ATAS (the Academic Technology Approval Scheme) is a scheme by which the UK government screens students from outside Europe who may, through studies in engineering, science or technology, have access to information and technology which could be used to develop weapons of mass destruction.
What is an ATAS certificate?
ATAS is a certificate issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office which gives you security clearance to study certain subject areas in the UK. It is one of the UK government’s measures to prevent the spread of knowledge and skills used to develop weapons of mass destruction and associated technology.
You do not need an ATAS certificate if you are a UK or EEA national.
Your CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies) will indicate whether or not you require ATAS clearance.
An ATAS certificate may be required as part of your visa application if you intend to study in the UK on a course that requires this. This is not limited to the Tier 4 visa category. You may also need ATAS if you are going to apply for a short term study visa.
How can I check if my course is eligible?
All University courses have a Higher Education Classification of Studies (HECOS) code allocated according to the subject area. A list of the HECOS codes included in ATAS is available on the ATAS website.
Find out if my course is eligible
In January 2012, there were some changes made to the list of eligible HECOS codes. One of these changes has been to include the requirement for ATAS clearance for students who are studying an undergraduate course which leads to a postgraduate exit qualification in certain subjects. The ATAS website provides details of this.
The Admissions team will include the HECOS code for your proposed course in your offer letter, and inform you if this code means that you should apply for ATAS clearance. It will also tell you on your Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) if you require an ATAS certificate. For PhD students, if your course is subject to ATAS clearance, your offer letter will confirm your area of research proposal. You will need this email to be able to submit an application for an ATAS certificate.
How do I apply?
You will need to complete and submit a form online through the ATAS website. This is free of charge and you will not need to send any supporting documentation.
The form requires information such as details of your previous studies or employment and an outline of your planned area of research or your taught modules.
You can apply for an ATAS certificate as soon as you have received a conditional or unconditional offer. You will need to do this before applying for your student visa. It should take up to 20 working days for the ATAS form to be processed, although applications can take much longer than this.
You will be sent an email by the government to confirm your clearance or to notify you that the application has been refused. You are advised to apply as soon as you receive your offer for your course including your research proposal from Admissions to ensure that you do not risk your visa application being refused because your ATAS certificate is not included with your application.
You should submit the ATAS certificate received by email with your visa application. You will also need to meet all other requirements for students to qualify for a Tier 4 visa.
How do I include details of my course in the application?
When you apply for ATAS clearance as a research student, you will be asked to give a statement of six or seven lines to describe broadly your planned area of research. If you are a prospective postgraduate research student, once you receive an offer, the Postgraduate Admissions team will provide you with an email giving a brief description of the research that you will carry out. You simply need to copy the statement exactly as it appears in your email from Postgraduate Admissions into the ATAS form. If you have not received the appropriate documentation for your ATAS application, please contact the Postgraduate Admissions team.
If you are taking a taught master’s course, please do not attempt to compile a list of your modules by yourself as both core and optional/elective modules must be listed and a partial list will invalidate your ATAS certificate. The Admissions Team will be able to help you with this process.
How long is an ATAS certificate valid for?
You must use your ATAS certificate within 6 months of the date it is issued. If you do not, you will need to apply for a new one. Once you have used the certificate with a visa application, your ATAS certificate will remain valid for as long as your programme of study, provided that your subject area does not change. If you lose your ATAS certificate, you should email the ATAS team.
What if I change my area of research or course?
If your area of research or course is likely to change to one still affected by the requirement to have an ATAS certificate, then you should not register on the new course or start the new area of research until a new ATAS certificate has been applied for and has been issued.
If you were previously studying on a course which did not require ATAS clearance but you now wish to switch to one which does (e.g. switching to an undergraduate course which leads to a postgraduate exit qualification covered by ATAS), you must obtain an ATAS certificate before you can transfer to that new course. Should you be required to apply for a Tier 4 visa extension to complete the course, you will need to submit the ATAS certificate with the application. Applications take approximately 20 working days to be processed.
Will I need an ATAS certificate to extend my visa?
If you apply to extend your student visa in the UK to complete a course that is subject to ATAS clearance, you will need to show an ATAS clearance certificate. If you do not already have an ATAS certificate for this course, you will need to apply for one. See above for details on how to do this.
Our website provides details on the process of applying for a Tier 4 student visa.
Do I have to provide the University with a copy of my ATAS certificate?
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office will automatically send the University a copy of your ATAS certificate and you are therefore not required to provide a copy to the University yourself.
Where can I find more information?
There is a lot of information and guidance available on the ATAS website, including frequently asked questions and information on what to do if your ATAS application is refused.
Find out more about ATAS
You may also seek advice from the Visa and International Support team.