As a British citizen, I recently applied for an ESTA visa waiver in order for me to travel to and present at an academic conference in the United States. To my surprise, they have added additional criteria based on travel to certain countries in the Middle East since 2011 (this change was apparently made in December 2015). I stated on my application that I had worked as a lecturer at a specific institution in the Kurdish region of Iraq for a three month period. I expected my application to be denied fairly quickly (although I hoped that it wouldn't) but having checked it several times, there has been no change to the "Authorization Pending" status when I check my application on the website. The top of the page (when I check my status) says:
Your travel authorization is under review because an immediate determination could not be made. This response does not indicate negative findings. A determination will be available within 72 hours.
It has now been 18 days since I applied - I understand that they may want to check my details more thoroughly and am more than happy for them to - but through various searches on google, I have been unable to find anyone else who had waited so long for a response!
Is it possible for the applications to get stuck in the system? Or is it far more that they're spending this time trying to determine whether I am a security threat? I've heard of people putting in a second application when the first takes a long time - would this be advisable?
Thanks for your time!
EDIT - Adding this from an answer posted by the OP
My status has officially changed today (20 days after application) and I have been declined the Visa Waiver.
Since the conference is in a month's time, I can still apply for a B-1 Visa but probably won't. Looking at the visa application website, it may be the case that I'll be asked to report my travel history over the past five years and although it's relatively uninteresting, I really do not have the time to put together all the documentation they might ask for, nor can I really be bothered to go through the rigmarole of an interview in London.