The causes for a refusal of your ESTA and the solutions

Apply for your ESTA online now and get online help to avoid a possible future refusal.

Apply for an ESTA online
ESTA denied

Have you recently applied for an ESTA electronic travel authorisation to travel to the United States and been denied? If so, you're probably wondering why your application was denied and whether there are any solutions to help you complete your travel plans. In this article, we will explain the main reasons why ESTA authorisation is denied and the solutions that may enable you to travel to the USA despite this refusal.

ESTA denied: Key points

  • The ESTA may have been denied due to a mistake on the form or non-compliance with the conditions.
  • If your ESTA has been denied due to a mistake, you can reapply 10 days later.
  • If your ESTA has been denied, you will be notified by email but no reason will be given for the denial.
  • If your ESTA has been denied because you are not eligible, you can apply for a visa.


Are the reasons for a denied ESTA authorisation indicated in the notification email?

Firstly, and to remove any doubts you may have regarding the refusal you have received, you should know that the reason for the refusal will under no circumstances be indicated to you when you receive the notification email after submitting your application. When you request ESTA authorisation online, the response to your request is sent to you by email within 72 hours and only includes the status of your request. There are currently only three different statuses:

  • ESTA accepted or validated: This means that you have obtained authorisation to travel to the USA and have nothing further to do, as this authorisation is immediately attached to your electronic or biometric passport.
  • ESTA pending: This status is extremely rare and corresponds to special cases in which the file requires additional checks by the American authorities to determine whether or not the authorisation can be validated.
  • ESTA denied: This means that the American authorities have not granted you permission to travel to the USA using the ESTA system.

It is therefore solely up to you to determine the reasons for this denied authorisation, based on the answers you provided in the online application form. As we will see in more detail below, there are many possible reasons for this refusal and, depending on the case, these reasons may prevent you from travelling to the USA even with another type of authorisation or allow you, for example, to complete your travel plans by applying for a visa.

Apply for an ESTA online

ESTA denied for non-compliance with requirements

Let's now look at the most common reasons why the American authorities deny ESTA authorisation. At the top of the list is, of course, non-compliance with the preconditions for using this visa waiver programme.

As you know, the ESTA system was set up to simplify the process for travellers to the USA by removing the need to apply for a traditional visa. Everything is done online, in just a few minutes, with a response usually within a few hours and at most 72 hours after the request is made.  But this system only meets the needs of certain types of traveller who satisfy the following conditions:

Firstly, you must be a national of one of the 38 member countries for your ESTA to be accepted. If you are a European national, this is not a particular problem.

Secondly, you must be in possession of a valid biometric or electronic passport, the validity of which covers the end date of your stay. You will need to quote this passport number on the online ESTA application form. Most passports currently in circulation are already biometric or electronic passports. However, if your passport is older, you may not be able to travel to the USA with ESTA authorisation, as it will not be possible to link the ESTA authorisation to your passport electronically.

The length of your intended stay in the USA must not exceed a certain limit. The ESTA system only applies to stays of less than 90 consecutive days, i.e. three months. If you have indicated that your stay will be longer than this in the online application form, you will of course be denied by the authorities responsible for granting ESTAs.

Finally, the purpose of your stay in the United States may also be one of the reasons why your ESTA is denied. This electronic travel authorisation only applies to tourist or business trips. If you have indicated that you wish to travel to this country for another reason, such as to work or study, you will undoubtedly be denied.

The good news is that if you think that your ESTA has been denied for any of the reasons listed here, and therefore for failure to comply with the preconditions for access to this scheme, in most cases you can appeal by applying for a visa.

This applies in particular to nationals of countries that are not members of the scheme, with the exception of certain nationalities such as travellers from Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria. The same applies to travellers with dual nationality including one of the countries mentioned above, or who have recently visited one of these countries. Here, it will be impossible to travel to the USA and obtain any kind of residence permit, ESTA or visa, for simple reasons of internal security and the fight against terrorism.

Similarly, if you wish to stay in the USA for more than 90 consecutive days, or to work or study there, you will be able to do so by applying for a visa specific to your situation.

Finally, if you have a passport that is neither biometric nor electronic, you will also be able to apply for a visa to travel to the United States.


Other reasons why ESTA authorisation may be denied

Of course, failure to comply with the conditions for obtaining ESTA authorisation is not the only reason why your application may have been denied. We will now look at the other reasons why your application was denied.

Firstly, your application may have been denied because you have already submitted an ESTA application that is currently being assessed. For example, if you made a mistake on your first application and submitted a second form online, only your first application will be processed. In this case, you will receive a refusal for the second application and, if the mistake made in the first questionnaire is significant enough to block you, you will also receive a refusal for this application. In this case, you will have to wait at least 10 days before you can submit a new form.

It is important to understand here that the slightest mistake you make when filling in the ESTA application form could prevent you from obtaining authorisation, even if it is a simple typing error on your name or passport number, for example. This is why we recommend that you always check all your information and answers carefully before finally validating your application by paying online. It is not possible to make simple changes to this information once it has been sent, and you will have to repeat the process once you have been notified that your application has been denied.

Questions about whether or not you could pose a threat to the internal security of the United States may also be the cause of this unexplained refusal.

Another frequent reason for refusal concerns ESTA applications made after a visa application has been denied. While it is perfectly possible to apply for a visa if your ESTA has been denied if you meet the pre-requisites, a visa refusal will automatically result in your ESTA being denied. There is therefore no point in attempting this procedure if you have not succeeded in obtaining a traditional visa, in which case you should try to renew your visa application.

Finally, the last possible reason for your ESTA application being denied is what is known as an Overstay precedent. This means that you have already travelled to the United States with ESTA authorisation in the past and stayed in the country for more than 90 days when you were not authorised to do so. Failure to comply with the ESTA clauses during a previous stay will result in a ban on obtaining this authorisation in the future, even if you wish to stay in the country for less than 3 months this time. You are considered to be outside the law and are therefore no longer authorised to enter the country. Depending on the seriousness of your offence, in other words the length of time you have overstayed, this ban on entering the United States can range from 6 months to several years, or even be permanent.  Of course, you must also ensure that you comply with the other clauses of the ban, such as not attempting to work in the USA with a simple ESTA authorisation. If you are banned from entering the USA, you will not be able to obtain a visa either.


Does the ESTA guarantee entry to the USA?

Another question asked by many travellers wishing to visit the United States and who have obtained ESTA authorisation concerns the guarantee that they will be able to enter the United States with this authorisation alone. Contrary to what you might think, the ESTA does not grant you the right to enter the USA on its own. Once you arrive in the USA, you will have to pass an immigration check. A government official will check your passport to make sure that you have a valid residence permit, and will usually ask you a few questions about your stay in the United States or your background.

More in-depth random checks may also be carried out, and you may be asked to follow an officer for further questioning. As part of this questioning, your fingerprints may be taken, your luggage searched and your documents and official papers checked several times. Only immigration officials have the right to decide whether or not to allow you to cross the border, and if in doubt, they have the right, even without proof, to prevent you from entering the United States. In this case, you will have to find your own way to pay for your return flight on the same day or the next day at the latest. While waiting for your flight, you will of course have to wait in the offices of these agents or in one of the immigration cells. On the other hand, there is no guarantee that you will be able to catch a flight home the same day, and some travellers who have suffered this disappointment have had to wait a long time in these conditions. You won't be able to choose to fly to a destination other than your original one, either, as the immigration officers will book your flight directly, without informing you of the exact time or flight number. You will only be able to make a telephone call, and all your electronic devices will be kept under seal while you are detained. So make sure you do not run afoul of the law if you want your stay in the United States to go as smoothly as possible.

Of course, make sure you don't lie when you fill in the ESTA application form in order to obtain it when you know that if you are honest it will be denied.

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.


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.