Guidance

Academic Technology Approval Scheme

Find out if you need an Academic Technology Approval Scheme certificate to study in the UK.

Please note the ATAS online application system was unavailable on 26 March due to essential maintenance. Due to technical difficulties with concluding this work, some students may not have received a confirmation message after submitting applications between 26 March and 2 April. Note that in spite of this, applications appear to have been received by the ATAS system as normal over this period. If you have emailed atas@fco.gov.uk to express concern about this, be aware that, due to the large number of enquiries in relation to the issue, you may not receive a direct response. If you have not received a decision within 28 days (4 working weeks), please contact us again.

Overview

The Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) was introduced on 1 November 2007 and is an essential part of the UK’s commitment to counter proliferation. The scheme is specifically designed to ensure that those applying for postgraduate study in certain sensitive subjects do not acquire knowledge that could potentially be used in WMD programmes.

If you want to study a course leading to a postgraduate qualification in the United Kingdom, you may need to apply for an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate. We advise you to find out if you need an ATAS certificate before applying for a student visa or extension.

Applicants’ criteria

If you are a UK, EEA or Swiss national you do not need to apply for an ATAS certificate.

Prospective students should read the guidance for their course to find out if they need an ATAS certificate:

  • taught masters
  • postgraduate diploma or PGCE - If you are doing a postgraduate diploma or PGCE you do NOT need an ATAS certificate. Please continue with your visa application as necessary. You should not be asked for any further documentation with regards to ATAS, as long as your offer letter clearly states that it is a postgraduate Diploma or PGCE you are studying
  • PhD/doctoral level
  • masters by research
  • visiting research student
  • undergraduate student
  • taught or research masters - please contact your proposed HEI to confirm whether they define your course as Taught or Research. Please be aware this varies from course to course and from institution to institution. Please make sure you know this before you apply. Please Note: MRes course could be classified as Taught or Research. Please contact your HEI to confirm this.
  • enhanced MEng undergraduate degree

If you are none of the above categories:

  • if you are coming to the UK as an academic visitor you do not need an ATAS certificate
  • if you are coming to the UK to do research that is not linked to any studies you do not need an ATAS certificate
  • If you are applying for an extension to stay for the sole purpose of writing up your thesis and your previous Visa did not require ATAS clearance and was issued before 30 November 2007, then you don’t need an ATAS certificate. If your Visa was issued after the 30 November 2007 then you will require ATAS clearance for writing up your thesis
  • if you already have a valid visa you do not need to apply for an ATAS certificate unless you need to apply for an extension to stay in the UK in one of the above categories
  • you are studying a PGCE or Postgraduate Diploma

All subject areas studied at UK Higher Education Institutions are identified by a JACS (Joint Academic Coding System) code. Note that taught courses which have the JACS code beginning H8 and start on or after 1 January 2012 also require ATAS clearance.

An ATAS certificate shows details of the course and Higher Education Institution (HEI) you have applied to for clearance. If you have more than one offer from different HEIs you will need to apply for separate ATAS clearance certificates for each HEI and programme of study.

You’ll also need a new ATAS certificate if you change courses or if you wish to extend leave to remain as a student.

How to apply

If you require an ATAS certificate you will need to apply for this before applying for your visa or extension of stay, allowing at least four weeks (20 working days) in order to obtain it. The possession of an ATAS certificate does not guarantee you a visa or extension of stay. You must also provide evidence that you meet the usual student criteria. Visa applications will also automatically be refused if you need an ATAS certificate and cannot provide one.

For more information on applying for a student visa, and if you need to apply for an extension of stay, go to the UK Border Agency website [insert link].

An ATAS certificate is valid as long as the details of your course and HEI do not change. You can apply for an ATAS certificate up to 6 months in advance of the beginning of your course. We encourage you to apply as soon as you have received your offer of study.

We advise against making any travel plans before you have received an ATAS certificate. We aim to respond to all successfully completed applications within 20 working days, but this may be longer during busy periods.

Please ensure that the text you enter on your application form is exactly the same as the text provided in your offer letter. If these two documents do not match, you may have difficulties when applying for your visa or extension of stay.

What you’ll need

The most important document you will need to refer to while completing your application is your offer letter from your Higher Education Institution.

You will need to have information about your programme of study/research including the relevant JACS code and a brief description of the research you will carry out. (Your university will provide you with this information in your offer letter, or attached to it).

We are not able to advise you which JACS code is attached to your area of research. It is very important that the JACS code matches your area of study; you should not try to guess.

If you do not have the JACS code or the brief description of the research area you need to contact your proposed HEI.

Please ensure that the text you enter on your application form is exactly the same as the text provided in your offer letter. If these 2 documents do not match, you may have difficulties when applying for your visa or extension of stay.

Most of the other information we need is similar to that on a typical CV, or your application form for your HEI study.

You will not need to send us any original documents at this time, as these will be checked by the Entry Clearance Officer when you apply for your visa or extension of stay.

We will need information on:

  • your contact details
  • passport details
  • name and nationality of your spouse/partner (if applicable)
  • full details of all previous studies
  • full details of all previous/current employment (if applicable)
  • full details of published papers (if applicable)
  • previous ATAS applications (if applicable)
  • the programme of study you are applying to follow in the UK (including JACS code and research proposal)
  • if doing a taught Masters course you will need details of the optional modules you anticipate taking.
  • full names and contact details of 2 referees (First name(s) and Family name). You must have known both of your referees for at least 3 years. At least one must also be an academic from your country of origin.
  • how you will be funding your studies

Application process

Apply if you’re writing up your thesis

If you are applying solely to write up your thesis and your previous visa required ATAS, you need a certificate.

What you can do if you are refused a visa

You will not be granted a visa to join this course. However, applications for other courses will be considered on an individual basis. If you think your application has been treated unfairly you may request a review and the procedure for this is explained in your refusal notice.

There is no fast-track process

We aim to respond to all applications within 20 working days from successful completion. Do not book travel until you have had a response from us. There’s no facility to fast track. Apply as early as possible in busy periods.

Students applying to several universities

Each certificate is specific to the course and institution. You should submit an application for each programme of study where ATAS applies. You will be able to retain the data from one application form for use in another.

ATAS and Visa applications

If your ATAS does not match your university offer, you may be refused a visa. Please contact the UK Border Agency for advice on visa matters.

University applications

For new students you will need to obtain an offer from your Higher Education Institution(s) before you apply for an ATAS certificate. For existing students you will need to have an official letter from your Higher Education Institution for the ATAS process. This will also be required if you apply for an extension of stay. The ATAS process is completely separate to your Higher Education Institution applications. HEIs that you have applied to will be informed of the result of your ATAS application.

Privacy policy

Once you have submitted your ATAS application your details will be held on our secure server in accordance with the Data Protection Act, 1998. Once a decision has been made on your application it will be shared with UKBA, the Home Office and the Higher Education Institution you have applied to. We will not share your details with anyone else unless there are sufficient grounds under the Data Protection Act.

Access to your details

We will not be able to see the data you enter on the ATAS application form until you press the ‘submit’ button at the end of the application form.

If you have not heard from ATAS

If you have not heard anything within 4 weeks please check your inbox is not full (and therefore rejecting our message). Please also check your ‘Spam’ folder or ‘Junk email’ folder to make sure that our message has not been filtered out. You can also contact us if you are concerned you have missed our response.

If your application takes longer than 20 working days

We will not start processing an application until we are satisfied it is correctly filled in. If we have to request more information from you we do not start processing the application until we receive an answer from yourself. During busy periods we can have a lot of applications to process but we will do our best to process your application as quickly as possible.

If you have not had a response from us after 20 working days please contact us. Emails sent before 20 working days requesting the status of an application will not be responded to.

The email should arrive in your account within 48 hours of registration. If you do not receive it please check to make sure your inbox is not full. Please also check your ‘Spam’ folder or ‘Junk email’ folder to make sure that our message has not been filtered out. If you have still not received this email please follow the forgotten password link on the application form home page. This will generate a new email with a new link to the application form. You will need to reset your password before you can access the application form.

Incomplete submitted applications

Please be aware the PDF has a character limit and will sometimes cut off information. If you are sure you have entered it correctly it will still be stored on our electronic system. We will contact you if we need any information.

If you have missed out information or you have incorrectly filled in some parts of the application form please contact us with details of what you want to change, quoting your ATAS ID number.

Locked accounts

Please go to the application form home page. Click on the ‘Forgotten Password’ link and enter the email address you used to register. This field is case-sensitive so you should enter the address exactly as you entered it to register. Please only do this once as each time you enter your email address it invalidates the last email to you generated by the system. You should then receive a new link to allow you to access your ATAS form, (please allow a minimum of 30 minutes for this to arrive). You will need to create a new password of your choice. The password field is also case-sensitive.

When clicking on the link please ensure that the full link is highlighted. If it is not, please copy and paste the full link into your web browser.

Difficulties proceeding to next stage of form

  • Please make sure that you do not enter too much text on any area of the form, the character limit is stated on the fields. Reduce the amount of text you have entered and try to continue. If you need to submit any additional information at a later date please email us after you have submitted your application, quoting your ATAS ID number.
  • Please also ensure that you enter only text and no symbols such as ‘ # > <
  • Ensure that you have filled in all of the required fields.
  • Please note that pages are locked if they are left inactive for over 9 minutes. This means 9 minutes without saving or clicking the next button.

Registered with wrong JACS code

Unfortunately there is no facility to change the JACS code you registered with. If you are able, please register again with an alternative email address. If you do not have an alternative email address please complete the application form and submit it. You will then be able to register again using the same email address, this time entering the correct JACS code. Please email us to inform us that you have done this, quoting your ATAS ID number and we will withdraw the incorrect application.

No confirmation email

If you have not received a confirmation copy of your submitted application please make sure that it was successfully submitted. If after successful submission you still do not have a confirmation copy, contact us and we will be able to send you a copy.

Problems Applying

We are content that our website is functional as we receive hundreds of applications daily. However, if you have problems, try using a different web browser. The ATAS website works best on Internet Explorer. You may have trouble using other browsers such as Mozilla Firefox. Alternatively, complete each field in sequential order. Completing the fields in a different order will cause the page to refresh. When you have completed all of the fields in sequential order: click the “submit” button and do not press the enter key on your keyboard. Pressing the enter key on your keyboard will cause the page to refresh. Consider having someone with you when you enter the characters into the text box. Some characters can sometimes be difficult to read.

How to receive your certificate

If your ATAS application is successful, you will receive a certificate by email to the address that you used to register. You should check your junk folders regularly to ensure the email has not been filtered out. Once you receive your certificate, you should check that the details on it are correct and match your offer documentation from your HEI. If everything is correct please print out the certificate and include it in your documentation required for a visa or extension of stay application.

What you should do if your visa has expired and you still haven’t received your ATAS certificate

If you have not left sufficient time for your ATAS application to be processed, you can submit your application for an extension of stay to the Home Office and include a letter indicating you will send your ATAS certificate on when you have it.

You should be aware however that applying for an ATAS certificate does not guarantee it will be issued. Failure to produce a valid ATAS certificate could result in your application for an extension being refused.

Apply online

Apply for your ATAS certificate. ATAS is currently accepting applications. Note that the existing service is scheduled to be replaced by a new online service shortly. Your application should not be affected by the change.

Important: if you are still to complete an application, please consider the following top tips, in addition to the fuller advice available from the ATAS website, before submitting your application. Following this advice closely will help ensure there are no unnecessary delays to your application:

  • Please provide the full names for the names of your referees, employers and sponsors (please provide a first name and last name and do not provide an initial instead of first names)
  • Please provide the details for two referees you have ideally known for over three years, one of whom should be from your home country
  • If you have not been employed, please indicate ‘not applicable / never employed’
  • Ensure your passport details are provided in full and are accurate
  • Please provide (where applicable) research statements as specifically agreed with your university and an adequate personal statement (both should be 5 or more sentences in length but not exceed the number of characters allowed for the text box)
  • If you are extending studies, please ensure your application features the new length of your course, not the original length
  • Please ensure there are no long gaps in your employment / education history; if you were unemployed or, for example, a full time parent please indicate this on the form
  • Please ensure you enter the correct JACS code for your course before you submit your application as if you do not you may have to re-apply

Contact

Before you contact us please review our website carefully. Your question may be answered there.

Due to the volume of emails we receive we are unable to respond to emails where the answer can be found on our website. If you have a question which is not addressed here, please email atas@fco.gov.uk

Please note: the ATAS team work Monday-Friday 0900-1700. We will try to answer your email within 48 hours during office hours.

Please do not send the same question twice - this will cause a delay.

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