ATAS aims to ensure that those coming for study or research in sensitive subject areas do not acquire knowledge that could be used in the development of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) or Advanced Conventional Military Technology (ACMT) programmes. If your course is in one of the listed subjects you will need to get ATAS clearance and submit the certificate with your Student visa application. If you are using a different kind of visa to study, you need a certificate to enrol or continue study. Some nationalities are exempt from the scheme.
1. What is ATAS?
The Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) is a vetting process managed by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) for courses where students’ knowledge could be used in programmes to develop Advanced Conventional Military Technology (ACMT), weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) or their means of delivery. It has been in place since 2007 and mostly relates to DPhil and MScRes courses in Science, Technology and Medicine and a few postgraduate taught Masters; and at Oxford this also includes the four-year undergraduate courses in Physics and Materials.
If this relates to your subject (see 2. below) you must get clearance (an approved ATAS certificate) before you can apply for a Student visa. This can be a very lengthy process so please read the information below carefully and plan to do this well in advance. It can also be done whilst your offer is conditional and before your CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies) is issued but you must check the exact course start and end dates and information required for ATAS with your department/college (see 3. below)
2. How do I know if I need to apply?
Your offer letter/ATAS letter should explain if you need to apply for ATAS and it will also be stated in your CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies) email. The CAS number is required for your visa application and will only be issued when you have met all your academic and financial conditions.
You can also check the list of graduate courses that need ATAS on the graduate admissions website
For undergraduates, the only courses that require ATAS are the 4-year undergraduate masters courses in these subjects: Materials; Physics; Physics and Philosophy and Mathematical and Theoretical Physics.
If you are coming as a visitor for a short period of study relating to one of these subject areas, you will also need ATAS. Although you don't have to submit the ATAS certificate with a Visitor visa application or show it on arrival when arriving as a visitor, you must have the ATAS certificate before you start the study. This means that due to the long processing times you must apply for it well in advance of travel and it is best to have it before you arrive.
If you will be studying a subject requiring ATAS on a visa type other than Student, for example as a Dependant you will still need to have an ATAS certificate before you start the study.
You do not need an ATAS certificate if one of the following applies to you:
- If you have indefinite leave to remain
- You have pre-settled or settled status granted under the EU Settlement Scheme
- You are a national of an EU or EEA country or Switzerland
- You are a national of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, or the USA.
3. When should I apply?
Before you can apply for ATAS, you will need your offer letter/ATAS letter containing essential information about your course, the course start and end dates and a subject code (CAH3 code) that you must use for the ATAS online form. For postgraduate research students you will need an agreed research statement from your supervisor, for undergraduate students you will need a list of course modules from your college.
You do not need to wait until your offer is unconditional to apply, and you can apply before your CAS is issued to save time. ATAS applications can take a long time: expect at least 20 working days, or 30 working days or longer during the busy period from April to September. Many students in 2021 and 2022 had to wait for more than 10 weeks for their ATAS certificates.
If you are approved for ATAS clearance you will receive a certificate by email that is valid for six months to use with a visa application. You can apply for your visa once you are within six months before your course start date if applying outside the UK, or 3 months if applying in-UK where allowed, for a new/second course or to complete a started course.
You will need your ATAS certificate before you can apply for your visa, so it is best to apply as soon as possible but within the timeframes explained above and with the official information provided by your department/college.
For in-UK applicants, note that you must not overstay the end of your existing visa without having submitted a new visa application, so if you are waiting for ATAS and running out of time, contact us for advice on whether you can submit an emergency visa application before you receive ATAS: email@example.com
4. When would I need to apply for a new ATAS certificate?
You will need to apply again for ATAS for each visa application, for example if you have to apply for a further visa because you need more time to complete your current course, or if you are applying for a visa to start a new course. If you transfer course, you will also need to apply again, whether or not you need a new visa, and if your research project changes fundamentally check with your department whether you need to apply again.
If your ATAS application is severely delayed, or you think you have made a mistake when you submitted it, do not submit a second application unless you are specifically instructed by the ATAS team to reapply. Read FAQs 18 and 19 if you have been waiting for a long time. Read FAQ 13 if you think you have made a mistake.
5. Can I apply for ATAS certificates for different courses at the same time?
If you have offers for more than one course, or offers from different universities, you will need to make a separate application for each course.
6. How do I apply?
The application form is online and will take about 45 minutes to an hour to complete. There are ten sections. You can save the form as you progress and return to it later if necessary.
Read the following ATAS pages for information on completing the application form:
For section-by-section tips specifically for Oxford applicants, click on the 'Completing the online form' tab at the top of this page.
7. Do you have any tips on filling in the application form?
You should check everything again very carefully before you submit the final application as any errors will mean the ATAS team will need to contact you by email and sometimes the processing time will be re-set from the beginning again which will further delay your application. If you think you have made an error on an application you have submitted, please do not submit a new application, see FAQ13.
For section-by-section tips specifically for Oxford applicants, click on the 'Completing the online form' tab at the top of this page.
8. Is there a fee to apply for ATAS?
No, the application is free.
9. The form asks for a referee from my home country, but I have not studied there for many years, what should I do?
There is information on this in our guide to completing the online form, click on the tab at the top of this page and see section 9.
10. What do I need to say about employment?
Include any paid work you have done and any long-term voluntary or unpaid work since you left school. You do not need to include temporary jobs you have done during university vacations. If you have been employed but there are any long gaps when you were neither employed or in education, use this section of the form to explain what you were doing in this period, for example full-time parenting, or unemployed. There is further information on this in our guide to completing the online form, click on the tab at the top of this page.
11. What start and end dates should I use for my Oxford course?
See FAQ 3, ‘When should I apply’ above as the dates will need to match your CAS start and end dates when that is issued. Your department (graduate students) or college (undergraduate) will confirm these dates. If you are applying for ATAS because you need a new visa to continue your studies, use the date of submitting your ATAS application for the start date.
12. What sponsor information do they require? academic or financial?
On the application form, ‘Section 10: Sponsors’ is about financial sponsorship so you will be entering the details of any scholarship or student funding award you will be receiving here. You will already have entered the details of Oxford as your ‘visa sponsor’ in an earlier section of the form.
If you are waiting for a funding decision, include this and note the decision is pending. If you are going to be self-funded, include your name and address in the relevant boxes. If another family member is paying for your studies, include their details.
13. What should I do if I realise I have made a mistake in the application after I have submitted it?
Do not submit a new application to try to rectify your mistake (unless the ATAS team specifically instructs you to do so). Instead, we suggest that you email the ATAS team ATAS@fcdo.gov.uk with your application reference number and passport number, explain where you think you have made the mistake and provide the correct information. Follow any instructions in their reply. Check your certificate when you receive it to make sure the details are correct.
14. I am a continuing student needing to make a further visa application to finish my studies, but I am only writing up, do I need a new ATAS?
Yes, you need a new ATAS certificate for every student visa application until you have completed your course. You will still need to provide a research statement, but you can explain that you are at the writing-up stage.
15. Do I have to apply for ATAS if I am a dual national (and one of my nationalities is exempt from the requirement?)
No, you would be exempt from the requirement. However, if you are applying for your visa using a passport of a non-exempt country, you will need to make sure that you provide proof of your exempt nationality as well and you should ask your department/college to include a note on your CAS so that it is clear when you make your visa application why you are not including an ATAS certificate.
16. What should I do if ATAS is refused?
For national security reasons the ATAS team will not explain either to the applicant or the University why the ATAS clearance was refused so it is not possible for us to advise or speculate on the reason for refusal. You should talk to your supervisor about any concerns the ATAS team might have about your research project description.
What you can do about a refusal:
1. Check your original application. Usually, if you have omitted any information from your application, the ATAS team would contact you to ask for it. However, you should check that you applied correctly. Read these government pages about ATAS and how to apply:
Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Guidance on how to apply for an ATAS certificate - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
2. Discuss the refusal with your Supervisor (DPhil or research degrees), Graduate Studies Assistant (taught masters) or your college (undergraduate masters) as it could possibly relate to a specific area of your research or financial sponsorship; you will need their input for a review/appeal or reapplication.
3. Ask the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office for a review/appeal of the decision by emailing ATAS@fcdo.gov.uk - we cannot tell you what to write in your review request, but make sure you address any omissions there may have been from your original application. Ask for a support statement from your supervisor, we cannot tell them what to write for this but if they feel that your research could not be used for the purposes that ATAS aims to prevent, they could explain why.
4. The review process can take several weeks. If you have not received a reply after a month, we can make enquiries about your review request, but the ATAS team cannot influence how fast it is processed as the review is passed to independent reviewers. If you would like us to ask about it, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
5. If the review is unsuccessful and you think the refusal was because of your research area, discuss with your Supervisor, Department or College as appropriate whether you can change your research area and if you can, you can apply again for ATAS.
6. It is possible to apply again for ATAS either for the same or a different area of research or course.
17. Do I need to reapply if my funding has changed while I am waiting for the certificate?
Email the ATAS team ATAS@fcdo.gov.uk and explain the change in your funding, and any other significant changes. If you put in your application less than 20 working days ago, you may not receive a reply to your email until that time has passed, and it normally takes at least 5 working days to get a response.
Do not submit a new application because of the change unless the ATAS team instruct you to do so.
When you first make your application, you should include details of funding you have applied for but have not yet had a decision on.
18. How long do ATAS applications take and is there a priority service?
During the summer period (April to September) the processing time is 30 working days or longer, and about 20 working days during the rest of the year. In July and August (the busiest months for ATAS) we frequently see longer delays. The ATAS team deal with applications in date order and there is no priority service.
19. Can you help if my ATAS certificate is delayed?
If you put in your application between April and September and you have been waiting for more than 40 working days (8 weeks), or you applied at another time of year and have been waiting more than 30 working days, we can check by emailing the ATAS team, but we cannot expedite the application.
Email email@example.com with ‘ATAS delay’ in the subject line and give us your name and student number, your ATAS application reference number, the date you applied for ATAS, whether you have received any communications from the ATAS team and why the application has now become urgent (for example you are running out of time for applying for your visa).
This tab contains some pointers for completing the online ATAS certificate application.
- read the information about ATAS in your offer letter. You must use the research statement or list of modules provided in it for your ATAS application
- Pay attention to the guidance in the separate sections of the online ATAS application form
- Use this guide: Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- Start the application form here
- Select the CAH3 code provided by your Department or College
- For the question:
"Are you a taught/research student or are you a researcher?"
You MUST select ‘taught / research student’
DO NOT select Researcher- as this is only for employees taking up a paid research position
The application is in 10 sections, here are some tips for individual sections
Section 1: Proposed study
What subject will you be studying
Please enter the programme title from your CAS or offer letter, here are some examples:
Doctor of Philosophy in Atomic and Laser Physics
Master of Physics
MSC by research Physiology Anatomy and Genetics
Course start and end dates
You will need to use the same start and end dates as on your CAS for your ATAS application. If your CAS has not been issued yet check these dates with your department/college. Note that for DPhil students your course end date on your CAS will normally be 4.5 years which is the maximum submission date plus 6 months to allow for viva and corrections; for MScRes it will normally be 3.5 years.
CAH3 course code
You must use the CAH3 code from your offer letter/ATAS letter or check with your Department (graduate students) or college (4-year undergraduate masters students).
Supervisor name at UK university
For DPhil/MSc by research courses use your supervisor’s name
For undergraduate masters use your lead tutor name or if you do not know who your lead tutor is then you can use your college academic administrator (see your ATAS letter from college which will include this).
Why do you want to study this?
Make sure you provide a full and clear explanation here otherwise the ATAS team may ask you to expand on the description which could slow down your application. You can write up to 2,000 characters in this section.
What are your goals when you complete your intended programme?
As above you can write up to 2,000 characters here and if it is too short you may be asked to provide a further explanation which will delay the processing time.
Section 2: Personal details
Please make sure your entries match the details from the passport you will be using for your visa application. This must also be the passport listed on your CAS.
Section 3: Spouse
This section asks about your marital status and whether your spouse/partner will be coming to the UK with you and asks you to provide their personal details.
Section 4: Contact details
Use your contact details as they are at the time you submit your ATAS application, not for example the contact details you will have after you have started your course, unless you are a continuing student.
Section 5: Undergraduate / Postgraduate studies
This section asks about your previous studies, and you should make sure you provide a full description in the ‘what you studied’ section. Be careful to complete the dates correctly.
Section 6: Other studies
Complete this section carefully about any other studies not listed in section 5.
Section 7: Published papers
Provide details of any academic or professional papers you have published
Section 8: Employment history
Include any paid work you have done and any long-term voluntary or unpaid work since you left school. You do not need to include temporary jobs you have done during university vacations. If you have been employed but there are any long gaps when you were neither employed or in education, use this section of the form to explain what you were doing in this period, for example full-time parenting, or unemployed.
Section 9: Referees
You must have known your referees for at least 3 years. You need to give details of at least two referees and at least one of them should ideally be an academic from your country of origin. However, the ATAS guidance says: “A referee from your home country is not essential if you have studied and/or worked in another country.” If this is the case, we suggest you make this clear in the second referee section by typing this in the address box in the first line: “I have not studied in my home country since (ENTER YEAR) so I am unable to supply a referee from my home country” then type the address of the referee. Including this explanation will help avoid your application being queried or delayed because you do not have a referee from your home country. If you have already been studying in the UK for at least 3 years, you can use referees from the UK.
Section 10: Sponsors
This section is about financial sponsorship so you will be entering the details of any scholarship or student funding award you will be receiving here.