Reasons for rejection of an ESTA application, and what to do when it is rejected
ESTA began in 2009, and the screening standards have become much stricter, in part due to multiple terrorist incidents that occurred around the world in 2015. In addition, the next year in 2016 the screening standards became even stricter, and questions were added on the ESTA application.
As a result, there is an increasing trend in numbers of travelers whose ESTA applications result in the status “Travel not Authorized.” Many of them are not sure how to deal with it, facing this status right before their traveling dates, and we are receiving many contacts asking for the reasons of the rejection and what they should do next. The following describes practical responses to help resolve a case of a rejected ESTA application.
Reasons for rejection of an application
First, check the reason for rejection of the application. It is very important to know the reason so that you will know how to deal with it, since the way to respond to a rejected application differs depending on the reasons. Normally, an ESTA application will be authorized fairly quickly unless there are any problems, and even if it is pending for a while, it will be authorized later. However, if it is judged that there are any problems with the application then it will be rejected.
The most common reason is checking a “Yes” when answering any of the questions on the application.
The questions on the ESTA application are intended to keep out travelers who could pose a threat to the U.S., by checking on applicant’s past medical histories, arrest histories, and criminal records. In most cases, answering “Yes” to even one of these questions will result in an application being rejected.
In not a few cases, an application may be rejected if the applicant accidentally clicked “Yes” on a question that he or she intended to answer “No.” It is of utmost importance to check closely for any incorrect or mistaken information when applying for ESTA.
How to check the content of your application
Check the U.S. government’s official ESTA website to see if there was any mistake in the entries to your ESTA application.
On the U.S. government’s official ESTA website, you can check the content of your application at any time.
Access the homepage of the official ESTA website and then click on “Check Individual Status” on the right-hand side of the page. By entering your application number, date of birth, and passport number, you can check the details of your application in real time.
Steps for checking on your application are described below.
|①||Access the homepage of the official ESTA website|
|②||Click on “Check Individual Status” on the right-hand center of the page and enter your application number, date of birth, and passport number (if you do not know your application number, enter your passport number, passport date of issue, passport expiration date, date of birth, and nationality) and then click “Retrieve Application”|
|③||Your application’s current status will be displayed. Click on “Confirm” at right.|
|④||Check to make sure that you answered “No” to all questions shown|
If your ESTA application has been rejected, first use the steps above to check for any mistakes in the content of your application. After confirming the reason for rejection, proceed to address the rejection depending on that reason.
Two cases are described below
|1.If you accidentally clicked a “Yes” to a question||Contact U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to correct the application|
|2. If you answered “No” to all questions and cannot identify any mistakes in your entries||You cannot travel to the U.S. using ESTA. Therefore, apply for a visa from a U.S. embassy.|
We recommend responding through the steps described below after confirming the details of your situation.
1. If you accidentally clicked a “Yes” to a question
There is no way to cancel your entry immediately once you have completed it. Wait at least 24 hours and then apply again.
Although you will have to pay the costs of application again when reapplying, you can replace the content of your previous application. However, in some cases it is not possible to modify or correct information entered before. If your application is rejected even after applying again, you may contact U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and correct the application content by informing them that there was a mistake in the content of your application to be corrected.
2. If you answered “No” to all questions and cannot identify any mistakes in your entries
In this case, for some reasons some information of the U.S. government has been recorded by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that would lead to rejection of your application for travel authorization. Since it is not possible to request CBP to correct such information, you are required to apply for a visa at a U.S. embassy.
* To travel to the U.S. on business, apply for a B1 visa
* To travel to the U.S. for sightseeing, apply for a B2 visa
Both B1 and B2 visas are referred to as “B visas” below.
Necessary things to apply for a B visa at a U.S. embassy
|①||Prepare online application DS-160 from the U.S. embassy website|
|②||Make payment of the application fee through the U.S. embassy’s online payment system (be sure to make a copy of the receipt number)|
|③||Make an interview appointment online through the U.S. embassy website|
|④||Prepare the necessary documents and go to the interview at the date and time of your appointment|
|⑤||Your passport will be returned, with the visa affixed, about one week after the interview|
The necessary documents for applying at the embassy are described below.
* Check the U.S. embassy website prior to applying, since the necessary documents may vary with individual conditions.
Necessary documents to apply for a B visa
Original passport (must have at least six months remaining in its period of validity, including the planned period of stay in the U.S.)
Any previous passports issued within the past 10 years
Photograph for application (5 x 5 cm, taken within the past six months)
Confirmation form of online Application DS-160
Receipt that proves your payment of the visa application fee (issued with the interview appointment confirmation when paying by credit card)
Interview appointment confirmation form for your interview appointment
Documents certifying your current employer, school, etc.
Documents such as a bank account balance certificate, certifying your current financial status
Documents such as salary details or a tax withholding certificate showing your income
Documents such as hotel reservation confirmation, travel itinerary, or airline tickets, showing your travel plans
Documents showing that you have been refused entry or refused a visa in the past, if applicable
Documents describing your criminal record, if you have an arrest history or a criminal record
Documents such as a reentry permit, certificate of residence, or alien registration certificate if you are a foreign national
What could be the reason for refusal of entry to the U.S.?
The U.S. government places great importance on preventing entry by travelers planning to stay in the U.S. for improper reasons, such as unlawful residence or unlawful employment. This is why it established the ESTA program. As noted above, the items checked on ESTA applications are becoming increasingly strict over time. For this reason, travelers need to demonstrate that their presence will be beneficial, and not harmful, to the U.S.
The ESTA application includes a wide range of questions. The U.S. government considers the following two points to be key to identifying cases of possible unlawful entry:
- ① Those that could pose security threats
- ② Those that could involve improperly taking employment opportunities from American citizens
Point ① above is naturally important in order to prevent terrorism and smuggling of illegal items. In recent years, though, checking on Point ② has become increasingly strict, and this trend is expected to continue in the future as well. A traveler may be refused entry to the U.S. if he or she has ever performed work or is suspected of having done so, while it could have been done by a U.S. citizen, even for a short period of time, while visiting the U.S. without holding an employment visa. Point ② can be described as a consideration specific to the U.S.as a country that has a large immigrant population. It is expected that the checking system for applications that could be disadvantageous to the U.S., possibly leading to reduce employment opportunities for U.S. citizens will become even stricter in the future.
It also must be noted that a record of frequent visit to the U.S. over several years or for long periods of stay could lead an immigration officer to suspect that the traveler is working in the U.S. in excess of the business-trip category eligible for ESTA. There is a possibility of refusal of entry to the U.S. if the explanation of the situation is not clear enough to be accepted.
It is required to file tax returns for any income earned in the U.S. if you stayed in the U.S. for over 183 days in the year, even for those who hold no permanent residency. If you plan to stay in the U.S. for a long period, plan your travel thoroughly and be careful to avoid any misunderstanding or trouble.