Guidance on how to apply for an ATAS certificate

How to apply for an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate, what's involved in the application process and how long it takes.

If you’re a new student you will need to get a conditional offer from your Higher Education Institution (HEI) including an agreed research statement or list of modules information before you apply for an ATAS certificate. If you hold more than one offer you should apply for a separate certificate for each offer.

If you’re an existing student you will need to have the updated research statement or list of modules information to help you complete the ATAS application. This will also be required if you apply for an extension of stay.

The ATAS process is completely separate to your HEI applications. HEIs that you applied to will be informed of the result of your ATAS applications.

How to complete the on-line application form

The on-line application form has 10 sections, which should be completed in full, with as much detail as possible provided for each section. Everything that is typed into this form is used to assess your application.

  • Proposed course of study: The university you are proposing to study with will provide you with all the relevant details for this section, eg in your conditional offer letter. They will advise you of the appropriate JACS code and give you the correct form of words for the ‘What Will you be Studying’ box. Only use the university’s description here. You will be able to add to this description in the next box: ‘Why do you want to study this?’

  • Personal details: Details from this section will be included in your ATAS certificate. Complete this area fully and carefully and review at least once before submitting. Typos and transposed numbers are regular mistakes in this area and if the details provided do not match the details in your passport exactly, you will have trouble securing a Tier 4 study visa.

  • Spouse: tell us if you’re married and are planning to bring your spouse with you. If your spouse chooses to study an ATAS relevant subject while in the UK accompanying you, they will need to apply for their own ATAS certificate separately.

  • Contact details: Make sure your contact details are accurate. The ATAS certificate will be sent to the preferred email address you enter in this section.

  • Undergraduate/Postgraduate studies: provide as much detail as you are able on all previous undergraduate and postgraduate studies you have undertaken.

  • Other studies: tell us if you have undertaken any other studies you think may be relevant to your application.

  • Published papers: tell us if you have had any academic or professional papers published, either on your own, or with co-publishers.

  • Employment history: tell us, with as much detail as possible, of any jobs you have held. Jobs that relate to your proposed course of study, or that have been secured based on previous studies, are particularly relevant.

  • Referees: provide us with the details of 2 referees who have known you for a minimum of 3 years, preferably from your academic life. At least one of the referees should be from your under-graduate university. If you have any work experience, a referee from your employment would also be useful. A referee from your home country would be preferable, but it is not essential if you have studied and/or worked in another country. Family members are not acceptable.

  • Sponsors: provide us with the details of any sponsors you may have for the funding of your proposed studies. If you are meeting all the costs of your studies yourself, please put your own name and address in the relevant boxes. If another family member is meeting the costs, put down their details.

How long it takes

We aim to respond to all applications within 20 working days from the date an application has been successfully completed and submitted. However, during peak months, prior to the beginning of the academic year, processing times will be longer. Don’t apply for a Tier 4 (student) visa until you have had a response from us. There is no fast-track service. We recommend applying up to 9 months in advance to avoid any unnecessary delays or worries. The earlier you apply, the more likely your application will be processed within the 20 working days guideline.

If you haven’t heard anything after 4 weeks, please check your inbox is not full (and therefore rejecting our message). Also check your ‘Spam’ or ‘Junk’ folder to make sure that our message has not been filtered out. You can also contact the ATAS team at if you think you’ve missed our response.

If your application takes longer than 20 working days

The team’s aim is to turn an application around within 20 working days of the application being successfully submitted. We won’t start processing an application until we are satisfied it has been completed correctly. If we have to request more information from you, your application can take more than 20 working days to process.

If you have not had a response from us after 20 working days (or after a further 20 working days following submission of additional information) please contact us. We will not respond to emails sent before 20 working days (4 weeks) have passed or if it is less than 20 working days from you submitting additional information.

Students applying to several universities

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

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.

Tier 4 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 of Tier 4 (General) immigration permission in which to look for and start work in the UK. ATAS is not required for this scheme.

ATAS and visa applications

If your ATAS certificate does not match your university offer you may be refused a visa. Please contact UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) for advice on visa matters.

If you’re refused an ATAS certificate

Without an ATAS certificate you will not be granted a visa to study in the UK if your course requires one. However, applications for other courses that do not require an ATAS certificate will be considered on an individual basis. If you think your application has been treated unfairly you can ask for a review.

When you get 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 the details on it are correct and match your offer documentation from your HEI
  • print out the certificate if everything is correct and include it in your documentation required for a visa or extension of stay application
  • contact the ATAS unit at if there are any mistakes

If your visa has expired and you haven’t received your ATAS certificate

It is important that you know the expiry date of your visa and have a clear understanding of what documentation you need to support a new visa application. You must ensure you have submitted an ATAS application to support your visa application in plenty of time: at least 3 calendar months before you need to apply for a new visa.

If you are already studying a course for which an ATAS certificate has been issued, but you need to apply for a visa extension to complete your course and a decision on your subsequent ATAS application has not been made, then 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.

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.

Contact the ATAS team

Please write to if you have a query about your application. We will not reply to any query on an application that is not at least 20 working days old.

The ATAS team usually works from Monday to Friday 09.00 to 17.00. We aim to answer your email within 5 working days, but this may not be possible during busy periods. Note that where your query is answered on this website we may not respond. We are unable to provide a telephone service to students, but your HEI may be able to make representations to us on your behalf.

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 that decision will be shared with UKVI, the Home Office and the HEI you have applied to. We will not share your details with anyone else unless there are sufficient grounds under the Data Protection Act (1998).

Published 17 February 2015
Last updated 19 January 2016 + show all updates
  1. updated guidance
  2. First published.