It usually means having to go through the lengthier and more expensive process of applying for a visa. For the family of the baby, whose grandfather, Paul Kenyon, made the mistake, the trip cost an extra £3,000 (about $3,800), including new flights, The Guardian reported.
An unsuccessful ESTA application may mean people can no longer apply for a visa waiver. But they, too, can still apply for a visa.
The Department of Homeland Security did not respond on Friday to questions about the form.
Uncomfortable questions asked of travelers at the United States border are at least as old as Ellis Island, the former gateway for millions arriving in New York Harbor by sea. In the hall of the inspection center, opened in 1892, officials asked new arrivals about disabilities, infectious diseases and whether they had been “in a prison, almshouse or institution for care of the insane.”
The questions asked by ESTA and other immigration procedures have evolved alongside security concerns in the United States. The Immigration and Nationality Act, which sets out the eligibility of people to enter the country, was amended after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to expand the grounds for denying entry to people who the government said had ties to terrorist activities or groups — and, in some cases, for denying entry to their families.
In 2016, the Obama administration tightened the rules to prevent citizens of 38 countries who had traveled to Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen after March 1, 2011, from entering the United States under ESTA. It also required visa applications of people from the 38 countries who were also citizens of Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria. Other requirements have been relaxed, such as the 22-year ban on H.I.V. positive foreigners entering the United States, which was scrapped in 2010.
These rules were less restrictive than President Trump’s executive order sharply limiting entry from seven countries, which prevents some people from applying for visas and requires others to obtain waivers before applying for them.
Mr. Stevenson may still have time to rectify the error at the United States Embassy before his flight, but if not, airlines do not generally refund tickets for missing travel documents.