What Is an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) Certificate?

The Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) is applicable to all international students who are subject to UK immigration control and are planning to apply for their postgraduate graduation in particular sensitive subjects, the knowledge of which can be used in programmes to develop weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) or their means of delivery.

The immigration law in the UK does not permit universities to allow students to study at a course which is applicable to ATAS until the student has provided the relevant ATAS certificate for their application to the university. In certain cases, it is compulsory for students to submit an ATAS certificate and also provide the certificate when applying for a visa or visa extension.

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Who Needs an ATAS Certificate?

All students whose nationality is from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland are applicable for an ATAS certificate.

Basically, you will need an ATAS certificate in the UK if:

  • Your nationality is outside the EEA and Switzerland.
    • Regardless of the country of residence when applying.
  • You are applying to study at postgraduate level in the UK.
    • In certain sensitive subjects (through which weapons of mass destruction and their delivery are made possible).

You might also need ATAS clearance if you are applying to study an undergraduate course with an integrated masters year.

How to Apply for an ATAS Certificate?

As a new student, you need a conditional offer from your Higher Education Institution (HEI) as well as an agreed research statement or list of modules before submitting an application for an ATAS certificate. In case you hold more than one offer, you need separate certificates for each offer.

As an existing student, you will need an updated research statement or list of module information in order to help you complete the ATAS application. You will also need to follow the same procedure if you plan on applying for a visa extension. The process of ATAS is separate from your HEI applications.

To apply for an ATAS certificate online, you will need to provide information on these sections:

  • The proposed course of study.
    • Use the information provided by the university, e.g in your conditional offer letter (including the CAH3 code).
    • You can add an extra description in the “Why do you want to study this?” box.
  • Personal details.
    • Make sure to be careful when typing the details.
    • Provide information in case you plan to bring your spouse along.
  • Contact details.
    • g: your email address in which you will receive the certificate.
  • Previous studies.
    • Information on your previous undergraduate and postgraduate studies.
  • Other relevant studies.
    • What you think is relevant to your application.
  • Published papers.
    • Your own or co-published.
  • Employment history.
    • Provide relevant job experience information.
  • Two referees.
    • Not family members.
    • One referee from your undergraduate studies.
    • One referee from your employment (when applicable).
    • Preferably from your home country (not necessarily).
    • Details of sponsors.

How Long Is the ATAS Certificate Processing Time?

The ATAS certificate processing time is 20 days or more during peak months. The relevant authorities aim to respond to all applicants within a matter of 20 working days from the date of the application submission. It is recommended that you apply 9 months in advance in order to avoid any unprecedented delays.

If you do not hear anything from the ATAS team after 20 working days (4 weeks), make sure your inbox is not full and unable to receive new messages, and also check your spam or junk folder. If there is still no email from the ATAS team, contact them at [email protected] in case you think your email has been lost.

A possible reason why the application can take longer, other than when the applications are at their peak, is when the team needs more information to process your application. You will be asked to provide more information if the team deems the information you have provided is insufficient to be processed.

Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) Certificate FAQ

Find a few frequently asked questions about the ATAS certificate below.

1. What Is a CAH3 Code?

The CAH3 code shows the type of subject you are studying. For new students, the CAH3 code appears on the offer letter provided by the university. This code is not the same as the course code. If you are not sure which code you should provide, make sure to contact your university’s admission team.

2. What If My ATAS Certificate Gets Refused?

If your ATAS certificate gets refused, you will be unable to obtain a visa to study in the UK, when a visa is required. In case you believe that you should have been provided with a certificate, you can contact the ATAS team and ask for a review.

3. Where Can I Check If I Need an ATAS Certificate?

You can check if you need an ATAS certificate if you follow this link provided by the UK Government.

4. What Should I Keep in Mind When Completing the Application Form?

A few things you should keep in mind when applying for the ATAS certificate are:

  • Provide the details of two referees you have known for at least over three years.
  • Provide the full names of sponsors, employers, or referees instead of initials.
  • Be attentive and accurate when filling in passport details and other information.

5. My Visa Will Expire, Do I Need to Apply for an ATAS Certificate?

Yes, you should apply for your ATAS certificate if your visa is about to expire. Make sure you apply in plenty of time before the expiration date of your visa (at least 3 calendar months). In case you are studying at a course where an ATAS certificate has already been issued, but you do not have a decision on your subsequent ATAS certificate yet, you should apply to extend your stay and mention that you will provide your ATAS certificate when you receive it.

6. What If I Have Never Been Employed?

If you have never been employed, you should indicate so in your application. However, you are required to mention any employment after leaving school, such as paid work or long-term voluntary work. If neither is applicable, state that you do not have employment experience.

7. Which Are the Conditions of the ATAS Certificate?

The ATAS certificate is only valid for the University it has been designated for, meaning if you decide to study at another university or change your course, you need to apply for another ATAS certificate (if the course requires it).

The certificate is valid to be used in the visa application for up to 6 months from the issue date. In case you need to apply for a Tier 4 extension, you will need a new ATAS certificate unless you are applying for a Tier 4 visa under the Doctorate Extension Scheme.

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