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How is ESTA checked?

When you submit your ESTA application, the form and its information are stored on a secure database of the U.S. government, and the border authorities will have access to this information electronically.
The data you provide in your application is reviewed and verified against a series of databases in order to verify your identity and check that your passport has not been reported stolen or lost. This helps contribute to the security of the United States’ external borders, and to combat fraud and terrorism.
Generally speaking, the review process of your application should last no longer than 72 hours. While it occasionally might take longer in specific cases, the review process is normally much less than the stipulated estimate. For minimal processing time, make sure you fill out the ESTA application form clearly and correctly when you submit it.
Once the application has been reviewed, you should receive an answer via email.
When you enter the U.S., or when you are boarding transport to enter the United States, the border authorities can check your information on this database without any need for you to verify any of it yourself.