Higher education – guidance

Academic Technology Approval Scheme

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

Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

The Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) is enshrined in UK Immigration Law. It requires all international students subject to existing UK Immigration permissions, who are applying to study for a postgraduate qualification in certain sensitive subjects, knowledge of which could be used in programmes to develop weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) or their means of delivery, to apply for an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate before they can study in the UK.

The requirement for an ATAS certificate applies to all students whose nationality is outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland, irrespective of country of residence at the point of application. An ATAS certificate is required for the visa application process.

New Students

If you are a new student and require an ATAS certificate, you will need to be in possession of this certificate before applying for a visa.

Students can apply for an ATAS certificate up to nine months in advance of the starting date of their course. Early applications are strongly advised.

An ATAS certificate is valid for six months from date of issue, which should allow applicants plenty of time to apply for their Student (Tier 4) Visa, whilst Tier 4 student visas themselves can be applied for up to three months in advance of the start of the course. This means that students can apply for an ATAS certificate up to nine months before the start of their studies. All students are advised to ensure you apply for your ATAS certificate as early as possible from the moment you are made a conditional offer to study at a UK Higher Education Institution (HEI).

Already in the UK on a student visa

If you are already in the UK on a student visa you will require an ATAS certificate that accurately reflects the HEI you are attending, and the course and modules you are studying. Should any of these details change, you should re-confirm that your new details do not require an ATAS certificate and apply for a new certificate as appropriate.

All International Students are advised to make a note of when their visa for entry into the United Kingdom is due to expire, to allow themselves sufficient time to complete the ATAS and visa application processes before their current visa expires. We recommend applying at least four months in advance of your current visa expiring.

Already in the UK on a non-student visa

If you are already in the UK, on a non-student visa you may still be required to apply for ATAS before beginning your studies:

  • If you have Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK you do not require ATAS to study in the UK;
  • 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 are required to apply for an ATAS certificate. 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 are in the process of applying for asylum in the UK, you are required to apply for an ATAS certificate.

Please note that UK Immigration Law does not allow universities to register International Students for an ATAS applicable course until the student has supplied the university with all the relevant ATAS certificate details for their application.

In all circumstances, please allow a minimum of at least 20 working days (four 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 and so we recommend that International Students submit their ATAS application as early as possible. Applications are made on-line.

To apply online you will need:

  • Your conditional offer letter from your Higher Education Institution (HEI); and
  • Information about your programme of study/research including the relevant JACS code.

We will need information on:

  • Full details of all previous studies;
  • Full details of all previous/current employment (if applicable);
  • Full details of 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 two referees; and
  • How you will be funding your studies.

The Entry Clearance Officer (ECO) will ask to see your ATAS certificate as part of your application process.

Guidance on how to apply for an ATAS certificate

Following the 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 initials instead of first names);
  • Please provide details for two referees you have ideally known for over three years. One of whom should be an academic referee from your undergraduate studies;
  • If you have not been employed please indicate ‘not applicable / never employed’;
  • Ensure the details of the passport you will be using to apply for your Tier 4 visa are provided in full and are accurate;
  • Please provide (where applicable) research statements as specifically agreed with your HEI and an adequate personal statement;
  • If you are extending studies, please ensure your application features the new length of your course, not the original length. You should continue to use the original start date on you application and put in the new end date;
  • 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 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 hitting the ‘submit’ key. 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.