Published on: Sep 09, 2019, Last Edited: Mar 11, 2020
Recent changes to the processing of ESTA applications have resulted in increased processing timelines at Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Virtually, all ESTA applications are decided upon within 72 hours. Although instant decisions are still common, many decisions now are delivered via email, sometime in between a few hours or a few days after an application has been submitted. Applicants will be notified via email on the current status of their applications. Travelers who find themselves awaiting a decision on their ESTA applications, should familiarize themselves with the different ESTA application status’. In addition to receiving updates via email, applicants can also check the status of their ESTA applications online if you have not yet received delivery of your ESTA or it has been a few days since receiving an update on your ESTA application.
No, visa-waver eligible passengers cannot board aircraft or a sea vessel bound for the United States without an approved ESTA and the associated passport used to make the application.
If your ESTA was initially approved, and then at any point before your departure date to the United States, you were notified your ESTA was denied, then you will not be able to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program.
ESTA eligible travelers will need confirmation of approval before being able to travel to the United States. DHS and CBP are taking longer to process ESTA applications, thus travelers will need to be diligent in checking the status of their ESTA applications if they have not received confirmation via email within 72 hours of submitting an application form.