Problems with the ESTA application

Errors in the ESTA application can have serious consequences: you may not only be denied entry but in the worst case, you may also be barred for life from entering the USA visa-free. Learn about the most common problems with the ESTA application and how to avoid them.


The official entry permit for the USA!

Fault messages in the ESTA application

When entering telephone numbers, email addresses, or residential addresses, the ESTA website of the official US authorities often displays error messages. Both technical and organizational hurdles can block the application process.

Address invalid / phone number invalid

Due to the automatic data checks, it can happen that correct data is classified as incorrect, and therefore you cannot continue the ESTA application. In this case, recheck your data and click "Continue" at the bottom of the page again. If a message asks you to confirm your information's correctness by checking a box, you will be allowed to continue with your ESTA application.

The most common problems with the ESTA application

In addition to error-ridden data checks by the US government, the most common problems with ESTA applications include homemade mistakes, technical hurdles on the part of applicants, and organizational problems such as meeting deadlines and paying ESTA fees.

Common ESTA problems caused by the applicant are:

  • The incorrect spelling of special characters
  • Misunderstandings due to a lack of language skills
  • Inaccurate information
  • The subsequent change of names, email addresses, or gender information
  • Spelling errors
  • Hidden spaces in forms
  • The incorrect entry of numbers, e.g., the confusion of "O" and "0"
  • Invalid characters in mandatory fields
  • The inaccurate display of the machine-readable zone of the passport
  • Incorrect format of the uploaded passport
  • Poor readability of the passport
  • Intentionally made false statements

Common ESTA problems caused by the applicant's technical equipment:

  • Outdated software and hardware
  • Slow internet connection
  • No 128-bit encryption in the browser
  • Turned off cookies
  • Disabled JavaScript
  • Problems with internet security settings
  • Problems with local service providers
  • Other problems with web browsers and firewalls
  • ESTA confirmation mail does not arrive
  • ESTA code does not arrive

Common ESTA problems of an organizational nature:

  • Expired passports
  • Passports that would expire during the trip
  • Missing data from fellow travelers
  • An identical application has already been started
  • Late, failed, or forgotten payment of ESTA fees
  • Unconfirmed email addresses

If you want to avoid these and other mistakes in your ESTA application, you can apply via The USA experts will personally review your information and discuss any discrepancies with you before your data is submitted to the US authorities.

I am unable to answer an ESTA question

If you do not know any of the information requested in the ESTA application, you have the option of answering with “UNKNOWN” in the following mandatory fields:

  • Passport data of a former passport/ID of another nation
  • Information on your parents
  • Person of contact in the USA (please attempt to avoid filling in “UNKNOWN” here if possible)
  • Queries about your emergency contact

In unknown, but mandatory number fields, please always enter “00”. This applies to the following number fields:

  • Telephone number emergency contact
  • Phone number US contact person
  • Postal code of address data of the applicant
  • Postal code of the US contact person
  • Postal code of the employer in the information on the employment

Problem with the ESTA application phone number

ESTA payment does not work

The ESTA application is only completed when the US authorities have successfully received the payment of the ESTA fee. Problems with the payment may result in your application not being processed.

ESTA payment canceled / ESTA payment error

On the official website of the US authorities, you can pay with your credit card or PayPal. During this process, you may encounter different problems that lead to a payment cancellation.

ESTA PayPal problems

If paying your ESTA application with PayPal is failing, this can be due to various reasons. Among the most common ones are:

  • Your PayPal account is not funded
  • The transaction has been put on hold by the bank

ESTA with a credit card: payment is not possible

If you have problems with credit card payment when applying for ESTA, this can be due to the following reasons:

  • You made a typing error when entering the credit card data
  • Your credit card has expired
  • Your credit card is not covered
  • Your credit card is blocked
  • Your bank has not approved the transaction

Can I pay ESTA later?

If ESTA payment is impossible, you must restart the application process. Unfortunately, you cannot make a subsequent payment after completing your ESTA application.


To avoid problems when paying for the ESTA application, you can submit the form via In addition to paying by credit card and PayPal, you can also pay by Apple Pay and Sofort.

Lost ESTA application number - what to do now?

Should you submit your ESTA application on the website of the official US authority, you will have to check your ESTA status on your own. For the query, you can choose between providing the following data:

  • ESTA login with passport number, date of birth, and ESTA application number
  • ESTA login with passport number, date of birth, country of your citizenship, date of issue of passport, and expiration date of passport

Therefore, if you have forgotten or lost your ESTA application number, you can still easily retrieve your ESTA status or validity using option two above. For customers of, we take over the status query and send the ESTA application result via email as a PDF.

ESTA Check

Problems when entering the USA with ESTA

Traveling to the USA has become easy since the introduction of the electronic travel authorization ESTA because now you don't have to apply for a visa for your stay in the United States. Nevertheless, you must follow some rules to avoid ESTA problems when entering the country.

Entry with ESTA without a return ticket

Entering the United States with ESTA is only possible if you have a return or onward ticket. If you have an ESTA permit but have only booked the outbound flight so far, you will probably not be allowed to fly to the USA.

This is because your return or onward ticket proves that you intend to leave the United States at the end of your vacation or business trip (and not live or work in the US illegally).

Loss or theft of the passport

Since your ESTA is always tied to your passport, the entry permit will immediately lose its validity once you report your passport as stolen or lost. Even if you should find your passport later in time, you will not be able to enter the USA with the ESTA confirmation since the passport was reported as stolen or lost.

In this situation, you would have to apply for a new passport and a new ESTA to qualify for the Visa Waiver Program to the USA. Alternatively, you could report the passport as 'found' via the local citizens' office, but this is usually a relatively complicated and time-consuming process which, moreover, cannot guarantee you entry into the USA.

Entering a problematic country

The USA classifies the following countries as problematic:

  • Cuba
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Libya
  • North Korea
  • Somalia
  • Sudan
  • Syria
  • Yemen

If you traveled to Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, North Korea, Libya, or Syria after March 1st, 2011, or to Cuba since January 12th, 2021, you no longer qualify for visa-free travel to the United States with ESTA and must apply for a US visa.


Even ESTA authorizations that have already been approved immediately lose their validity as soon as you visit one of the countries classified as problematic.

Correcting an Error in the ESTA application

If you notice an error after your ESTA has already been approved, you will need to submit a new ESTA application before entering the United States.

As a client of, we will be happy to help you in this situation and handle both the correspondence with CBP (United States Customs and Border Protection) and the correction of the application, if possible.

Correction in an existing ESTA

In an already approved ESTA, only the email address, as well as the first residence address in the USA, can be subsequently adjusted.

Correction of personal data

For the correction of all other data except email addresses and residential addresses in the USA, you must apply for a new ESTA. You will then receive a notice that an ESTA already exists for the passport number provided and will be asked if you still wish to proceed. Confirm this, and you will overwrite the incorrect application.

Correction of the ESTA security questions

If you have accidentally answered one of the nine security questions incorrectly, there will be no way to correct this. Suppose you respond "yes" to the ESTA security questions. In that case, you will automatically be excluded from visa-free travel with ESTA and must apply for a visa for a future trip to the USA.

ESTA denied: Apply again?

There are numerous reasons for an ESTA denial. Unfortunately, the US authorities do not publish reasons for their decision, so you will never know for sure what caused the rejection. However, this does not necessarily mean that you are no longer allowed to enter the USA!

In case of an ESTA refusal, you have the following options:

  • If your ESTA was rejected due to a typo, you can apply for a new one and overwrite the incorrect ESTA.
  • If there is another reason for the rejection, e.g., a positive answer to one of the 9 security questions, you have to apply for a US visa instead.

Please note: In case of a rejection, the US authorities will not fully reimburse you for the costs of your ESTA application!

Denied a US visa – Can I travel with ESTA?

If you have ever been denied a US visa, you no longer qualify for the Visa Waiver Program.

In the ESTA application, you will be asked whether a visa application has ever been rejected in the past. If you answer "Yes" to this question, your ESTA application will certainly be rejected. If you have a valid ESTA permit and a US visa application is rejected afterwards, your ESTA will automatically lose its validity.

Nevertheless, we strongly recommend always answering truthfully in the ESTA application because deliberate misrepresentation may result in several years of entry bans as well as criminal prosecution.

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