ATAS Expansion from 21 May 2021

What is ATAS?

The Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) currently applies to international students who intend to study at postgraduate level in certain sensitive subjects, where an individual’s knowledge could be used to develop military technology, weapons of mass destruction or the means of delivering weapons. An application is made to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) for an ATAS certificate.

From 21 May 2021, this will be extended to international researchers, or posts which contain an element of research, at PhD level or above in a sensitive subject, in the following visa routes:

  • Initial and extension Skilled Worker and Tier 5 (GAE) Sponsored Researcher visa. The ATAS certificate must be obtained before SIT can issue the Certificate of Sponsorship
  • Visiting researchers coming under the Standard Visitor route. The ATAS certificate must be obtained before the individuals commences their research. Although it will be strongly recommended they obtain this prior to travelling to the UK.

Sensitive Subjects include

  • Mathematical and Computer Science
  • Biological Sciences
  • Engineering
  • Physical Sciences
  • Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects
  • Technologies
  • Medicine

We anticipate this will apply to all Medical Sciences and MPLS departments, along with some Social Sciences departments. The Humanities division may be less effected but will still need to be considered for any cross disciplinary activities.

Exempt Nationalities

Nationals from the EU, EEA, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland, South Korea and the USA will be exempt.

ATAS Application

The online ATAS system will go live on (or around) the 14 May.

There is no fee for a ATAS application.

The online application will require information on areas such as:

  • Studies, and employment history
  • All published papers
  • Research Statement – to be provided by the University
  • Statement of intent and plans after completion of research
  • Two referees

A decision should be received in 10 working days, but during the period April – September this could take up to 4 weeks.

Action the Staff Immigration Team has been taking

Since mid March when issuing Certificates of Sponsorship, we have been notifying the individual of the incoming ATAS requirement. Individuals not able to apply before 21 May 2021 have been asked to contact us so we can assess whether an ATAS certificate will be required.

We have been closely monitoring the progress applicants are making with submitting their application, and will continue to identify and track individuals that are yet to submit their application.  In late April we wrote to 60 individuals to ask for a status update on their visa application.

From Today (10 May):

Certificate of Sponsorship requests in progress or submitted to SIT from 10 May, that we identify will require the applicant to apply for and obtain an ATAS certificate will not be issued, unless circumstances mean an urgent visa application is required (for example a visa is due to expire in May).

Applicants will need to wait to submit an ATAS application and obtain the ATAS certificate prior to the CoS being issued.  We appreciate this is not an ideal situation, but the Home Office have been very clear in their guidance that an applicant who should obtain ATAS and fails to do so, will result in their visa application being refused, and could lead to our sponsor licenses being revoked.

The CoS initial and extension forms have been updated on the Forms and Guidance page to include details of the ATAS requirement. You may need to refresh the page in your bowser (or by hitting F5 on your keyboard) to review the new version. Please use these updated forms when submitting requests to the team.

A template letter for HR to issue to applicants in relation to ATAS will be published by SIT once the Home Office and FCDO have published all guidance, and the ATAS application system is live.


To attend a Briefing Session via Microsoft Teams please contact Lisa Crook