Published: Jun 18, 2018, Updated: Aug 01, 2022
An ESTA application is processed instantly online and a majority of applications are approved within a minute of submission. However, there are cases where a decision on an application may be delayed by up to 72 hours. Once an ESTA application is approved, the user will be notified via their web browser or email. The approval notification will contain the application or authorization number, the expiry date of the ESTA as well as other applicant information provided at the time of submission.
A 2019 study of the ESTA processing times conducted by usa-esta.com found that 92% of applications were approved with 4 hours of application submission. The other 8% were ‘Pending’ applications and required an additional 1 to 72 hours to process. The likelihood of an ESTA application requiring over 24 hours of processing time, was approximately 5%.
ESTA application denials were also examined during the study. The probability of an ESTA application denial, or ‘Travel Not Authorized’ was approximately 2.5%. Factors most likely leading to a denial were answering ‘yes’ to any of the ESTA eligibility questions. These eligibility questions pertain to medical conditions, criminal, immigration and travel history. Furthermore, other factors influencing ESTA denial include multiple citizenships or other information inconsistent with data cross-checked on the applicant by Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Applicants that are denied an ESTA may still be eligible to apply for a U.S. visa.
Factors influencing delays in processing were often related to technical issues experienced by the CBP systems or by issues with payment processing, which may be the result of an applicant’s selected payment method or by the systems utilized by CBP to process payments. Applicants are thus advised to check the status of their ESTA applications if they have not received an update on their application within 24 hours of submission.
Additionally, if there are ESTA website problems then there will be a greater likelihood of experiencing delays in the processing of an ESTA application. These website issues are typically resolved within 4-8 hours yet applicants are advised to apply early to avoid unexpected issues.
If you hold a passport from a visa waiver country such as the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand or other Western European Country, you may be eligible to obtain an ESTA for tourist, business, medical or transit purposes. Get started on your application, otherwise, visit the FAQ to learn more about the ESTA