I recently applied for a US visa and had the interview, where I was told the application wasn't approved pending a medical examination. I have since found out that I could have travelled on an ESTA after all, so tried to withdraw the visa application. However, I have now had an email back from the embassy saying they will hold my visa application 'pending' for 12 months in case I change my mind and decide to go ahead with it (so that I don't have to pay again). The ESTA application asks if I have ever been denied a visa. Can I say no to this, as I wasn't actually denied a visa, it just wasn't approved until my medical examination was completed, and I subsequently withdrew? Does this mean I now cannot apply for an ESTA for those 12 months while I still have a visa pending?

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    According to travel.state.gov, medical examinations are only required for immigrant visas. Were you applying for an immigrant visa?
    – gstorto
    Commented Mar 23, 2019 at 20:22
  • no, it was a non-immigrant tourist visa. they didn't say why they wanted me to have a medical.
    – ACJ UK
    Commented Mar 24, 2019 at 11:31
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    I started an application for a US visa for an internship many years ago, but the internship never ended up happening, and I forgot everything about it. 8 years later, trying to enter the US for the first time on an ESTA, I had to spend a good hour in processing, before they let me in - after luckily accepting my explanation that I just didn't know that a non-completed application counted as a denial. Now I just tick the ESTA box saying "yes" about having been denied a visa, write a quick explanation in the box, and all is good. Haven't had problems entering the US since...
    – sonicwave
    Commented Mar 24, 2019 at 14:46
  • thank you, that's really valuable information. As it happens, my ESTA has been denied anyway (as of this morning), so after reading your comment I will definitely set about completing the visa application and hope that it comes through before my intended travel date in July. Too bad it's going to cost me £385 for the medical. Could have done without that, but can't be helped. If it doesn't come through in time, lesson learned! Thanks so much.
    – ACJ UK
    Commented Mar 24, 2019 at 16:47
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    @sonicwave please post that as an answer, it contradicts what everyone else is saying.
    – Kat
    Commented Mar 24, 2019 at 18:42

3 Answers 3


You were never denied a visa, so the answer is no. Just answer every question factually and truthfully and, if you ever have to, be prepared to explain the situation.

Note however that a B1/B2 visa, which is presumably what you applied for, is "stronger" than an ESTA on numerous aspects, so if you went this far anyway and if you think you may benefit from it at some point, you may want to finish off the process. Of course there is no guarantee on how long the visa will be valid for.

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    thanks, that's reassuring. I'm fairly confident that I meet the ESTA requirements, and as well as being being £385 (and another trip to London) for the medical if I went ahead with the visa, it almost certainly wouldn't be completed in time for the trip I want to make, so I'm going to have to take my chances with the ESTA. I'm just hoping that they won't be aware that I have an uncompleted visa in progress and reject it on that basis.
    – ACJ UK
    Commented Mar 23, 2019 at 16:13
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    That right there is a perfectly reasonable pair of reasons to justify stopping the visa application and go ESTA. A) I didn't realise I don't need a visa, and b) I didn't realise the visa would require a bunch of travel and additional $500 beyond what I already paid. Commented Mar 23, 2019 at 19:37

If no action was taken on your visa and it remains pending, then it has not been refused. After all, the embassy themselves state that you can resume the application!


'pending' means "awaiting decision or settlement". So if you were told it was "pending a medical examination", that would mean immigration department would make their decision when they receive the medical reports. At this time, it's just an application, and a decision has not been made.

A refusal or grant would mean a decision HAS been made.

Even if you withdraw the application, that would still mean an application was received, and subsequently withdrawn; a decision had not been made. Hence, you would NOT have been denied a visa by immigration department.

Instead of withdrawing your application, you may allow them to withhold your application, in case you change your mind within 12 months. After that, you may submit another application, with another fee.

For your ESTA application, you'd say "NO" (since you've NOT been denied a visa, on this occasion). You'd, of course say "YES" if you HAVE been denied a visa on any previous occasion to this. If the ESTA application has a question: if you have another visa application pending, you'd say "YES".

If you need the money back, you may ask immigration if you get a refund BEFORE you go ahead and withdraw the application.

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