Published: Jul 30, 2017, Updated: Oct 15, 2022
If your ESTA application is pending, it means that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is reviewing the information you provided on your form. You will usually be notified of the final decision on your application within 72 hours, otherwise, you can check your ESTA application status here.
ESTA applications can typically be flagged for additional security checks. A pending ESTA application signifies that additional screening is needed to process your application and ensure you do not pose a security or immigration risk. Typically, CBP advises allowing 72 before checking for an update, yet the majority of decisions on ESTA applications are reached within 48 hours. However, whilst your ESTA application is pending, you are not authorized to travel to the United States.
If your ESTA is denied, you will be notified via email and will receive information on applying for a U.S. visa. The typical response from CBP includes a link to the following website to apply for a tourist, transit or business visa: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en.html. You will be charged a nominal processing fee of $4 if your application is denied.
Alternatively, if your ESTA application is approved, you will receive your authorization number via email or be able to view the number on the check your ESTA application screen. With this authorization you can travel to the United States so long as your ESTA is not revoked for other reasons such as a change of circumstances regarding your application.
In the unlikely event your ESTA application is still pending after 72 hours, you should contact CBP to determine if a final decision has been reached. Alternatively, you can submit a new application.
The ‘Application Pending’ status of the ESTA visa waiver can create a stressful situation for U.S. bound travelers as they face uncertainty around their admission at the border. Thus, in order to avoid situations of last minute travel plan alterations, travelers are advised to apply for their ESTA early and ensure their authorization remains valid up until their day of departure by checking their ESTA application status.
If the check from your ESTA application has returned as ‘Application Expired’ or ‘Not Found’ you can start a new application if you hold a passport from a visa waiver country such as the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand or other Western European Country, and wish 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