Academic Technology Approval Scheme
What is the Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)?
The Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) was introduced on 1st November 2007. In common with other governments around the world, the British Government is working hard to stop the spread of knowledge and skills that could be used in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their means of delivery. The ATAS is designed to ensure that people who are applying to study certain sensitive subjects in the UK do not have links to WMD programmes.
What does this mean for students?
If you are an international student planning to undertake postgraduate study in the UK in certain science, engineering or technology disciplines after 1st November 2007, then you will need to obtain an ATAS certificate before you can apply for a visa either to come to the UK (Entry Clearance) or to extend your current student visa (Leave to Remain).
The only exemption is for students who are applying to extend their visa in order to write up a thesis and their last visa was a student visa granted before 30th November 2007.
Please note that if your original entry clearance visa was issued prior to 30/11/07 and you have since made an application to extend your student visa then this exemption will not apply to you.
Will I need an ATAS certificate?
Check your CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies) which will state if you need an ATAS certificate before applying for your visa to come to the UK or to stay in the UK as a student.
You can check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website for a list of courses, which are identified as ATAS applicable. The courses are identified according to the beginning of their Joint Academic Coding of Subjects (JACS) code. A JACS code consists of a letter followed by 4 digits. JACS codes are attributed by educational institutions to each course or area of research.
What if I make a change to my course?
The Tier 4 Policy Guidance explains that an 'ATAS certificate is issued for a specific course with a named Tier 4 sponsor and remains valid as long as the Tier 4 sponsor and/or course details do not change, including the length of the course’. This means that you must apply for an ATAS clearance certificate, or for a new ATAS clearance certificate, if you:
• change your course
• change your institution
• apply to extend your leave in order to complete your course*
* The only exemption here is if you are applying to extend your visa in order to write up your thesis and your last visa was a student visa granted before 30th November 2007.
Please note that if your original entry clearance visa was issued prior to 30/11/07 and you have since made an application to extend your visa then this exemption will not apply to you.
How do I apply for my ATAS certificate?
You must make your ATAS application on-line .
The form should take no longer than 30 minutes to complete. You can also save the form and return to it at a later date if you do not have all of the information to hand.
Please be aware that the current ATAS on-line application system will close on 27 March 2013, and a new system will start on 08 April 2013. Students are strongly advised to delay making an ATAS application from mid-March until the new system goes live on 08 April 2013.
What information will I need in order to complete the application form?
You will need to have your University offer letter to hand and the JACS code of your course. You will also need the following information to complete the form:
• Your contact details
• Your passport details
• The name and nationality of your spouse/partner (if applicable)
• Details of your previous studies
• Details of your previous/current employment (if applicable)
• Details of the programme of study you are applying to follow in the UK (including the
• for a PhD or Masters by research: your full research proposal and not just the title
• for a taught Masters: details of the optional modules you anticipate taking
• Details of published papers (if applicable)
• Details of previous ATAS applications (if applicable)
• The names and contact details of two referees. You must have known both of your referees for at least three years. At least one of these must be an academic from your country of origin
• How you will be funding your studies.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office website holds further details about the ATAS scheme. You are advised to read the checklist and guidance about applying for the ATAS certificate held on this website.
Will I have to pay for the ATAS certificate?
No- the ATAS application is completely free.
How long will it take to get my ATAS certificate?
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office aim to respond to all applications within 20 working days from the date they receive your completed application.
You will be sent an initial email acknowledging your application and a further email within 20 working days, with the result of your application, including an ATAS clearance certificate, if approved.
If you have not heard anything within 20 working days please check that your inbox is not full (and therefore rejecting their message) and please also check your ‘Spam’ or Junk Mail folder to make sure that their message has not been filtered out.
You can also email the Foreign and Commonwealth Office ATAS team if you are concerned you have missed their response. Please note that they will not respond if 20 days has not elapsed since the date of your application.
What do I do next?
Once you have obtained your ATAS certificate you can apply to extend your student visa.
You can request a guide to extending your student visa from the Student Support Centre.
Remember, it is extremely important to apply to extend your student visa before your current visa expires, as a late application will result in you losing your right of appeal should your application be refused.
If you have not received your ATAS Certificate by the time you need to extend your student visa do not delay submitting your application. Please contact International Student Support for advice and assistance in making your visa application.
Please note - Possession of an ATAS certificate does not guarantee your visa application will be successful, but your application will automatically be refused if you need an ATAS certificate but cannot provide one.