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The causes for a refusal of your ESTA and the solutions

Apply for your ESTA online now risk free, obtain useful online assistance to avoid a refusal of your application but in the case of a refusal you will receive a refund of costs and fees paid.

Have you recently completed an ESTA electronic travel authorisation application online to visit the United States and received a refusal? In this situation you may wonder why your application was refused and what are the possibilities left open to you to continue your travel plans to the USA. In this article we shall explain the major reasons for a refusal of this ESTA travel authorisation and the existing solutions that could enable you to visit the USA despite this refusal by the American authorities.


Are the reasons for an ESTA refusal indicated in the notification email?

Firstly, in order to dispel all doubts that you could have regarding a refusal you have received you should know that the reason for a refusal is never indicated when you receive the notification email following your application submission. In fact, when you apply for an ESTA online, the response is sent to you by email within 72 hours and only gives the status of your application. There are three possible different statuses and these are:

ESTA approved: This means that you have been granted the authorisation to travel to the USA and have nothing further to do as this authorisation is immediately digitally linked to your electronic or biometric passport.

ESTA pending: This status is rarely seen and generally concerns certain particular cases whereby supplementary verification is required by the American authorities to determine if an application can be accorded or denied.

ESTA refused: This means that the American authorities have not granted you the authorisation to visit the USA with an ESTA.

It is therefore entirely up to you to determine the reason for the refusal according to the responses that you have given on your online application form. As we shall examine later on in more detail, there are numerous possible reasons for a refusal and, depending on the situation, these reasons can bar you from entering the USA even with another type of travel authorisation or they could allow you to continue with your travel plans by applying for a visa.


The refusal of an ESTA due to the non-respect of the programme conditions:

Let us now pass on to the most frequent reasons that lead to a refusal of an ESTA application by the American authorities. At the head of these reasons we of course find the non-respect of the existing conditions that need to be fulfilled to have the right to use this visa waiver programme.

You are surely aware that the ESTA programme was implemented with the objective of simplifying the procedure for people wishing to visit the USA by avoiding the need to apply for a classic visa. Here, everything is completed online in just a few minutes with a response that is generally sent in the few hours following the application submission within a maximum of 72 hours. However, this programme was created uniquely to satisfy the requirements of those who meet the following conditions:

Firstly, it is obligatory that you are a permanent citizen of one of the 38 member countries of this programme for your ESTA application to be accepted. If you are from one of the European countries such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, France or Switzerland then this will of course not be a problem for you.

Secondly, you should hold a biometric or electronic passport that is valid at the time of your application and for 6 months after the end of your visit. You should indicate the number of this passport on your ESTA online application form. The majority of passports currently in circulation are already biometric or electronic. However, if your passport is older then it may be possible that you cannot visit the USA with an ESTA authorisation as this cannot be linked electronically or digitally to your passport.

The length of your planned visit to the USA should also not exceed a certain time limit. In fact, the ESTA programme is only for a visit of less than 90 days, or three months. If you have indicated that your visit will be for longer on your online application form then of course you will receive a refusal from the authorities responsible for studying your ESTA application.

Finally, the reason for your visit to the United States could also be one of the causes for a refusal of your ESTA travel application. This electronic travel authorisation programme is only applicable to those wishing to travel to the United States for business or tourism. If you have indicated that you wish to stay in this country for another reason such as working or studying then you will certainly obtain a refusal from the American authorities.   

If you think that your ESTA application has been refused due to one of the reasons above, therefore the non-respect of the programme’s applicable conditions, then the good news is that in most of these cases it is still possible to apply for a visa.

This particularly concerns citizens of countries that are not members of this programme with the exception of certain countries such as Iran, Iraq, the Sudan or Syria. This is the same for travellers that hold double nationality including one of the countries that we have just mentioned or you have recently visited one of these countries. In this case it will be impossible for you to visit the USA as you will not be able to obtain any type of travel authorisation, either a visa or an ESTA, for simple reasons related to homeland security and the fight against terrorism.

In the same way, if you wish to stay for longer than 90 days in the USA or work or study then you have the possibility of applying for a specific visa relating to your situation.

Finally, if you have a passport that is not biometric or electronic then it will still be possible for you to apply for a visa to travel to the United States.


The other reasons for a refusal of your ESTA authorisation:

Of course, the non-respect of these existing conditions when applying for an ESTA authorisation is not the only reason that can lead to a refusal of your application. Here we will examine other reasons for a refusal.   

Firstly it is possible that this refusal is due to you having already submitted an ESTA application. If you made a mistake for example when completing your initial application and consequently submitted a second application then only your initial application will be processed. You will therefore receive a refusal of your second application and if the mistake made is sufficiently important a refusal to your initial application as well. In this situation you will be required to wait for the customary and obligatory 10 days after the refusal notification before submitting a new ESTA application. 

It is important here to understand that the slightest mistake made when completing the ESTA application form could stop you from being granted this travel authorisation, even just a typing mistake with your name or passport number. This is why we strongly recommend that you carefully check all your information and responses to the questions before definitively submitting your application following the online payment. It is in fact not possible to proceed with a simple verification of your information once you have submitted your application; you will need to complete the entire procedure again after receiving a refusal notification.

Concerns related to whether or not you represent a threat to the homeland security of the United States can also be the cause of an unexplained refusal of your travel authorisation. For example if you are listed as a security risk in your home country then it is logical that your right of entry onto American territory is refused. In this case of course you will not be able to obtain any other form of travel authorisation to the USA such as a visa.

Another frequent reason for a refusal concerns an ESTA application that has been completed following a visa application that was denied. In fact, although it is entirely possible to apply for a visa following an ESTA application refusal if you fulfil the required conditions, a refusal of your visa application will automatically lead to a refusal of an ESTA application. It is therefore pointless to try this procedure if you cannot obtain a classic visa, in this situation you should reapply for a visa.

Finally, the last possible cause for a refusal of your ESTA application concerns what is commonly referred to as an ‘Overstay’. This is when you have already visited the United States using an ESTA authorisation and you ended up staying in the country for more than the 90 days authorised by an ESTA. The non-respect of the ESTA conditions in the past will result in a future denial of this travel authorisation even if you are certain that the visit currently being planned will not exceed the 90 days or three months limit. This is because you are considered as being in breach of the ESTA programme conditions and therefore no longer authorised to enter the country. Depending on the seriousness of your infringement, or the amount of extra unauthorised time you spent in the country, this entry ban onto American territory can last from 6 months to several years, or even definitively. Of course, you also need to respect the other conditions of this programme such as not working in the USA using a simple ESTA. In the case whereby you are banned from entering the USA you will also not be able to obtain a visa.


Does an ESTA guarantee entry into American territory:

Another question that is often asked by people wishing to visit the United States that have obtained their ESTA travel authorisation concerns the guarantee of being able to enter American territory with just this travel authorisation. In fact, and contrary to what one may think, holding an ESTA does not automatically guarantee you the right of entry into the USA. Once you arrive at the United States you will have to pass through immigration. A border agent will inspect your passport to ensure that you have a valid travel authorisation and they may ask you some questions concerning your visit to the United States, or relating to your past.

Random and more meticulous verifications may also occur and it is therefore possible that an agent requests you to accompany them in order to pursue a more detailed examination. This may include the taking of fingerprints, a baggage search, and a thorough verification of your official documents and papers. Only immigration agents have the authority to authorise you entry or refuse it and if in doubt the latter may, even without proof, stop you from entering American territory. In this case you will be obliged to pay for a return flight the same day or the following day at the latest. While awaiting your flight you will have to remain in the offices of these agents or one of the immigration service cells. However, it is not guaranteed that you will be able to fly back home the same day and certain travellers have reported being held for quite a while under these conditions. It is also not possible to fly to another destination other than that of your original departure airport as it is the immigration agents that reserve your flight and they may not inform you immediately of the flight number and time. You will only have the opportunity of making a single telephone call and all your electronic communications devices will be under seal while you are detained. It is therefore highly recommended that you do not fall into a disagreement with the law if you wish your visit to the United States to prove an enjoyable experience.

Of course, it is primordial you do not lie when you complete the ESTA application form in order to try and obtain it when you know that you would be refused if you told the truth.


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.