STY04 - The Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)
This is internal guidance for use by entry clearance staff on the handling of applications made outside the United Kingdom (UK) for students. It is a live document under constant review and is for information only.
STY4.1 The Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)
From 30 November 2007, possession of an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate is a mandatory entry clearance requirement for those intending to undertake postgraduate studies leading to a Doctorate or Masters degree by research or a taught Masters degree in certain designated subjects, which may be of WMD proliferation concern. The ATAS also applies to students who intend to undertake a period of study and / or research in the UK, as part of their postgraduate overseas degree course, if the subject matter is akin to those covered by the scheme.
Students of all nationalities who need a PBS Tier 4 (General) Student visa to study in the UK will be required to obtain certificates under the scheme if intending to undertake studies / research as described above. There is no fee for applying for an ATAS certificate - it is a free, online form. A potential student will apply for an ATAS assessment using an online form accessible through the FCO website. Once submitted to the FCO the student will be assessed for potential proliferation concerns. An email will then be sent back to the applicant informing them whether their clearance has been granted or refused. If clearance is granted an ATAS certificate will be electronically issued. The student can then apply for a PBS Tier 4 (General) Student visa. An ATAS certificate has no time limit but is only valid for a specific University / Institution and programme of research or study.
The ATAS certificate should be submitted as part of the student's supporting documentation. On receipt of an application, ECO's should:
- establish whether an ATAS certificate is required by checking the JACS code on the student's offer letter against those listed in Appendix 6 of the Immigration Rules or the FCO website;
- verify the authenticity of the certificate using the online checker, a shortcut to which can be found on the CPD ATAS FCONet page;
- contact the ATAS-ECO Helpdesk (on the GAL) if doubts about whether an ATAS certificate is required remain.
If the student is not in possession of an ATAS clearance certificate and the ECO is satisfied that an ATAS is required, the entry clearance application should be refused. However, possession of an ATAS certificate does not in itself guarantee that a person's application for leave as a PBS Tier 4 (General) Student will be successful as he will have to meet all the other requirements of the Immigration Rules for PBS Tier 4 (General) Student leave.
See the FCO website for the disciplines and courses for which an Academic Technology Approval Scheme certificate from the Counter-Proliferation Department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is required and useful documents for an example copy of a blank ATAS certificate. Please note that the requirement to obtain an ATAS certificate will sometimes depend on whether the course is a taught or by research degree.