The causes for a refusal of your ESTA and the solutions

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ESTA denied

Certain people wishing to travel to the United States have experienced the disagreeable surprise of seeing their stay authorisation refused following an ESTA authorisation application. As we will look at in detail later, the American authorities have the right after studying your application to refuse your ESTA authorisation application. But in such a case is it possible to still possible to visit the USA? We shall explore this in more detail here, together with offering some advice.


The required conditions for completing an ESTA application:

Above all, if you wish to benefit from the ESTA visa waiver programme you will need to fulfil all the conditions as below:

  • Firstly, you need to be a resident of one of the 39 member countries of the programme, which includes the United Kingdom, that have signed this agreement with the United States in order to simplify the travel authorisation procedure for their citizens. You will therefore need a passport issued by one of these countries before being able to apply for your ESTA.
  • It is also necessary to hold a valid biometric or electronic passport that is also valid for the entirety of your visit to the USA. Your ESTA travel authorisation will be digitally or electronically linked to this passport.
  • The length of your visit to the USA is also important as the ESTA only concerns visits of less than three months. If you wish to stay longer than three months in America then you cannot use this system and will need to apply for a classic visa.
  • Finally, the reason for your visit should not be related to working or studying during your visit. Only touristic visits, those related to business or visiting family or friends are authorised by the ESTA.

If you do not fulfil one or more of these conditions it is not recommended that you apply for an ESTA as you will surely be refused.


What are the reasons for refusal of an ESTA authorisation?

An ESTA refusal, like an acceptance, is notified to you by email within a maximum of 72 hours following the submission and payment of your application. However, you may note that no specific reason for refusal is mentioned. In fact, the American authorities responsible for immigration that study ESTA applications are the only people empowered to judge the right of those wishing to enter American territory.

However the most frequent reasons for ESTA refusal are the following:

  • Erroneous information concerning you: You should particularly take care over all information concerning you that you have entered into the application form that corresponds to that in your passport.
  • An unauthorised duration of stay: We should remind you that the ESTA authorisation is only valid for stays of less than 90 days in the United States. For a longer stay you should request a visa.
  • Nationality refused: The ESTA is only available to citizens from VWP program member countries.
  • Crimes or serious offenses: If you mention that you have a police record, in accordance with the seriousness of your offense(s) your trip to the United States can be refused.


What are the possible solutions in the case of a refusal of the ESTA?

If you still wish to travel to the United States despite a refusal from the American authorities then there are two main options.

The first solution is to wait for a period of 10 days before reapplying with a new ESTA authorisation application. You will of course need to recommence the procedure from the beginning and again pay the administration fees. It should be noted that the administrative fees paid for ESTA applications that are then refused are never refunded.

If the reason for refusal is not due to an error in the information entered concerning you or your planned stay was for longer than 90 days, the only solution is to request a traditional visa from the American Embassy in your home country. There again, there is no guarantee that you will be granted one as your visa request will also be studied carefully by the American immigration authorities that may refuse it too.


How to learn the reason for a refusal of an ESTA application?

If you have received an email notifying you of the refusal by the American authorities of your ESTA authorisation application you may notice that this refusal does not state any specific reasons. In fact, in all cases no reason is given for the refusal and you cannot therefore know why the American authorities responsible for immigration have decided not to grant you the authorisation to travel to the United States.

It is therefore up to you to look for the probable cause in the previously given list. If you can find no reason for this refusal it is pointless to contact the American immigration authorities for an explanation. It may be that you simply made a mistake when completing the online application form. In this case it is best to apply again 10 days after receiving this refusal.  


Will a refusal of my ESTA application lead to a refund of the costs and fees?

Let us conclude this article with another important question related to the refusal of an ESTA application. You are certainly aware that applying for an ESTA engenders the payment of costs and fees. But what happens if the response you receive from the authorities to your application is negative?  

In the majority of cases you will of course lose the money you paid for costs and fees which will not be refunded under any circumstances. However there are certain online ESTA service providers such as the one we recommend on our website that undertake to refund your costs and fees if you receive a refusal of your ESTA authorisation application. From a financial point of view you therefore risk nothing by completing your online ESTA application. This refund is repaid into the same account that was used to initially pay for the application online and is automatic so you don’t even need to apply for it.

The possibility of being able to obtain a refund is superb as there are other possibilities of being able to continue with your travel plans to the USA as we noted above. You can notably reapply for an ESTA online after a waiting period of 10 days following the receipt of the refusal notification if the refusal is due to a simple error you made when completing the form. In this case, the refund of costs and fees incurred can be used to pay for the new application.

In the same way, if you believe that the refusal of your ESTA application is due to the non-respect of the conditions of this programme then you can use this refund to complete a visa application. It should be remembered that visa applications, like applications for an ESTA, are also payable and are normally slightly more expensive than the ESTA.

To conclude, it is recommended that you choose a service provider that will cover you in the event of a refusal of your ESTA application thereby avoiding the loss of your money. This would be a judicious decision as it would be a way to prepare for any outcome and act positively in the case of a negative decision by the American authorities to your application. Also, take care to apply for your ESTA well in advance thereby leaving the time necessary to reapply for an ESTA or complete a visa application before your departure date.


Is it possible to obtain an ESTA authorisation following an initial refusal?

As we mentioned previously, the fact of obtaining a refusal following an ESTA authorisation application online does not necessarily mean that you cannot visit the United States using another means of authorisation such as a visa. However you also have the possibility of reapplying for an ESTA after a 10 day wait following the receipt of this refusal notification.

Of course, if you complete a new application exactly the same as the initial application then it will certainly lead to the same response, a refusal by the authorities responsible for examining the applications. But in certain specific cases this new application can result in an acceptance.

For example, if your ESTA was refused due to a simple mistake when initially completing the form there is a strong possibility that your second application may be accepted if all the conditions are respected. This can sometimes happen and it is why you should pay great attention when you complete the application questionnaire and carefully read and check all your answers before its final submission. In fact, you should know that it is not possible to simply modify your answers following a refusal of your ESTA in order to obtain it, you will need to recommence the entire ESTA application procedure from the beginning, including payment of the costs and fees.

It is equally possible that your situation has stopped you obtaining an ESTA authorisation in the past but now, following a major change in this situation, you will be in a position to obtain it. This is the case for example if you were previously refused due to your country of residence that was unacceptable for this authorisation or because your visit was for longer than 90 days or that your visit was for a non-acceptable reason. In any of these cases, and if you now fulfil all the prerequisite conditions for obtaining as ESTA, you may be granted an ESTA authorisation with a new application.

But in certain cases it is pointless to complete a new ESTA application following a refusal as you cannot under any circumstances obtain this authorisation. For example if you have obtained a refusal to your travel authorisation application due to your legal situation or state of health then there is a strong probability that this refusal will be repeated.


Does the refusal of your ESTA application enable you to obtain a visa for the United States?

Of course, those who have received a refusal from the American authorities after examination of their ESTA application can try to continue their visit through another legal means. For example you may have the possibility of applying for a classic visa if your situation is appropriate.

Visa applications can notably be appropriate for people wishing to travel to the USA and who are not a permanent resident of one of the 39 member countries of the ESTA system, or if you wish to stay there for longer than 90 days or wish to visit for other reasons apart from simple tourism.

To complete a visa application you should visit a specialist website that offers the online form and complete it as you would an ESTA. However, there are certain specific differences between an ESTA application and a visa application. For example, with a visa application you will need to upload a photograph of yourself that fulfils certain criteria defined by law. You will also need to supply certain documents and, in some cases, you may be required to meet with authorities to fully submit your application.

The time required to obtain a visa is longer than for an ESTA so we recommend that you apply well in advance to ensure your plans run smoothly.

Important note! If you have obtained a refusal to your ESTA this does not automatically mean you will be granted a visa. In fact, obtaining a visa is subject to certain precise rules that it is important you understand and respect. Therefore, if you are not eligible for an ESTA authorisation it may be possible that your visa application is also refused depending on the responses you have supplied in your online application form. To learn more about the conditions for obtaining a United States visa visit the American Embassy website of your country of residence which will have a list of the important information you should know and explain how to apply for a visa.

To summarise, although there are other ways to visit the USA following a refusal of your ESTA application it is not guaranteed that you will obtain a travel authorisation as this depends above all on your situation.

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Frequently asked questions

How do you know if your ESTA has been denied?

Notification of the acceptance or refusal of your ESTA authorisation is sent to you by email to the address you provided when filling in the application form and within a maximum of 72 hours. However, if you have not received this email, you can check the status of your ESTA on the official American website using your application number or your passport number.

How do I reapply for an ESTA after it has been denied?

If your ESTA has been denied and you think you simply made a mistake when filling in the online form, you simply have to reapply within 10 days of being notified of the denial. To do this, you cannot simply repeat the form you have already filled in, but will have to start the procedure again from the beginning. You will not need your file number for this.

Can an ESTA refusal be used to apply for a visa?

If your ESTA was denied because of an eligibility criterion such as a stay of more than 90 days, a non-eligible nationality or a particular reason for travel, you can of course apply for a regular visa. However, if your ESTA application has been refused because the officers in charge of the file considered that you represented a danger for the United States, you will not be able to obtain a visa.