Despite what you might have read online, there isn’t any special emergency or fast track ESTA application procedure. This is irrespective of how urgent your circumstances might be. Websites advertising emergency or fast track ESTA services are misleading customers and visitors.
When should I apply for an ESTA?
Individuals who plan to travel to the United States are generally advised to submit an ESTA application more than 72 hours before traveling to the U.S. Given varying traveler circumstances, it may be difficult for people to do that. This is particularly true if the reason for their journey is an emergency.
Every ESTA application is processed by a computerized system the moment it is received by CBP (Customs and Border Protection). CBP advises it may take 72 hours to process a given ESTA application. However, because of real-time processing, more than 90% of ESTA applicants get a decision within minutes of submission.
The majority of applicants have no need to worry about speeding up the application process. This is because ESTAs are virtually issued almost immediately after submission. It is only when someone’s ESTA application needs more time than usual to be processed by CBP. This means that it could take as long as 72 hours for a decision to be reached.
Can I do anything to speed up the ESTA processing timelines?
There is no way you can speed up the processing time when your ESTA application status shows as ‘Pending’. You must to wait until a decision is made. There is also no way an applicant can manipulate the process by providing different answers to questions on the application.
The ESTA system examines the submitted data methodically and in detail. The information is also verified by comparing the answers given on the form with information from various international databases. If the built-in security checks find something that might be of possible concern, the applicant details are passed to a CBP representative who will then manually review all the answers. Once the review is completed, a decision will be made on whether or not the traveler should be allowed to travel to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program.
Fortunately, applicants whose ESTA applications have been rejected could still qualify to apply for a United States visa. The time it takes to process a U.S. visa application might vary. This is due to the appointment scheduling as well as the processing speeds among different U.S. embassies across the world.
What happens if my ESTA application is rejected?
Even if you receive the dreaded ‘travel not authorized‘ response to your ESTA application, there is hope. There is no reason why you can’t submit a new ESTA application again late. There is only one stipulation though: to be eligible to submit a new ESTA application it has to be at least 24 hours since you received the rejection notice.
If you accidentally entered the wrong information on your ESTA application you have the right to apply again after correcting your mistakes. However, if your application has been rejected once, the screening procedure from there on will be stricter than before. You should, therefore, expect to wait longer than before to receive an outcome
If you check your ESTA status online and it shows as ‘authorization pending‘ it means that your application is under review. Wait an hour or so before checking the status again.
Will I still pay an application fee if my ESTA is denied?
If your application is rejected the CBP will not refund the application fee. This is regardless of the reason for the rejection. So even if you merely entered incorrect information you will still lose the application fee. You will also not be able to get on a flight or ship to the United States.
Your only option at this stage is to submit a new ESTA application. Make sure the second time you take more care to enter the right information. Also, remember that you have to wait 24 hours before you can send in the next application. And then you will of course again have to wait for authorization approval email before you can travel to the U.S.