Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

The Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) is for security clearance from the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office for studies and research where an individuals knowledge could be used in programmes to develop Advanced Conventional Military Technology (ACMT), weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) or their means of delivery. 

An Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate is required when undertaking an element of research at PhD level or above in certain sensitive subjects, including science, engineering, medicine and technology and the individual is

Graduate students or students on undergraduate course which leads to a postgraduate exit qualification studying in sensitive subjects may also require ATAS. For Department, Faculty and College staff please refer to the student website for advice specific to making a student ATAS application.

Exempt Nationalities

The following nationalities are exempt from the ATAS requirement:

  • UK, EU/EEA and Swiss nationals
  • Nationals of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, or the United States of America.

Dual nationals who hold one of the listed nationalities above will also be exempt.

This is not based on place of residence, but nationality only.


The ATAS certificate must be obtained from the UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO):

  • before the Staff Immigration Team (SIT) can issue the Skilled Worker or Tier 5 (GAE) Sponsored Researcher Certificate of Sponsorship
  • before commencing their research if visiting under the Standard Visitor route

ATAS Refusal

The Staff Immigration Team will offer support and guidance when an ATAS application is refused by the FCDO, following the published ATAS Staff Policy.  


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The Home Office provides a list of academic subjects that require an ATAS Certificate in the immigration rules. These are referred to as CAH3 codes. 

Please see the full list of CAH3 codes for all subjects. This list provides the 'Overall Term' and a 'Definition' and confirms if ATAS clearance is required.

A project plan may fall under several CAH codes due to its interdisciplinary nature, for example medical research but involving artificial intelligence - computer science. All relevant CAH codes must be identified and if an aspect requires ATAS clearance, an ATAS application must be progressed. You are not looking for the 'best fit' under one CAH code.

The identification of the CAH code(s) applicable to the research project must be taken with the upmost diligence, and with input from the Principle Investigator/Supervisor directly involved with the research project.

The Department, Faculty or College will need to provide details on the employment/visit, including the start date, short research title, and research statement and confirm the appropriate CAH3 code. 

It is essential that the information provided is accurate and used by the individual when completing the online application to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

Please refer to the:


The ATAS example research statements provides good and bad examples of the short research statement which must be included in the HR Letter.

The ATAS application is free, submitted online and takes 10 working days (15-20 working days between April and September) to be decided. 

To complete the application, information on the correct CAH3 code, approved research statement and details of the research arrangements must be provided by the Department, Faculty or college to the individual using the template letter provided by the Staff Immigration Team.

The online application has 10 sections which request information on;

  1. Research 
  2. Personal details
  3. Spouse
  4. Contact details
  5. Education
  6. Other education
  7. Published Papers
  8. Employment history
  9. Referees 
  10. Sponsors

Guidance on the ATAS application from the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office should be read carefully, alongside the information provided by the Department, Faculty or College.

The ATAS certificate must match the details entered onto the Skilled Worker/Tier 5 (GAE) Sponsored Researcher Certificate of Sponsorship or for the research visit. Any errors will lead to delays in the visa application, the visa application being refused, or the planned visit being unable to go ahead.

There is no option for a priority application, but in some cases the Staff Immigration Team may be able to chase up an application that has not been processed within the published timescales.

The University and the applicant are notified of the outcome of the application via email. For the University the notification is sent to a generic email address for which the Student Visa Compliance Office and Staff Immigration Team has access. 

If the application is successful, an ATAS certificate is provided, which is valid for 6 months during which time the Skilled Worker or Tier 5 (GAE) Sponsored Researcher visa must be applied for. Department, Faculty and Colleges will be notified immediately of any unsuccessful application (which are rare).

An individual can begin their research up to 2 weeks before or any time after the start date stated on their certificate.

Skilled Worker/ Tier 5 (GAE) Sponsored Researchers


  • The ATAS certificate is checked to ensure the details are correct
  • The Certificate of Sponsorship will be issued stating the ATAS certificate reference number 
  • A copy of the ATAS certificate must be included with the visa application supporting documents

Failure to include a copy of the ATAS certificate with the visa application is likely to lead to a visa refusal.

Visiting Researcher

The ATAS certificate is not required for any Standard Visitor Visa application (where applicable) but will need to be presented to the hosting Department, Faculty or College and checked prior to visit commencing.

Failure to obtain the ATAS certificate or errors on the certificate will stop the visit from being able to commence. It is therefore strong recommended that the ATAS certificate is applied for and obtained before travelling to the UK. 

Research Institute

The ATAS certificate is applicable to one Higher Education Institute or Research Institute only. Conducting research at more than 1 institute will require an ATAS application for each.  Changing employer or moving research to another Institute will also require a new ATAS application.

Changes to research project

The ATAS certificate must accurately reflect the research project, the Staff Immigration Team should be contacted as soon as possible to discuss the changes and determine whether a new ATAS certificate will need to be obtained.

Extending a Skilled Worker or Tier 5 (GAE) Sponsored Researcher visa

A new ATAS application must be made prior to extending a Skilled Worker (or Tier 2) or Tier 5 (GAE) Sponsored visa. An application should be submitted in good time to allow  time for the new ATAS certificate to be issued.  The Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office recommends applying at least 4 months before the current permission expires.

Any last minute extension application should be discussed with the Staff Immigration Team as soon as possible so that further support can be provided.

Contact us

Medical Sciences / Humanities / GLAM / UAS / Continuing Education

Angelina Pelova, Email: 

Paul Deeble, Email:


MPLS / Social Sciences / Colleges

Lyn Davis, Email:

Richard Birt, Email:




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