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It seems to be consensus on this site that being denied a US visa makes it practically impossible to get an ESTA. I agree on the 'practically' part but I can't seem to find anything definitive from official sources.

The question is not about the likelihood of being granted an ESTA after a visa refusal. It is about whether a visa refusal makes one officially ineligible.

The Ineligibility section on this VWP page ustraveldocs.com (which I understand is official, despite the dodgy name) makes no mention of visa refusals.

The State Department VWP page states only that

A recent visa refusal for any reason could result in denial of ESTA authorization, additional review at the port of entry, or denial of admission to the United States. If you are uncertain if you qualify for VWP travel, you may apply for a visa.

but does not categorically state that a visa refusal results in VWP ineligibility.

This CBP help article is more strongly worded in that it says an ESTA denial is the 'most likely' result given a visa refusal but still comes short of saying anything about ineligibility.

If you were previously denied a visa, or previously refused entry to the United States, or previously removed from the U.S., your ESTA application will most likely be denied.

There are claims on the Internet about having been approved for and using an ESTA successfully after a visa refusal but I won't bother to include those for obvious reasons.

Again, the question is not about the likelihood of being granted an ESTA after a visa refusal. It is about whether a visa refusal makes one officially ineligible.

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  • The official sources would probably say "ineligible" if it did. The fact that they don't is strong evidence that it doesn't. – DJClayworth May 28 at 22:57
  • @DJClayworth that's what I suspect. I've seen some comments and answers on this site however that assert otherwise. Just want to see if anyone has a definitive source. – jcm May 28 at 23:01
  • Not sure the purpose of this question is clear. Seems to deal more with word hashing than anything else. If you don't fulfill the conditions to recieve a visa, then you don't don't fullfill the conditions to recieve a visa waiver. You are still free to make the application (and pay the fee), but that application could (or will most likely will) result in denial because you don't fulfill the conditions to recieve a visa. – Mark Johnson May 29 at 2:38
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    @MarkJohnson the purpose is to clarify eligibility requirements for the VWP. The US, course, has the prerogative to deny ESTAs to eligible applicants. – jcm May 29 at 3:24
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    @MarkJohnson that's not what the official sources say. It sounds like you are taking what seems to you a common-sense approach but that's not necessarily accurate. Do you have a source for your assertions or are you giving your own interpretation? – jcm May 29 at 3:53
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Statutory requirements for the VWP do not include a lack of visa refusals (see 8 USC 1187). There is a requirement not to have violated the terms of a prior admission under the VWP, but nothing about visas.

Since the requirements do include ESTA authorization, you the answer could be "yes" depending on the ESTA algorithm. But the algorithm that handles an affirmative response to the visa refusal question is not public, so, beyond the statutory provisions above, it's not possible to answer this question more definitively.

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  • +1 for linking to the text of the law. – jcm May 29 at 3:59

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