason for you being regarded as ineligible remains in place.
US consulates and embassies will not be able to provide any information about why your ESTA application was unsuccessful, and neither will they be able to resolve the matter.
They will, however, be able to help if you decide to apply for a non-immigrant visa instead. This is the only way in which an applicant whose ESTA application was unsuccessful could still be allowed to visit the United States.