Usually, an almost immediate response is available for your ESTA application, depending on how eligible you are under the Visa Waiver Program. Application or Authorisation Pending is one of the three possible responses obtainable after an ESTA application has been submitted. Getting this response simply means a little more time is needed in order to provide you with a decision concerning your application.ESTA pending status means review of your applications and the associated details is ongoing. Within 72 hours, an ESTA Application Pending response should be resolved. Sometimes, clicking the refresh button after waiting for a couple of hours is enough to provide an end to the pending status. In some rarely seen cases, after a pending status response, the status changes to “No application found”. This ESTA application is unsuccessful and the individual needs to apply for a work visa or a tourist visa in order to gain entry into the United States.
How necessary is ESTA?
Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) is an automated system used to establish whether or not individuals are eligible to visit the United States. The individuals concerned must be citizens of countries signed on to the VWP program. ESTA does not guarantee instant entry into the US either as this decision solely rests upon the shoulders of officers of Customs and Border Protection.
The 9/11 attacks necessitated the implementation of ESTA by the US department of Homeland Security to function as a means of ensuring safety and security, and to restrict citizens with dangerous intent from entering the US.
What is VWP?
Visa Waiver Program (VWP) is an official understanding between the United States and 38 selected countries which permits citizens of those countries to visit the United States, in order to conduct business or have a fun-filled stay, without a visa. The duration allowed by this programme is 90 days.
In like fashion, citizens of the US can also travel to the VWP countries without visas and for the same period of time. Therefore, risks from potentially dangerous visitors are neutralised
How long does it take to process ESTA?
Because of the nature of its processing (i.e. web based), the ESTA takes a few short minutes to get processed. To begin, simply fill out and submit the online form. The submitted application is then subjected to checks against the US law enforcement databases, after which a response is provided.
The ESTA Checklist
Certain requirements need to be fulfilled in order to apply for a visa waiver through ESTA. They include:
- Eligibility under the Visa Waiver Programme
- Possession of a valid passport
- Possession of a credit card and complete contact information
After your application is approved, payment of a visa waiver application fee is a necessary requirement as well.
Circumstances leading to Revoked ESTA
Certain travellers are ineligible to travel to the US under VWP, and their ESTA are revoked under the following conditions:
- When the individual who is a citizen of a VWP country has from March 1, 2011, been in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen. This condition is void only if the visit to those countries was in service of a VWP country, in diplomatic or military capacity.
- When the individual holds dual citizenship of a VWP country and Iraq, Iran, Syria or Sudan.
In January 2016, there was an implementation of changes to alter the status of these category of VWP travellers. Even at that, a waiver is only possible for them in accordance to what the Secretary of Homeland Security decides as being in the interest of the US. In that case, such waivers will be granted to them on a case-by-case basis. For instance, travelling to any of the four countries for humanitarian purposes or to carry out journalistic duties.
Application Procedure for ESTA
All intending visitors to the United States who are from VWP countries must apply for ESTA, except they are already in possession of a valid visitor’s visa.
ESTA application is expected to be done at least 72 hours before a scheduled date for travel. Applying as soon as you are sure of your travel date is also advised so that if for some reason, your authorisation is denied, you can have enough time to apply for a paper visa. Securing a visa appointment at the US Embassy could take up to six weeks. ESTA can also be applied for in anticipation of a future trip to the US, since it pays to be prepared.
An approved ESTA is valid for two years, allowing you countless visits to the United States for up to 90 days on each visit. Despite ESTA being valid for two years, f your passport is meant to expire within two years, your ESTA is only valid for as long as your passport is valid.
A useful tip is to leave a significant amount of time in-between trips, so that custom officials do not flag you for trying to live in the US.
When to Re-Apply for ESTA
There are some circumstances when a fresh application for ESTA is necessary:
- A change in your current circumstances
- A change of name
- A change of gender
- A change in the country of citizenship
- Replacing an expired passport with a new one
- Any personal changes which will significantly affect the answers to the questions in the application form
How the Recent Legislation Affects ESTA
Genuine concerns have been expressed about whether or not the Visa Waiver Programme and ETA will be affected by the new administration. Trump’s administration implemented an executive order on January 27, 2017, placing a ban on immigration into the country by people from specific countries in the Middle East. The Visa Interview Waiver Programme of the US was also suspended.
Fortunately, this legislation does not affect the ESTA, the Visa Waiver Programme or the citizens from VWP countries. Although the imposed ban by President Trump creates uncertainties about the status of many travellers, the ESTA programme is expected to remain unaffected, since it is unaltered by the new legislation.