Information on the Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)
ATAS is the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) run Academic Technology Approval Scheme. It requires some postgraduate students, who are studying certain courses in the fields of science, engineering or technology, to gain a certificate of clearance to study.
This is a requirement for all types of temporary visa holders: Student, working visas, BNO, Standard Visit visas (study up to 6 months) or Dependant visas. If your chosen course requires ATAS, you will not be able to be to enrol on your course unless you have applied for and received the ATAS Certificate. If you require a Student visa in order to study, your visa won't be granted if you don't have valid ATAS clearance if your course requires this.
If you are applying under the relevant Student immigration route, you will be notified if your course requires ATAS clearance shortly after receiving your formal offer letter. Your CAS statement will also say whether you require an ATAS certificate or not. Please check this carefully.
If your postgraduate course requires ATAS clearance you will receive a Common Aggregation Hierarchy (CAH) code (the code will be a mix of letters and digits), you can check this code on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Find out if I need an ATAS Certificate web page.
You can apply for ATAS clearance as soon as you have your email from the University Admissions team confirming that you will need ATAS. This should have information that you need to complete the ATAS application contained within it. If you have received this email and you only have a conditional offer at that point, you do not need to wait until your offer is unconditional, you can apply with a conditional offer. Processing times for ATAS applications can take several weeks so it is very important that you make your application as soon as possible after receiving the University ATAS email. If granted, the ATAS certificate will be valid for 6 months.
There is useful guidance available online to help you understand who you needs to apply for ATAS as well as how to prepare the information and documents you will need to help you with the application submission.
You will need to make your ATAS application online via the FCO ATAS website, the application is free and the website has comprehensive guidance on how to submit the application which you should follow carefully.
You will need to have your offer letter, ATAS email and/or CAS statement to hand and these should have the CAH code for the course you have been accepted on. You will also need the following information to fill in the ATAS form:
- your full name and contact details
- passport details
- name and nationality of your spouse/partner (if applicable)
- full details of any previous and current employment (if applicable)
- the programme of study you are applying to follow in the UK (including CAH code)
- 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
- full details of published papers (if applicable)
- previous ATAS applications (if applicable)
- 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 from the academic sector, preferably from your country of origin
- details of how you will be funding your studies
You will not be asked to submit or attach any documentation to support your ATAS application.
The FCO website 'How to apply for an ATAS certificate' has some additional guidance on this.
The period from April to September each year is a peak period for ATAS applications and processing times during this time are at least 30 working days (6 weeks) on average. This can be longer where ATAS have to ask you for further information or clarification about your submitted application. Any changes to processing times will be updated on the FCO ATAS website, so please check for the latest guidance.
The standard processing time for ATAS applications submitted outside the peak period is around 20 working days (4 weeks). You will be sent an initial email acknowledging your application but you should look out for any follow-up emails asking you for additional information or documentation. If approved, your ATAS certificate will be sent to you by email and will be valid for 6 months.
If you have not heard anything after 6 weeks please check your inbox is not full (and therefore rejecting their message), and please also check your ‘Spam’ or 'Junk' folders to make sure that their message has not been filtered out.
You can contact the ATAS Team if you are concerned you have missed their response but they will not respond to you if the published processing time has not elapsed since the time you submitted your application.
The main reasons why ATAS applications are delayed are:
- Applicants using initials instead of full names
- Not including a referee from their home country (see exception below)
- Incorrect or missing passport details
- Wrong or missing CAH codes
- Wrong or missing module information
- Research statements that do not fully describe the topic of research and/or research methods that will be used
Referees: you must provide details of 2 referees who have known you for a minimum of 3 years. At least one of the referees must be from the academic sector. If you have work experience, you should include a referee from your employer. A referee from your home country is preferable, but it is not essential if you have only studied and/or worked in another country. Make it clear on your application form.
Family members are not accepted as referees.
Make sure that you include all of this required information when you apply, use the guidance available on the ATAS - How to apply webpages.
If your course start date is more than 6 months after the ATAS has been issued, or if your course end date has changed by more than 3 months you will need to make a new ATAS application. You will need to make this application within 28 days of being notified of the change. Failure to make a new application could lead to problems with any immigration applications you make and could mean the University is unable to enrol you on your course.
If you need to extend your Student visa in order to complete your current course you will need a new ATAS clearance certificate to submit as part of the visa application process. In this situation it doesn't matter if your course end date has changed by less than 3 months, you will still need a new ATAS certificate for any new Student visa application. You should therefore apply for ATAS in good time, at least 6-8 weeks before you need to submit your Student visa application.
An ATAS certificate is issued for a specific course with a named Student sponsor (i.e. Swansea University) and remains valid as long as the Student sponsor and/or course details and content do not change, including the length of the course (see section above).
This means that you must apply for a new ATAS certificate if you:
- change your course;
- change your research topic:
- change your institution; or
- apply to extend your Student visa in order to complete your current course.
Once you have been granted your ATAS clearance certificate you should either send a copy to the International Admissions team (for new courses) or take/email a printed copy to MyUniHub (continuing students). You will then be able to access a CAS or Visa Letter to complete your immigration application. Make sure you include a copy in your visa application and bring a printed copy to enrolment.
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 do not provide one.