Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)
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.
Occassionally students obtain a new passport after having receiving the ‘ATAS certificate’ with the previous passport number on. Where there is time, students are advised to contact ATAS by email with a scanned copy of their new passport and ask for a new ATAS certificate to be issued with the new passport number on. If there isn’t enough time, students are advised to submit their visa application with both passports.
If you are a visiting research student on a course which is subject to ATAS approval, you will require an ATAS certificate in order to apply for a Tier 4 visa if your visiting period to the UK is 6 months or longer.
We have compiled a list of frequently asked questions which should provide all the information you need.
What is an ATAS certificate?
You will need to apply for an ATAS clearance certificate before applying for a student visa if you plan to undertake postgraduate research in some science, engineering or technology disciplines. You will also need an ATAS certificate if you are undertaking a postgraduate taught master’s programme in Materials Science, Materials Technology, Aerospace Engineering, Mechanical Engineering or Physics. Some MEng courses also require ATAS clearance.
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.
How can I check if my course is eligible?
The government has based this scheme on JACS (Joint Academic Coding System) codes. All University courses have a JACS code allocated according to the subject area. A list of the JACS codes included in ATAS is available on the ATAS website.
In January 2012, there were some changes made to the list of eligible JACS 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.
If you are studying a postgraduate course, the Postgraduate Admissions team will include the JACS code for your proposed course in your offer documentation, and inform you if this code means that you should apply for ATAS clearance. It will also tell you on your CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies) if you require an ATAS certificate. If your course is subject to ATAS clearance, Postgraduate Admissions should provide you with an email detailing your research proposal. You will need this email to be able to submit an application for an ATAS certificate.
If you are studying an undergraduate course that leads to a postgraduate exit qualification that requires ATAS clearance, the Undergraduate Admissions Team should provide confirmation of your JACS code in your offer documentation, and inform you if this code means that you should apply for ATAS clearance. It will also tell you on your CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies) if you require an ATAS certificate. If your course is subject to ATAS clearance, Undergraduate Admissions should provide you with a letter detailing your course modules. You will need this 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 and the email with your research proposal from Postgraduate 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.
If you are a current PhD student and will require an ATAS certificate to apply for visa extension, you will need to obtain a statement from the Graduate School. You will receive an official statement from the Graduate School along with the JCAS code in a few days’ time, and you should use that statement for your ATAS application.
If you are taking a taught master’s course, you will be asked to give a list of the modules that you are likely to take and any project/dissertation work to be completed. Again, this information will be sent after an offer is made and you simply need to copy the list exactly as it appears in the email. Please do not attempt to compile the list of modules by yourself as both core and optional/elective modules must be listed and a partial list will invalidate your ATAS certificate.
If you are an undergraduate student taking a course that will lead to a postgraduate exit qualification, the Undergraduate Admissions team should provide you with information about the modules you will take. This information will need to be provided on your application.
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.
If you are a PhD student and are applying for an extension to stay for the sole purpose of writing up your thesis and your previous Visa did not require ATAS clearance as it was issued before 30 November 2007, then you do not need an ATAS certificate. If your Visa was issued after the 30 November 2007 then you will require ATAS clearance for writing up your thesis.
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.