Guidance

Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

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

The Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) applies to all international students (apart from exempt nationalities) who are subject to UK immigration control and are intending to study at postgraduate level in certain sensitive subjects. The subjects are those where students’ knowledge could be used in programmes to develop Advanced Conventional Military Technology (ACMT), weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) or their means of delivery. These students must apply for an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate before they can study in the UK.

Students 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.

The requirement for an ATAS certificate applies to all other students irrespective of the country of residence when they apply.

You need an ATAS certificate if you are an international student applying to study at postgraduate level 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.

UK immigration law does not allow universities to permit international students to study for an ATAS applicable course until the student has supplied the university with all the relevant ATAS certificate details for their application.

New students

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

You can apply for an ATAS certificate up to 9 months before the starting date of your course. Early applications are strongly advised.

An ATAS certificate is valid for 6 months from date of issue, which should allow applicants plenty of time to apply for the Student route. You can apply for the Student route up to 6 months in advance of the start of your course, if you are applying from outside the UK. This means you can apply for an ATAS certificate up to 9 months before the start of your studies. You should apply for your ATAS certificate as early as possible from the moment you have received a conditional offer to study at a UK Higher Education Institution (HEI).

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 that accurately reflects the HEI you are attending, and the course of study, including modules or proposed research. Should any of these details change, you should re-confirm whether your new details require an ATAS certificate and apply for a new certificate as appropriate.

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

Already in the UK on a non-student visa

If you entered the UK on a Tier 1, Tier 2 or Tier 5 visa, which was issued on or after 6 April 2015, you must apply for an ATAS certificate before beginning your studies. If you entered the UK prior to 6 April 2015 a certificate is not yet required, although it will become a requirement when you come to renew your visa.

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

How long applications take

It will take at least 20 working days (4 complete weeks) for your ATAS application to be processed. Processing times will increase between the months of April and September and can take 30 or more working days to complete. If you apply between April and September you are asked to show patience in waiting for your application to be processed.

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

What you need to apply

To apply online you will need both:

  • your conditional offer letter from your Higher Education Institution (HEI)
  • information about your programme of study/research including the relevant CAH3 code.

You will also need to provide information on:

  • previous studies
  • previous and current employment (if applicable)
  • all published papers
  • optional modules you anticipate taking in a taught Masters (if applicable)
  • your area of research and a description (for research degrees)
  • full names and contact details of 2 referees
  • how you will be funding your studies

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 help ensure there are no unnecessary 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 from your undergraduate studies
  • if you have not been employed, indicate ‘not applicable / never employed’
  • ensure the details of the passport you will be using to apply for the Student route are provided in full and are accurate
  • provide (where applicable) research statements as specifically agreed with your HEI and an adequate personal statement
  • if you are extending studies, ensure your application features the new length of your course, not the original length. You should continue to use the original start date on your application and put in the new end 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 before you submit your application as you may have to re-apply if you do not include this information
  • information entered by an individual at the application process is what is printed on the certificate. When you have completed your application, please read through your entries carefully before you ‘submit’ it. The vast majority of mistakes on ATAS certificates, causing delays to students’ registration processes, are due to accidental errors made when entering data at the time of application

Find out more about how to apply.

Published 25 March 2013
Last updated 6 October 2020 + show all updates
  1. Updated to reflect borders and immigration system changes

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

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

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

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

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

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

  8. Note added on email messages to Chinese students.

  9. Note added on Christmas availability.

  10. updated detailed guide

  11. updated notice

  12. Easter announcement.

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

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

  15. Added "Important: ATAS Service Update" section

  16. Updated contact information

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

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

  19. ‘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.’

  20. 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.

  21. Added apply online information.

  22. First published.