Having your ESTA initially approved and then denied at a later stage can be a harrowing experience, particularly if this happens at the last moment before your departure. Many business trips and holidays have been ruined because of mainly one reason: the failure of the applicant to check his or her ESTA status before embarking on a trip to the U.S. If the airfares have already been paid. Hotels and other transport arrangements have been booked, and finding out at the last moment that your ESTA is no longer valid can also result in significant financial losses.
On what grounds would an ESTA be approved and denied later?
The reality on the ground is that U.S. authorities can revoke an ESTA at any given moment after they initially approve it. If new information comes to light, the CBP (US Customs and Border Patrol) can change its mind about a specific person being allowed into the United States under the VWP program (Visa Waiver Program).
They perform various security and immigration checks into an applicant’s eligibility on an ongoing basis. These checks involve a variety of immigration, law enforcement, and related databases. This means that if they find out you failed to divulge important information after having approved your ESTA application, they have the right to revoke your ESTA immediately.
How will I know if CBP has revoked my approved ESTA?
The authorities will inform you in one of several ways:
- You will get an email from CBP informing you that your ESTA application’s status has changed. If you then go to the online portal to check your status, you will notice that it says ‘Travel Not Authorized’ or ‘Revoked’. This means that you will no longer be allowed to travel to the United States with this ESTA
- You might also be notified by the commercial airline or shipping line with whom you reserved your trip that your ESTA has been revoked, i.e., it is no longer valid.
- An even worse scenario is when you arrive at the check-in counter at the airport and are notified that you no longer have a valid ESTA and won’t be allowed to board the flight.
- The worst possible scenario (fortunately, this happens very seldom) is when you are requested to leave the airplane or ship you have already boarded or refused entry when you arrive at the U.S. border because your ESTA has been revoked.
What options are at my disposal if my ESTA was revoked after initially being approved?
You will have no other option than to cancel your travel plans until you have proper authorization to enter the United States. Given the circumstances, this will typically involve applying for a U.S. visa.
What if my ESTA was revoked because I made a mistake on the application form?
If you believe that you have made an error on the ESTA application form, you should carefully review every answer to try and determine which response could have resulted in the authorization being revoked. If you find such an error, you can reapply and pay the relevant application fee again. There is, however, no guarantee that the new application will be approved.
How can I adopt a proactive approach to checking the status of my ESTA application?
In the first place, you should meticulously check and re-check all information you provide on the ESTA application form to make sure there are no discrepancies or other errors. Apart from that, you should regularly check the status of your ESTA application, even after it has been approved. Do this right until the day of your departure. Doing this will take less than 1 minute – but it can save you a lot of hassle and possibly even having to reschedule your whole trip and losing a lot of money.
My ESTA has been approved. Does that guarantee that I will be allowed to enter the US?
Technically an approved ESTA only guarantees that you will be allowed to board the airplane or ship to embark on a trip to the US. Just like an approved visa doesn’t guarantee that you will be allowed to enter the US, an approved ESTA also does not provide any guaranteed right to enter that country. It only gives you the right to embark on a journey to the US – provided it hasn’t since been revoked.
Only an official CBP officer at your point of entry into the United States has the right to decide whether or not you will be allowed to enter the country. He or she has total discretion to make that decision. That is why it is always a good idea to carry with you any documents that might help to support your reason for making the trip. If the CBP officer doubts the legitimacy of your visit and starts to question you, that could help prove that your intentions are legitimate.
What should I do if my ESTA application is rejected twice in a row?
If this happens, and you still plan to travel to the US, you will have to submit an application for a visitor visa at your nearest US consulate or embassy as well as for a ‘waiver of inadmissibility’.
The fact of the matter is that if your ESTA application is denied (or revoked later), you will not be allowed to embark on a journey to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). That does not mean that you are automatically disqualified from successfully applying for a visa. Remember, however, that a visa application can take a few weeks or months to process. This can cause major delays in your travel plans.
How do I check whether or not my ESTA is still valid?
You should visit the ESTA website to ensure your current ESTA is still valid. There it will show whether it’s valid or not – and if it is still valid, the remaining validity period. To do this, you must have the number of the original application.
If you failed to write down this number or make a printed copy of the original confirmation, you could retrieve it from the ESTA website by selecting Retrieve Application Number. You will be asked to provide your name, birth date, passport issuing country, and passport number.
The validity period of your approved ESTA will start on the same day that it was approved. If your passport is valid for two years, it’s easy to calculate the expiry date of the ESTA: it will also expire after two years. Note that it will be valid from the day on which it was issued, not from when you embarked on your first trip to the United States.
When will I have to apply for a new ESTA?
You will have to apply for a new ESTA in any of the following situations:
- Your passport expires, and you have to get a new one
- Your name changes because you e.g., got married
- Your gender changes
- You successfully apply for citizenship in a different country
- There is another significant change, for example, you become infected with a serious communicable disease such as tuberculosis, or you are found guilty of a crime
- In other cases, such as small changes in your personal information, such as your email address or phone number, you must update your current ESTA. You do not have to apply for a new one.