ESTA Application Denied (Can I Apply for a US Visa?)

If your ESTA application has been refused, what are your options to travel to the US? 

A refused ESTA application will be as a result of the applicant not having satisfied the ESTA eligibility requirements.

If your application for US travel authorization under ESTA has been denied, to travel to the US you will need to apply for a visa.

In order to travel to the United States, every traveller will need an ESTA or one of the other visas issued by a U. S. Embassy, which must be applied for in time prior to departure. If you do not have a visa, you may be denied boarding at the airport check-in.

Why was your ESTA application refused?

There can be many reasons why your ESTA application has been rejected. Unfortunately, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP)are not required to provide you with the grounds for refusing your ESTA application. These could include any of the following:

  • You have answered an eligibility question with yes
  • You have a second nationality from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Libya, Somalia
  • You have overstayed your last trip in the US
  • You have travelled to Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Libya, Somalia on or after 11 March 2011
  • Information concerning you in the application form does not correspond to that in your passport.
  • You are not a VWP national
  • Your intended period of stay is longer than 90 days
  • You have once lost a passport or reported it as stolen
  • You have provided false information in your ESTA registration
  • You hold a US Green Card
  • You have a police record, in accordance with the seriousness of your offense(s) your trip to the United States can be refused.
  • You have recently been refused a visa under a different nationality passport
  • You have already applied for a US Immigration Visa at a US Embassy
  • There are also other reasons for an ESTA visa refusal, but these are not disclosed by the US authorities

What are your options for US travel if you’re ineligible ESTA approval?

Without official grounds for refusal being given, you would need to examine your application to try and understand probable cause for denial. This will help to determine your next steps.

1. Reapply for ESTA

On examination, you may find that you made a simple mistake. Look particularly at the information you entered for your:

  • Last name, first name(s)
  • Date of birth
  • Place and country of birth
  • Passport number
  • Country of citizenship

If you identity a simple error in your application form, for example, you entered information into the form incorrectly, you can wait 10 days and make a new ESTA application. AS it will be a brand new application, you will also have to pay the application fee again.

2. Apply for a visa & waiver of inadmissibility

A refused ESTA authorisation does not in itself mean you are not eligible to travel to the US – it simply means you are ineligible to travel visa-free.

For example, you would be ineligible because your intended length of stay is over the 90 days, if your reason for visit is not permitted under the Visa Waiver Program, or if you do not have a valid electronic passport from a Visa Waiver country. In such cases, the alternative would be to make an application for a visa at the US Embassy or Consular post in your country if residence. 

If you are concerned that you will be refused entry to the US under one of the general grounds of admissibility, you may need to look at submitting a waiver of inadmissibility to accompany your visa application.

The most common grounds for inadmissibility are:

  • Prior history of criminal activity;
  • Prior periods of unlawful presence in the US potentially subjecting applicants to a 3 year bar (if overstay was a minimum of six months) or a 10 year bar (if overstay was one year or more) from entering the US.

If you are considering this course of action, take legal advice to ensure you are providing full disclosure while evidencing your case for admissibility.

Gaining entry into the US

Whether you have made a successful ESTA application or following a refused ESTA application have secured a US visa, all travellers to the US will be subject to additional review at the port of entry, which could include further questioning.

Customs and border guards have discretionary powers to permit or deny admission to the United States. If you already have an approved ESTA, you may still be denied entry to the US.

Do you have a query about ESTA? Book a fixed fee telephone consultation with a US immigration attorney >>

This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.

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