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Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

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Last updated: 19/07/2024 13:18

The Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) is required for postgraduate qualifications (taught and research) in certain science, engineering or technological disciplines. It may also be applicable if you are applying for an undergraduate course with an integrated masters.

ATAS applications take 30 days or more as standard, with delays likely during the peak period from July to October. Please allow additional time for processing and apply as early as possible. You can apply 6 months before your course start date. There is no process to expedite ATAS applications.

What is ATAS?

The ATAS applies to international students (apart from exempt nationalities) who are subject to UK immigration control and intend to study at postgraduate level in certain sensitive subjects.

The subjects are those where a student’s knowledge could be used in programmes to develop Advanced Conventional Military Technology (ACMT), weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), or their means of delivery.

These students must apply for an ATAS certificate before studying in the UK.

If the course that you are enrolling in requires ATAS clearance, international students holding any category of immigration leave (visa) will need to have evidence of their clearance before starting the course.

Relevant ATAS courses of less than 6 months also require ATAS clearance before a student may apply for a visa and/or before enrolling in the programme of study.

UK immigration law does not allow universities to permit international students to study for an ATAS-applicable course until the student has supplied the University with their ATAS clearance certificate.

If you need a Student Route visa to study in the UK, you will need to obtain an ATAS certificate before applying for your visa.

All Cardiff University students who require ATAS will be notified in their offer letter. Check your letter for confirmation that ATAS is required and for your CAH3 code.

Exempt nationalities

The following do not need an ATAS certificate:

  • Nationals of EU countries
  • the European Economic Area (EEA)
  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Japan
  • New Zealand
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Switzerland
  • USA.

The requirement for an ATAS certificate applies to all other students.

New students

New students must obtain the ATAS certificate before you apply for your Student Route visa.

An ATAS certificate is valid for 6 months from the date it is issued.

You will need a conditional offer from Cardiff University before you apply for your ATAS certificate. You do not need to wait to receive your CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies).

Continuing students

Continuing the same course

If you are already in the UK on a Student visa and need to extend this visa to complete the same programme of study, you will need to obtain a new ATAS certificate, even if the extension is only for a short period.

We recommend that you apply for your new ATAS 6 months before your current visa expiry date.

You can use the same ATAS statement in your original offer letter if this information is still applicable and your area of research has not changed. If your research has changed, you will need to liaise with your department/supervisor to obtain a new ATAS statement from Cardiff University before you apply for your ATAS certificate.

The ATAS application form does not allow you to put a course start date in the past. Therefore, if you continue the same course, you can put the next working day on the application. Ensure that you state in the course description section that you are continuing the same course and include your original start date.

Starting a new course

If you are progressing to a new course at Cardiff University, having completed your previous programme, then follow the advice for new students.

How to apply

You must apply on the ATAS webpage - Check if you need an ATAS certificate (academic-technology-approval.service.gov.uk)

The ATAS application is free.

When you begin your ATAS application, select Cardiff University from the drop-down menu. Your ATAS certificate must be linked to the university for the certificate to be valid.

The ATAS application form will ask you to select whether you are a student or a researcher. Your selection here will determine the questions you are asked and the clearance you obtain. Postgraduate research students, including visiting research students, must all apply for student ATAS clearance.

Information you will need to complete the application form

You will need to have your university offer letter and the CAH3 course code.

Ensure that you enter all details carefully and check they are correct before submission. The form cannot be corrected after submission. A new application will need to be made if there is an error or if your course details change, and the application processing time will restart.

If you will be studying for a PhD or master’s degree by research, you will need to include your full research proposal, not just the title. Find this stated in your offer letter as ‘ATAS Research Statement of Purpose’. You will enter this in the ‘What will you be studying’ section.

For a taught master’s degree, list the elective/optional modules available to you. If there are no electives, list the core modules. For MEng degrees, only list the final year electives or, if there are none, the core modules.

You will also need the following information:

  • contact details
  • passport details
  • name and nationality of your spouse/partner (if applicable)
  • details of previous studies
  • details of previous/current employment (if applicable)
  • details of the programme of study (including the CAH3 code. Find this in your offer letter)
  • 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 referees for at least three years, and at least one must be an academic from your country of origin
  • how you will be funding your studies


You can submit your application when all the sections are marked ‘complete’.

Check your answers carefully before submission as it is not possible to edit them later.

If the ATAS team needs to contact you for further information, they will do so via email and ask you to log back into your account to provide further information in the relevant section.

If they do so, be aware that the processing time restarts from the date you provide this information and resubmit.

Solutions to common problems

Read our solutions to common problems below before submitting to ensure your application is complete and correct from the outset to avoid losing time.

If you have trouble registering and creating an application, first try registering online from a different computer or with a new login email address. Alternatively, try using a different web browser.

The ATAS website works best in Google Chrome and Internet Explorer version 5 and above.

The FCDO have reported that students using email servers 126.com, 163.com, sina.cn and qq.com may have difficulty receiving messages from them and recommend the use of Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail, or similar commercial email providers, if possible.

You can use your Cardiff University email address without issue if you already have access to this.

Your CAH3 code will be on your Cardiff University offer letter.

If you are a continuing student and your original offer letter does not have a CAH3 code, contact your school administrator for the CAH3 code required for the ATAS application.

Your ATAS application is linked to your passport.

Therefore, if you plan to obtain a new passport before applying for your visa you should wait until you have your new passport before applying for ATAS clearance.

If you use a different passport number for your ATAS and Student visa applications, your visa application is highly likely to be refused.

The passport details in the ATAS application cannot be changed after the application has been submitted.

Enter the title only and it should exactly match the title of your course as stated on your offer letter and CAS.

For example; ‘MSc Advanced Mechanical Engineering’ or ‘Doctor of Philosophy (Engineering)’.

PhD students will need to enter information about their proposed area of research.

This should be at least 5 lines in length and agreed with your PhD supervisor in writing. It will be provided to you on your offer letter under the title ‘ATAS Research Statement of Purpose’.

An ATAS certificate is issued for a specific programme with a named university. You will need to apply for new ATAS clearance if:

  • you need to extend your Student visa to allow additional time to write up your thesis/for your VIVA/due to resits/any other reason. In this case, you will need a new ATAS even if the extension is for under 3 months
  • your course details change, including the course length by more than 3 months – please note you must apply for a new ATAS certificate within 28 days of the change to your programme, irrespective of whether you need to apply for a new visa or not
  • the area of research or modules change
  • you move to another institution

In the ‘Undergraduate / Postgraduate studies’ section, the form will ask you whether you have ‘undertaken any undergraduate or postgraduate studies’.

This refers only to courses at university level that have been completed. You are not required to provide information about your high school education.

If you are applying for an extension for the same continuing course, please note that only details of completed courses should be provided in this section.

Make sure that you state that you are continuing the same course and include your original start date in the course description section.

You must provide employment details since you left school, including any paid work and any long-term voluntary (i.e. unpaid) work.

You do not need to provide information about temporary jobs you have done during university vacations.

Select' No' in this section if you have not undertaken any employment as mentioned above.

The ATAS guidance asks you to provide the ‘full names and contact details of 2 referees (First name(s) and Family name). You must have known each of your referees for at least 3 years. At least one must also be an academic from your country of origin’.

The FCDO does not require that your referees are able to speak English.

If you cannot provide referees from your home country because you have completed your education in another country, this should not be an issue. In this situation, provide two referees from your most recent studies.

This section is about any financial sponsorship that you have for your studies and living costs.

This may be an organisation or the name of a person. If you are self-funded for your studies, write your name and address in the sponsor section.

The form asks if there are any ‘conditions of your offer’ for financial sponsorship. An example of a condition of your offer is that you are required to return overseas after completing your course, or you must provide regular reports about your progress. Include any conditions your sponsor has imposed here.

If you have more than one financial sponsor, make sure you include them all in this section.

You will need to submit a new application.

There is no option to expedite an ATAS application.

You should not contact the FCDO or Student Visa Support regarding your application if it is still within the normal processing time of 20 working days during low periods and 30 working days in peak periods from July to October.

If your application exceeds this time period, first contact the FCDO at ATAS@fcdo.gov.uk informing them of the delay. Make sure that you include your application reference number. Allow a minimum of 10 working days for a response.

If you continue to hear nothing from the FCDO, contact Cardiff University Student Visa Support through Student Connect with the following information:

  • your student/applicant number
  • your ATAS reference number
  • your expected decision date (this will be stated on your online ATAS application)
  • the date you emailed the FCDO

We will follow this up with the ATAS team.

However, unfortunately, there can be lengthy delays in contacting ATAS during the peak period, and we, unfortunately, are extremely limited in what we can do.

Early application is very important to get your clearance in time.

If you are applying overseas and are a new student, you will need to have your ATAS clearance certificate before you apply for your student visa. You must wait to receive it. If the ATAS delay prevents you from applying for your visa in good time, you may need to defer the start date of your course.

If you are applying within the UK for a new course, you will not be able to enroll on your course until the ATAS clearance certificate is issued. Therefore, you need to have received your ATAS clearance and have applied for your student visa online by your latest enrolment date as stated on the CAS. Contact your school to discuss your options if you are unable to do so: it may be viable to extend this date or you may need to defer your studies. Contact Student Connect for support with your visa application while you await the ATAS. Do not wait until your ATAS clearance is issued to contact us as it may then be too late for us to assist.

If you are applying within the UK to continue the same course, you can continue studying while the ATAS application is being processed. You will need to make sure that you submit your Student visa application BEFORE your existing visa expires. If your visa expiry date is approaching and you have still not heard from the FCDO, contact Student Connect for support with making your visa application in time. It will be important to ensure that you are aware of all timeframes and risks in submitting an extension application prior to the issuance of new ATAS clearance.

We advise submitting your ATAS application early and advise the above only when absolutely necessary.

If your application is successful, you should receive an email from the FCDO with the ATAS certificate attached to the email address that you used to register.

You should check your spam or junk folders regularly to ensure the email has not been filtered out.

You must read your ATAS certificate carefully to check that the details on it are correct.

Your ATAS clearance certificate details, including the passport number and course description, must match the details on your official documents and record.

If they do not, then your visa application may be refused, and you will not be able to enroll on your course.

Make sure that you check your certificate carefully when you receive it and that all details match. If you find an error, check your original application to establish if you made the error or if it has been made by the FCDO.

If the error is on your side, you will need to make a new application.

If the error has been made by the FCDO, contact them on ATAS@fcdo.gov.uk as promptly as possible.

Contact Student Connect if you do not hear back from the FCDO after 10 working days.

If ATAS is refused and your course requires ATAS then you will not be granted your student visa nor be permitted to enroll on your course.

Where an application for ATAS is refused, unfortunately, this presents limited options. The FCDO will not provide any reasons for the refusal to you or to us, and so it is difficult to challenge or address this. You can take the following actions:

  • request a review by contacting ATAS@fcdo.gov.uk, and further information will be included in the refusal notice
  • submit a new application but note the challenge here is that without knowing the reason for refusal, it is difficult to adjust your application to be successful, think about the purpose of ATAS clearance and try to address anything that could be an issue
  • consider changing your course of study to one that does not require ATAS

Further information

You can find further information regarding the ATAS application process and requirements here:

Contact us

You can contact Student Visa Support for queries about ATAS and support with your Student Route visa application via the Student Connect system.

Our response time is 5 working days as standard, increasing to 10 during peak periods. Allow yourself enough time to receive a response.

Cefnogi a Lles Myfyrwyr (Cathays)