Guidance

Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

Apply for an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate, to study certain subjects in the UK.

The Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) applies to all international students and researchers (apart from exempt nationalities) who are subject to UK immigration control and are intending to study or research at postgraduate level in certain sensitive subjects.

The subjects and research areas are those where knowledge could be used in programmes to develop Advanced Conventional Military Technology (ACMT), weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) or their means of delivery. Researchers and students in these sensitive subjects must apply for an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate before they can study or start research in the UK.

Students and researchers who are nationals of EU countries, the European Economic Area (EEA), Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland or the United States of America do not need an ATAS certificate.

Researchers and students of all other nationalities must apply for an ATAS certificate. You must apply if you are undertaking a postgraduate course or research in certain sensitive subjects in the UK. If you are applying to study an undergraduate course with an integrated masters year you may also need ATAS clearance.

The entry clearance officer (ECO) will ask to see your ATAS certificate as part of your application for permission to enter the UK. A caseworker will also need to see your ATAS certificate as part of an application for permission to stay in the UK.

UK immigration law does not allow universities to permit international students or researchers to study or undertake research in an ATAS applicable course until the student or researcher has provided the university or research institute with the correct ATAS certificate.

Students

If you’re a new student and need an ATAS certificate, you will need to get this before applying for permission to enter the UK.

When you have received your offer from your university you should apply 6 months before your course will start.

An ATAS certificate is valid for 6 months from the date it is issued, to enable applicants time to apply for their visa.

You should apply for your ATAS certificate as early as possible from when you have received a conditional offer to study at a UK Higher Education Institution (HEI).

Make sure your ATAS certificate will not expire before you apply for your UK visa.

Already in the UK on the student route (including Tier 4)

If you’re already in the UK on a student visa you will need an ATAS certificate for the HEI you are attending, and the course of study, including modules or proposed research. If any of these details change, you should check whether you need an ATAS certificate and apply for a new one as appropriate.

You should make a note of when your permission to enter into the UK is due to expire, to allow sufficient time to complete your ATAS and permission to stay applications before your current permission expires. We recommend applying at least 4 months before your current permission expires.

Already in the UK on a non-student visa

If you have Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK, you do not need an ATAS certificate to study in the UK.

If you’re in the process of applying for asylum in the UK, you must apply for an ATAS certificate to study in the UK.

All other time-limited visas need an ATAS certificate if you are studying for an ATAS-relevant qualification in the UK.

Students and researchers applying to several universities

Each certificate is specific to the course, research area and institution. You should submit an application for each programme of study or research area where ATAS applies.

If you’re writing your thesis

You must apply for an ATAS certificate if you are applying solely to write up your thesis and your previous visa required ATAS

Student visitors

If you’re a student coming to the UK as a visitor, you will need to obtain an ATAS certificate before starting research in the UK. You do not need to do this before you apply for a UK visa

Doctorate Extension Scheme

The Doctorate Extension Scheme is designed to give students who have almost finished their UK PhD or other doctorate qualification an additional 12 months permission to stay on the Student route in which to look for and start work in the UK. You do not need to apply for an ATAS certificate for this scheme.

If you are starting your course overseas

You only need to obtain an ATAS certificate for when you plan to be studying in the UK. However be aware that you could be unsuccessful when you apply for an ATAS certificate to come to the UK part of the way through your course.

Transnational courses may be subject to UK Export Control Legislation. Read the guidance on export controls on academic research.

Academic researchers

If you’re an academic researcher applying on the Skilled Worker, Intra-company transfer, Intra-company graduate trainee, Tier 5 International Agreement, and Government Authorised Exchange routes, you will need to apply for, and be granted, an ATAS certificate before applying for a UK visa or permission to stay. You do not need to have a final employment contract before you apply for an ATAS certificate. Your employer will advise whether you are to be employed under a standard occupational classification (SOC) that requires ATAS.

If you’re a researcher coming to the UK as a visitor, you need to obtain an ATAS certificate before beginning any relevant research activity in the UK. However you do not need to do so before you apply for a UK visa (where relevant).

If you need an ATAS certificate as a visitor, you do not have to obtain this before applying for a visa but you should obtain it before travelling to the UK. The HEI/research institute must check the ATAS certificate before allowing the research to start, and if this is not provided you will not be permitted on-site.

If you are a researcher already in the UK

You do not need to apply for an ATAS certificate if you:

  • are already conducting research in the UK
  • were a visitor conducting research in the UK before the requirement for ATAS certificates was introduced on 21 May 2021, and you are continuing this research

You need to apply for an ATAS certificate if you:

  • are already conducting research in the UK and you apply for a new visa or apply to extend your current visa
  • were a visitor conducting research in the UK before the requirement for ATAS certificates was introduced on 21 May 2021 and are returning to the UK to do research
  • hold an ATAS certificate for a UK course you have undertaken are making a new application for a Skilled Worker, Intra-company transfer, Intra-company graduate trainee, Tier 5 International Agreement, or Tier 5 Government Authorised Exchange visa. You need it before you apply for a visa
  • change your field of research or change where you conduct your research

Researchers also undertaking a course of study

Skilled Worker, Intra-company transfer, Intra-company graduate trainee, Tier 5 International Agreement, and Tier 5 Government Authorised Exchange visa holders may also undertake a course of study. You need to apply for 1 ATAS certificate but you should include both the research project and study activities in your application.

If your circumstances change after ATAS certificate is issued

The ATAS certificate must accurately reflect the HEI/research institute which employs/hosts your research, and the research project, job title and duration. If any of these details change you should check whether you require an ATAS certificate and apply for a new certificate if you need one.

Researchers applying for ATAS can begin their employment or research 2 weeks before, or any time after the start date stated on their certificate.

Make a note of when your permission to enter into the UK is due to expire, and allow sufficient time to complete the ATAS and permission to stay application processes before your current permission expires. We recommend applying at least 4 months before your current permission expires.

Conducting research at more than 1 HEI/research institutes

An ATAS certificate is applicable to one HEI/research institute. If you are conducting research at more than 1 institute, you need to apply for an ATAS certificate for each, which including information on the research you will undertake at each HEI/research institute.

How long applications take

It will take at least 20 working days (4 full weeks) to process a student ATAS application. Processing times will increase between April and September and can take 30 or more working days to complete.

It will take at least 10 working days (2 full weeks) to process a researcher ATAS application. Processing times will increase between April and September and can take 15 or more working days to complete.

To ensure fairness and consistency we process applications in order of receipt. There is no ‘fast track’ service. You should submit your ATAS application as early as possible.

December 2021 update

ATAS will be running a reduced service between 23 December 2021 to 4 January 2022. Application processing times may take longer than usual. Do not contact the enquiries team within 6 weeks of submitting your application.

September 2021 update

Due to the usual summer increase in applications, and additional applications as students who deferred last year take up their places, processing times are longer than usual. You should not submit duplicate applications, as this increases the processing time. Do not contact the enquiries team within 6 weeks of your application.

What you need to apply

To apply online you need:

  • information about your programme of study/research including the relevant CAH3 code, provided by the HEI/ research institute
  • for student applications only, your conditional offer letter from your Higher Education Institution (HEI)

You will also need to provide information on:

  • previous studies
  • previous and current employment (if applicable)
  • all published papers
  • optional modules you might take in a taught Masters (if unsure please include all possible modules)
  • your area of research and a description (for research degrees and researchers)
  • full names and contact details of 2 referees
  • how you will be sponsored whilst in the UK

You should apply for an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate online.

Guidance on how to apply for an ATAS certificate

Follow the advice closely to ensure there are no delays to your application:

  • provide the full names of your referees, employers and sponsors (provide a first name and last name and do not provide initials instead of first names)
  • provide details for 2 referees you have ideally known for over 3 years, one of whom should be an academic referee
  • if you have not been employed, indicate ‘not applicable / never employed’
  • ensure the details of the passport you will use to enter the UK are provided in full and are accurate
  • provide (where applicable) research statements as specifically agreed with your HEI/employer and an adequate personal statement
  • if you are extending your research, ensure your application features the new length of your visit/employment. You should include the date you submit your ATAS extension application as the start date
  • ensure there are no long gaps in your employment / education history. If you were unemployed or, for example, a full-time parent, you should indicate this on the form
  • ensure you enter the correct CAH3 code for your course or research area before you submit your application as you will have to re-apply if you do not include this information
  • information you provide when you apply is printed on the certificate. When you have completed your application, please read through your entries carefully before you submit it

Find out more about how to apply.

Published 25 March 2013
Last updated 7 December 2021 + show all updates
  1. ATAS application processing times may take longer than usual between 23 December 2021 to 4 January 2022. Do not contact the enquiries team within 6 weeks of submitting your application.

  2. September update added to "How long applications take" section.

  3. Updated with additional information for researchers

  4. Updated to reflect borders and immigration system changes

  5. The ATAS online certificate service is not available from 5 to 9 October 2020

  6. Updated to include Advanced Conventional Military Technology (ACMT) as a subject in scope for ATAS certification

  7. ATAS is currently unavailable due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

  8. Application process update: ATAS applications can now take up to 30 days.

  9. ATAS information updated for study/research for less than 6 months.

  10. Added information on the ATAS certificate requirements for postgraduate students.

  11. Note added on email messages to Chinese students.

  12. Note added on Christmas availability.

  13. updated detailed guide

  14. updated notice

  15. Easter announcement.

  16. Service update: ATAS application website now up and running.

  17. Service update notice added: The ATAS application website is down temporarily.

  18. Added "Important: ATAS Service Update" section

  19. Updated contact information

  20. Removing downtime message as ATAS will not be affected by downtime after all.

  21. Added a note to online application to notify of downtime on 4th May.

  22. ‘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.’ replaced ‘The ATAS service is currently closed to new applications pending its re-launch on 15 April. Due to technical difficulties the site is re-opening one week later than originally scheduled. We apologise for any inconvenience caused. Please ask your University to contact us on your behalf if your application will consequently require urgent attention after 15 April.’

  23. The ATAS service is currently closed to new applications pending its re-launch on 15 April. Due to technical difficulties the site is re-opening one week later than originally scheduled. We apologise for any inconvenience caused. Please ask your University to contact us on your behalf if your application will consequently require urgent attention after 15 April.

  24. Added apply online information.

  25. First published.