An ESTA application is processed instantly online, and most 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 ESTA approval notification will contain the application or authorization number, the expiry date of the ESTA, and other applicant information provided at the time of submission.
Study on ESTA Processing Times
A study of the ESTA processing times conducted by official-esta.com found that 92% of applications were approved within 4 hours of application submission. The other 8% were ‘Pending’ applications and required an additional 1 to 72 hours to process.
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 ESTA eligibility questions. These eligibility questions are about 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 ESTA Processing Times
Factors influencing delays in processing ESTA approval were often related to technical issues experienced by the CBP systems or issues with payment processing, which may result from an applicant’s selected payment method or 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, there will be a greater likelihood of experiencing delays in processing 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 like the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, or other Western European countries. You may be eligible to obtain an ESTA approval for tourist, business, medical or transit purposes. So get started on your application. When you arrive in the U.S., you will go through Customs Border Protection, and the CBP agents checking your passport will also see that you have a valid ESTA. All the information is processed and stored electronically, so you do not get a paper copy of your ESTA or anything like that to show the CBP. If you want extra peace of mind, you could print off your ESTA approval confirmation email and take that with your travel documents, but it is unlikely you will need it. Your ESTA must be valid when you enter the U.S., or else you will not be able to enter the country. It is unlikely that you would be able to board a flight to the U.S. without a valid ESTA.