Updated: Sep 01, 2023
Getting denied an ESTA can be a disappointment and cause inconveniences for U.S. bound travelers. However, applicants still have the option to apply for a B1 Business Visa, B2 Tourist Visa or a mix B1/B2 Visitor Visa.
Why does an ESTA application get denied? There are a few common reasons why an ESTA gets denied, or "Travel not Authorized" as it is deemed by US Customs and Border Protection. A denied ESTA is most likely due to one or more of the following reasons:
On a previous visit to the United States, you overstayed beyond the amount of time allowable for your visa or visa waiver. The amount of time you can stay in the U.S. per visit is usually listed on your U.S. visa and on your ESTA approval. Overstaying on either an ESTA or a U.S. visa will jeopardize future ESTA applications and usually result in an ESTA refusal.
On a previous visit to the United States, you did not have the appropriate visa to work. This type of violation will typically result in an automatic ESTA refusal.
You previously made a request for a visa or visa waiver, and were denied entry into the United States. Applicants may or may not disclose this information on their ESTA form. Regardless, CBP will find the records of previous refusals based on the applicant's biometric data and deny the ESTA application.
The answers you provided on your ESTA application form were deemed to be incorrect once they were cross-checked with the US government systems. Providing incorrect information can usually be mitigated by submitting a new ESTA application. However, if the eligibility questions are answered incorrectly then applicants may need to contact CBP to ask them to edit their applicant file.
You provided the passport details for a passport that you claimed to be lost or stolen, yet actually was still in your possession. This type of mistake is consistent with a potentially fraudulent application. Or, the information you provided on your ESTA form did not match those of your uploaded passport photo. In either case, such instances will usually result in an ESTA denial.
You have a criminal record, and regardless of your answer to question 2 on the ESTA application form, you were found to have a conviction history. Providing misleading answers to this question may result in a temporary ESTA approval, yet after several days, weeks or months, applicants may be notified that their ESTA has been denied after approval.
You have the name of someone who committed a crime in your name, or you are a victim of identity theft. Under these circumstances, applicants may discover their name and date of birth is identical to a famous criminal. Under such circumstances, applicants should contact CBP to discuss their situation to see if they can apply for ESTA without an automated denial in place, as opposed to applying for a U.S. visa.
Mistakes on an ESTA application do typically lead to ESTA denials. Otherwise, you may be denied entry upon arrival if your ESTA application contained mistakes. If you have made a mistake on your ESTA application, you may find it helpful to read the article on Fixing a mistake on your ESTA application.
If you still wish to travel even though your application was denied or "Travel Not Authorized", then you can still apply for a non-immigrant visa. This includes B1 Business Visas and B2 Tourist Visas. There are also several other types and categories of visas to learn about that may be relevant for your travel purposes. A denial of an ESTA does not revoke your eligibility for a different U.S. visa application.
If your ESTA application is still pending, you notice an error, you may be able to quickly resubmit a fresh application with the corrected mistakes without having the original application negatively impact the decision.
If your application has been denied, it’s highly unlikely that it will be approved the second time around if your circumstances have not changed since the previous application. Travelers who have not obtained an approved ESTA are not able to travel under the Visa Waiver Program, thus they will have to apply for a non-immigrant visa at their nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you review your denied ESTA information and notice you made a mistake, you can potentially reapply without the assistance of DHS depending on the form fields that were incorrectly answered.
Re-applying with different or false information in a bid to meet the requirements for a travel authorization will permanently disqualify the traveler for approval to go to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program.
You can make a request for redress online at the DHS Travel Redress Inquiry program website. However, because the ESTA program has been formed in such a way so that only individuals who are not qualified to travel under the VWP, or whose travel to the U.S. would be a security risk, aren’t issued a travel authorization, there are simply no guarantees that you request will be fulfilled.
Furthermore, U.S. Embassies and Consulates cannot give you any information, nor resolve issues regarding your travel authorization denial.
You can get more information about the visa appointment process and wait times by visiting the following link: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/wait-times.html. The availability of next-day appointments simply cannot be guaranteed. There are exceptions that may warrant an emergency appointment however, each U.S. embassy may have a separate policy on permitted reasons.
It is important to note that your eligibility alone does not grant you admission to travel to the US under the Visa Waiver Program, nor grant you entry into the United States. Due to past criminal or immigration history on your record, you may not be permitted to travel under the visa waiver program and under no other circumstances will this change. The government system performs many cross checks across numerous databases to ensure applicants are screened properly. For one reason or another, yours has been declined. Unfortunately, the US Department of Homeland Security does not provide reasons for ESTA application denials nor are they obliged to.
If you have been denied an ESTA, you may be eligible to apply for a B2 or B1 visa to visit the United States for tourism, business, medical or transit purposes. For more visa information or to start your application visit https://travel.state.gov/content/travel.html