You have decided to go to the USA, very good choice, you will certainly not be disappointed by your trip, because the USA is full of beautiful places. This article is intended to clarify little more about ESTA authorization and the special status: “Pending.” We have already mentioned this status in our glossary, it concerns an application for a travel authorization that has not yet been decided and it is neither a refusal nor an agreement.
We have decided to dedicate an article on this subject, as there are so many questions from visitors about ESTA formalities.
First, many people have expressed their concern to us when they discover that their authorization is not granted, but is pending. There is no need to panic, because it does not mean that the answer will be negative. In fact, very few ESTA permits are refused (approximately 0.1% of applications). An authorization may be pending for several reasons.
When you confirm your ESTA request, certain automatic checks are carried out to decide if you are eligible for the VISA exemption. For example, the system will check that a previous request has not been refused. Thus, if you submit your request during a peak in traffic on the ESTA website, these checks cannot take place and your request will be on hold, corresponding to “Pending” status.
Sometimes extra checks have to be carried out by the US authorities; they have to make sure that you are not a threat. If so, then your application will be on hold, in other words, pending. Also, U. S. authorities select the files randomly verify them; if you are part of them, your application will be put on hold.
It is important to note that ESTA does not replace by VISA. On the contrary, it is a VISA waiver, which allows you to travel to the USA without a VISA and thus avoiding the relatively long and costly procedures for obtaining an American VISA (DS-160, interview at the embassy, etc.).
Generally, an answer will be given within hours of your request. In any case, you should know that you will get an answer within 72 hours maximum. For this reason, it is advisable to fill in the ESTA form at least 72 hours before your trip.
You will not be able to travel if your ESTA authorization is pending, because at this stage it is not possible to know if you can travel to the United States with a VISA waiver.
Once you notice that your file has been put on hold, note down its reference number without further delay. This will allow you to follow its evolution at any time online. All you have to do is go to the official ESTA website and log in. You can also check it yourself, because even the slightest error on your part (even typing) can trigger a deeper and so longer examination by the system. In other words, if you see one, report it, it could speed things up.
If your ESTA application is refused, you will need to apply for a VISA. We will not be going into this topic because we dedicated a separate article to it (see below).