How to find out the status of an ESTA authorisation?

Although the response from the American authorities to an ESTA application is fairly fast, certain visitors wish to verify the status of their application before receiving the response or for another reason such as the non-receipt of an email within the response time indicated. Here therefore we provide some advice for verifying rapidly the status of your travel authorisation application.

Apply for an ESTA online
Check ESTA status

Is it necessary to verify the status of the ESTA application?

Above all, note that normally you have absolutely no need to do anything to check the status of your ESTA application. After completing and submitting this application form in the form of a questionnaire available in several languages, on a website such as our partner's, and you have paid the administrative fees, you will receive a response from the American authorities within a period of 72 hours maximum in the form of an email to the address you gave in the questionnaire.

It is therefore recommended to wait until the end of this period before verifying the status of your ESTA application. Particularly as the response will generally come through much faster than the maximum time stated.


When is it necessary to check the status of an ESTA application?

It can be necessary at certain times to verify the status of your ESTA application yourself. Here are the cases whereby you should complete this procedure:

  • If you have given an incorrect email address or you can no longer access the email inbox indicated (due to the loss of the password for example).
  • If you have not received an answer to your application by the American immigration service within 72 hours of its submission. But before you start to worry, check your spam or junk email folder.
  • If you submitted an application in the past and cannot remember if it was accepted or refused.


How to verify the status of an ESTA application:

To verify the status of your ESTA application you do not need to visit the same website where you submitted your application, you can simply visit the official website of the American authorities:

Ideally you should know your reference number to be able to access your file and verify the status of your application. It is therefore a good idea to make a note of this reference number while you are completing your application form. Once you are on the website you will see one of three different levels of status:

  • Authorisation granted: Your travel request has been authorised.
  • Travel unauthorised: Your application has been refused and you will need to resubmit an ESTA application within 10 days or apply for a traditional visa.
  • Authorisation pending: Your application is being processed and you will receive a response by email during the next few hours or days.

In all cases you should check your email inbox regularly.


Possible reasons why you have not received a response to your ESTA application:

As stated beforehand, you should receive a response to your ESTA application from the American authorities within a maximum of 72 hours following the successful submission of your form. If you have not received a reply within these three days this may be due to several reasons as follows:

The first possible reason is that you haven’t stated the correct email address when you completed your application form. In fact, the response is sent to the email address stated on your application form. If you made a mistake entering your address but have noted your file reference number then you do have the possibility of changing it free of charge.

Another thing you should check is your email inbox. Maybe the email with the ESTA information has been automatically consigned to the spam or trash folder of your email address. This is quite a frequent occurrence but something that many applicants do not consider. It is therefore important to check these folders before doing anything else.

Finally, it is possible that your application may not have been fully validated and submitted. This could occur if you did not follow the procedure to the end or your payment of the transfer and processing fees has not been completed. It is therefore important to verify that the payment has been made through your account. If this is not the case then you will need to undertake the procedure again, starting right from the beginning and ensuring that you continue through to the end including the payment using an account that has enough funds to cover it. You will then receive a response with the status of your application by email within 72 hours maximum.


What to do when the status of your ESTA indicates that your application has been approved?

If you have received an email in response to your online ESTA application notifying its approval or you have checked the status online and it has been granted then what do you need to do next?

In fact, you have nothing further to do following a positive response to your travel authorisation. This status means that your application has been approved and your travel authorisation is already digitally or electronically linked to your biometric or electronic passport. You do not even need to possess a physical paper copy of this document as the ESTA programme was conceived to work digitally. When you prepare to board a plane destined for the USA the airline personnel can easily verify that your ESTA is valid and linked to your passport so you can board freely. In the same way, when you arrive in the United States, border control and immigration officials will simply complete an optical scan of your passport and will thereby see your ESTA linked digitally to your passport.

However, although it is not strictly necessary to print your ESTA authorisation when you receive it we do strongly recommend it so you have a written record of this authorisation you can keep close to hand. It is rare that this document should prove necessary but it is always wise to be prudent. Another point, printing your ESTA authorisation enables you to know its issue and expiry dates at a moment’s notice thereby facilitating future plans for visits to the USA. It will also ensure you have the reference in case you need to make certain modifications to your application where these are possible.

If you do not own a printer or have another way to print the document yourself then certain online ESTA authorisation service providers offer a supplementary service of sending you a paper copy of your ESTA by post as well as by email. In this way you have a back up paper copy of this important document. This is the case with our partner who charges only a few Euros in postage fees for this option.


What to do if the status of your ESTA indicates that your application is pending?

If you have checked the status of your ESTA application and this is noted as being ‘pending’ or ‘under examination’ this means that your application has been received and is being examined. In this case you simply need to be patient particularly if the 72 hours maximum response time has not passed.

This status actually means that automatic verifications related to your application are currently taking place such as examining a previous ESTA application that was refused. Or, your application was one of many that were submitted at the same time and the system is momentarily overloaded which is why it is taking longer for a definitive response to arrive. A third reason is that an initial analysis of your application may require supplementary verifications by officers of the American government before your application can be approved or refused. These manual controls take extra time so your application remains as pending for longer.

People often become anxious when they obtain this status following their ESTA application online and yet all applications pass automatically through the ‘pending’ status during processing for the time it takes to examine and verify them. In the majority of cases these applications rapidly culminate in the authorisation being granted and the status is again automatically changed to that of ‘authorisation approved’. Statistically, only 0.1% of ESTA applications are refused which places the chances of obtaining your ESTA fairly high.

Generally, even the applications bearing a ‘pending’ status due to supplementary verifications are definitively processed within 72 hours maximum following the application submission. 


What to do when the status of your ESTA indicates an authorisation refusal?

If you have received a notification of refusal regarding your ESTA application from the American authorities and the status of your application is therefore negative the first thing to do is understand why you have been refused this travel authorisation.

In fact, although the ESTA programme enables you to know the status of your application at any time, in the case of a refusal it will not detail the reasons for this. It is therefore for you to discern the probable cause.

If you have simply made a mistake when completing your initial application then you need to wait for 10 days after receiving your refusal notification before applying again, this second application will probably be accepted. However if this is not the case this means that either you are not eligible for this programme (if you are a resident in a country that is not part of this programme, your passport is not valid or your visit is for longer than 90 days or it is for a reason other than tourism or a visit to friends or family) or your situation does not permit you to visit the United States (you represent a threat to this country).

In the first case you have the possibility of applying for a visa to ensure you can continue with your visit to the United States legally unimpeded. But in the second case a visa application will also probably be refused.

It can be advantageous to know that certain service providers such as the one we recommend here on our website offer a total refund of the fees related to your ESTA if your application results in a refusal. You can therefore apply for your ESTA risk free through this website.

Apply for an ESTA online

As a web writer and globetrotter with a passion for travel and tourism, I have acquired in-depth knowledge of the procedures that are essential for travellers. I help travellers to complete all the formalities required for a successful trip, particularly when it comes to obtaining a visa online. With several years' experience in this field, I'd like to offer you some valuable advice to help you discover the world with complete peace of mind.