In most cases an ESTA is approved within three days, often the same day. However, sometimes an ESTA is rejected. This article outlines seven reasons why an ESTA application may be rejected.
The reasons are tricky to determine
Although most ESTA applications Although most ESTA applications are approved without any problems, it may happen that an application is rejected by the U.S. immigration authorities. It can be very difficult to find out the exact reason for the rejection. The US Immigration Service, US Customs and Border Protection, never provides a reason for rejecting an ESTA application. The applicant simply receives a message that the application has been rejected.
Below you will find seven reasons why an ESTA application may be rejected, so that you are well prepared if you wish to apply for an ESTA when travelling to America in the future.
1: You have answered a security question withʼYesʼ
In addition to the general questions about the traveller, the ESTA form also asks some so-called security questions. The purpose of these 9 questions is to prevent undesirable persons from travelling to America. Among other things, it asks whether the traveller has ever been convicted of a crime. In order to receive an approved ESTA, all 9 questions must be answered truthfully with ʼNoʼ. If even one question is answered with ʼYesʼ, the ESTA will automatically be rejected. Even if this was by mistake.
If you have (accidentally) answered a security question with "Yes", there is usually little point in submitting a new application. The new ESTA application will be rejected anyway. Even if you answer all security questions with ʼNoʼ this time. The American immigration authorities are very strict about this.
2: You did not indicate your second nationality
In order to apply for an ESTA, the applicant must state whether he or she has, or has ever had, a second nationality. The latter sometimes causes problems. It sometimes happens that travellers are unaware that they have a second nationality. Each country has different rules regarding nationality. In China, for example, one always loses the Chinese nationality when acquiring another nationality. But one cannot legally lose the Greek or Moroccan nationality, for example, even when acquiring another nationality.
It is important to know which rules apply to you. If you have a second nationality, but do not indicate this on the ESTA form, your ESTA will often be rejected.
3: You apply with an invalid passport
The passport you use to apply for the ESTA must be valid. It is possible that you have lost your passport at some point. If you report a passport as missing, it will officially become invalid. Even if you have not yet taken a new passport into use. This is done through an electronic alert that is visible to immigration systems worldwide. If you later recover your passport and try to apply for an ESTA using it, the application will be rejected. Please check in advance to ensure that you are applying with the correct passport.
4: You have copied the passport data incorrectly
It is very important that you enter your passport details correctly when submitting an ESTA application. An ESTA application can be rejected if mistakes, no matter how small, are made when copying the passport data. It is also possible that the ESTA is approved, but cannot be used because it has not been correctly linked to your passport. If you see that you have indeed made a mistake when entering the passport data, you can try to submit a new application, this time with the correct data. Unlike other errors, such as answering a security question incorrectly, filling in the correct passport details may result in the second application being approved.
5: US immigration authorities suspect that you have no intention of leaving the country again
An ESTA is valid for two years, you may stay in America for a maximum of 90 days. However, it sometimes happens that people do not travel back after the ESTA validity period has expired. They then stay in the USA illegally, for example for economic reasons. This leads to many problems with the American authorities. If it is suspected that a person will not leave the US after the maximum duration of validity of the ESTA has expired, the application will be rejected. Travellers who state that they do not have a job are at greater risk of rejection.
6: Your personal data accidentally appear in the databases of US security agencies
The security questions in the ESTA application form relate, among other things, to a possible criminal past. Only if you answer all these questions with ʼNoʼ can you apply for an ESTA. However, it is possible that your surname, contact person or address in the United States corresponds to data in the criminal databases of US security agencies. For example, if someone with the same last name has once been convicted of a crime, it may be rare that the ESTA system will also flag your name. It may also be the case that the address you enter was once used for a crime. In such cases the ESTA application will be rejected.
7: You have published problematic social media messages
In the ESTA form, every traveller is asked to fill in all social media profiles that he or she has had in the past five years. If the US immigration authorities notice that there are problematic posts on one or more profiles, this may lead to problems with the ESTA application. This could include messages glorifying terrorism or other crimes. If the U.S. Immigration Service determines that the traveller is a risk based on these messages, the ESTA application will be rejected.
Rejected for no apparent reason
The U.S. Immigration Service reserves the right to reject an ESTA application without providing a reason for doing so. It is possible that you have followed all the rules, but that the application will still be rejected. There is little you can do about this. It is always possible to submit a new application, but there is a good chance that this will be rejected again.
It is even possible that an ESTA application is initially approved, but is later withdrawn. In some cases, travellers only find this out at the airport, which leads to major problems. Although there is not much you can do about this, you can limit the damage by checking the website of the U.S. Immigration Service before departure to ensure that your ESTA is still valid. The current status of an approved ESTA can be checked online at any time, thus avoiding surprises at the airport.
My ESTA has been rejected, how can I proceed?
You cannot appeal the decision of the US Immigration Service to reject your ESTA application. This is stated in the approval statement on the ESTA form. Submitting a new application is usually also pointless. If an ESTA has already been rejected, it is very likely that future applications will also be rejected, even if all the details are correct.
If your ESTA has been rejected, you may still apply for a visa to travel to America. However, the visa application process takes longer and is more expensive than applying for an ESTA, partly because you are required to visit the consulate for an interview.
Take note: this news article about the ESTA for the USA is more than one year old. It might contain outdated information and advice, and no rights can therefore be derived from this article. Are you going on a trip soon and do you wish to do know what rules currently apply? Read all about the up-to-date information about the ESTA for the USA.