Find out if you need an ATAS certificate

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

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

When you need an ATAS certificate

Check if you need an ATAS certificate.

Taught or research masters

Contact your proposed Higher Education Institution (HEI) to check whether they define your course as taught or research. Each institution defines the courses it offers differently. Master of Research (MRes) courses can be classified as taught or research. Make sure you know what kind of course you intend to take before you apply for your ATAS certificate.


The UK government defines a researcher as an individual conducting an investigation into a problem or situation, where the intention is to identify facts and/or opinions that will assist in solving the problem or tackling the situation.

A researcher may be working independently or as part of team. You need to apply for an ATAS certificate if research is being conducted at PhD level or above. PhD students should apply through the student route, not researcher route.

If you’re a researcher on a Standard visitor visa attending meetings, conferences, seminars or interviews, or giving speeches, and will not be undertaking research during your time in the UK, you do not need to apply for ATAS clearance.

If you’re a researcher on a standard visitor visa undertaking science and academic activities, including:

  • gathering information and facts for a specific project which directly relates to your employment overseas, or to support independent research
  • taking part in formal exchange arrangements with UK counterparts
  • carrying out research for your own purposes or as a group

You must apply for an ATAS certificate, if you’re planning to work on an ATAS-categorised sensitive subject.

When you don’t need an ATAS certificate

If you are a UK national or a national of any of the following countries, you do not need to apply for an ATAS certificate:

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Canada
  • Croatia
  • Republic of Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • United States of America

You do not need an ATAS certificate if you’re doing a postgraduate diploma or PGCE. You should continue with your application for permission to stay in the UK as necessary.

Common Aggregate Hierarchy (CAH3)

All subject areas studied at UK Higher Education Institutions are identified by CAH3 code. Your HEI or research institute will provide you with a CAH3 code and confirm whether you require an ATAS certificate. ATAS uses V1.3.4 of the CAH3.

If you have offers from more than 1 higher education institutions or research institutes

An ATAS certificate shows details of the course or research and higher education institution (HEI) you have applied to for clearance.

If you have more than 1 offer from different HEIs you’ll need to apply for separate ATAS clearance certificates for each HEI and programme of study.

You’ll need a new ATAS certificate if you change courses or research, or if you want to apply for further permission to stay in the UK.

Find out how to apply

You should not make a duplicate application if your existing one is currently under process, as this can cause further delays to your current application.

Updates to this page

Published 17 February 2015
Last updated 14 May 2021 + show all updates
  1. Updated information on ATAS certificates for research

  2. Updated to reflect borders and immigration system changes

  3. CAH3 codes have replaced JACS codes

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

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

  6. First published.

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