ESTA Visa Denial: Possible reasons and how to reapply

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ESTA is one of the easiest entry routes into the US. If you’re lucky to be a citizen of one of the US Visa Waiver Program shortlist countries, you wouldn’t have a problem coming into America.

Yet, for all its simplicity, we still hear reports of people whose ESTA USA application got refused. If you’re one such person, we want you to know refusal is not denial. It is not the end of the road. In fact, it’s just the beginning.

I know you probably want to rush into submitting another ESTA application right away, but you should hold off on that. Chances are, applying now will only return the same result.

First thing you should do is figure out why that first application was denied in the first place. After that, you can now start addressing those issues before finally reapplying.

Reasons why your ESTA USA visa could be denied

  1. Criminal record

In your ESTA application form, there’s a section where you’ll be asked about your criminal record. If you give an answer that doesn’t satisfy the immigration verification services, it’s likely your application will be denied.

What if you lie? Yes, you’re free to lie about your criminal history in the ESTA application form. But you should know that there will be consequences. For starters, if the immigration officials at the border discover you’ve lied, you will be prevented from entering the US upon arrival. And you may also be banned from entering the US for life.

  • Using a previously lost passport

Say your passport had been misplaced or stolen in the past, and you’ve gone to lodge a ‘missing item complaint’ at your country’s immigration service. Applying for ESTA with this kind of passport may result in refusal.

  • Previous history of overstay

No country government likes visitors overstaying their welcome. And the US is no different. If you’ve overstayed your visa duration in the past, expect your ESTA USA application to be denied when you apply.

  • You’re namesakes with a wanted criminal

Nobody prays to be namesakes with wanted persons. But if that were to be the case with you, you can expect your ESTA USA application to be rejected. The USA is cautious of admitting people it considers a threat to its country. So, just bearing the same name (first and last name) with someone who’s wanted or who has a criminal record may result in ESTA denial.

  • Ongoing visa application

Some people make the mistake of applying for an ESTA around the same time they’re processing an actual US visa. If you do this, it’s likely your ESTA will be rejected. Don’t come off desperate. You should always stick with one visa processing.

  • Had a run-in with law enforcement agents on your last visit

As we said, the USA doesn’t want people it considers a threat to come into its country. If you’ve been arrested or reprimanded on your previous visit to the US, your new ESTA USA application may be denied.

  • History of deportation

You’ve lived and have been deported from the US before

  • You’re not a citizen of one of the countries on the US Visa Waiver Program scheme.

Currently, there are 40 countries on the US visa waiver program, including the UK, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, etc.

If you’re not a citizen of one of the countries on the shortlist and you apply for ESTA USA, rest assured, you’ll be denied.

  • Mistakes in your ESTA visa application

An ESTA authorization is usually granted within 72 hours of applying. However, if there are mistakes in your applications, things may be delayed, or you may be denied outright.

How would you know if your ESTA visa has been denied?

Unfortunately, unlike most visa types, the immigration representatives handling ESTA applications don’t usually explain why your ESTA application was denied.

All you’ll get is a notification with the phrase “Travel not Authorized.”

What to do after you’re denied

Don’t fret when you receive the notification that your ESTA has been denied. You can always reapply. That said, you may need to wait a period of 10 business days before submitting a new application.

Grounds for ESTA USA reapplication

It’s only advisable to reapply for ESTA when you know the reason for denial is something trivial like a mistake in your application form. In that case, you simply need to take another form and correct your mistake.

However, in the case of denial due to criminal history, you may need to apply for a non-immigrant B-visa at the US Embassy or Consulate. Of course, the B-visa comes in different shades. The type you apply for will depend on your purpose of travel – whether tourism or business.

Reapplying under trivial denial conditions

As we said, if you’re denied because of errors like contrasting date of birth, blurry or shady passport photograph, incomplete application, etc. You can always reapply. The process of reapplying is similar to the initial process.

It should be noted that in some cases of reapplication, the embassy may refund the costs incurred during the first failed application. This is particularly true for cases when denial is a result of errors made when filling the form.

Reapplying under the umbrella of Type-B Visa

If you were denied on the grounds of your previous criminal histories or because you’ve applied with a “stolen but retrieved passport” or some of those reasons, a Type-B visa is always the next best route.

With this visa system, you can easily address the concerns raised during your ESTA application, whether by providing additional supporting documents or talking your way through an interview.

You get my point?


Unfortunately, the ESTA website is not the only place you can be denied. Even after securing an ESTA visa, one can still be denied entry into the US. This usually happens at the US border.

After the immigration service has issued you the ESTA USA authorization, the Customs and Border Protection agents will need to assess your eligibility before you’re granted entry.

You should be allowed smooth passage into the US. Granted, there are no reasons for concerns. However, if the agent notices an error in your application or senses that something is off, he may ask you to step aside. In that case, you’ll be taken through another round of verification.

Don’t fret; as long as your papers are valid and there are no doctored reports, you should be fine. If the process is taking too long, seek a lawyer.

FAQs: How to do an ESTA status check

Finally, you’re in. Congratulations.

I hope you know ESTA is valid for just 90 days. The good news is long as you’re within your two-year validity period, you’re covered. After that, you must return to your country. And if you’d like to come back to the US, you’ll need to apply again.

If you wish to do an ESTA status check for your profile, go to the ESTA website and select “Check ESTA Status.” From there, click “Check Individual Status.” You will get a prompt asking you to supply your details.

On your ESTA status page, you can find information regarding your ESTA application. Generally speaking, you can find three kinds of MESSAGES on this page, which are:

  • Authorization Approved: Tells you you’ve been granted the permit
  • Authorization Pending: Tells you your application is still being processed.
  • Travel not authorized: Tells you you’ve been denied.