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How long is my data stored?

Your ESTA application data generally remains active for the amount of time that your approved ESTA is valid, or until your passport expires - this depends on what comes first. The Department of Homeland Security then keeps this information for a further year, after which it is archived for 12 years. The information is archived for that period of time in order to allow national security or law enforcement to be able to access the data in case of any potential investigation. Archived information can only be accessed by a very limited number of officials.
If an ESTA is used instead of a I-94W form, your information can be retained for up to 75 years, and this is in accordance to the I-94W form. Since the Department of Homeland Security is transitioning to a paperless I-94W form, the data on your ESTA application is used instead.
The length of time that your data is stored is consistent with the Customs and Border Protection border search authority and with their mission that was decreed by Congress. Therefore, any information stored in the archives or while it is active can be used for investigation purposes during the stipulated time outlined above. However, any data that matches enforcement activities or investigations will remain accessible as long as law enforcement needs this information. This also includes ESTA applications that have been denied.