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Advice and Counselling Service

The Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

Some MEng degrees and other postgraduate qualifications require an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) security clearance certificate from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the UK Government. 

Do I need ATAS clearance?

Whether you need an ATAS certificate depends on your specific area of study. Your offer letter will confirm whether you need it.  

For more information about which subject areas and qualifications need an ATAS certificate, and to apply for one if you need it, see theUK Government website 

If you are studying one of these courses, you need to apply for an ATAS certificate before you make your application for Student immigration permission. 

You will need to show your ATAS certificate when requesting a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) from Queen Mary. 

If you have any other type of immigration permission, you still need an ATAS certificate before you can start the course if your course requires ATAS clearance.  

How to apply for ATAS

You should make an application for ATAS clearance through the website. 

It can take 30 working days (six weeks) for an ATAS certificate to be issued and sometimes longer during busy periods. We recommend that you apply as early as possible. 

There is no charge for applying for an ATAS certificate and you can apply for as many certificates as you have offers. 

The ATAS website will ask you to indicate if you are a 'Taught / Research student', or a 'Researcher'. PhD students must select Taught / research student.

You cannot write a start date in the past on your ATAS application form. If you are a continuing student, please write the day after your visa expires, which is the start of the next period of visa sponsorship.  

If your course did not previously require ATAS, but due to changes you have now been asked by Queen Mary Immigration Compliance Team to provide ATAS clearance, you can put the date you submit the application as the start date. 

You must include a copy of your ATAS certificate with your visa supporting documents if you are applying for a Student visa for an applicable course.

Nationalities not requiring ATAS

Nationals of EU/EEA countries and Switzerland, USA, South Korea, Singapore, New Zealand, Japan, Canada and Australia are exempt from the ATAS requirement.  

What to do if my ATAS is delayed?

If you have not had a response from the FCDO, check your Junk/Spam folder, in case it has been filtered out. You can also contact the ATAS Team at the FCDO on: if it is more than 20 working days since you applied. The ATAS team aim to respond to your query within 5 working days, but this may not be possible during busy periods.  

Sometimes ATAS applications take longer than the service standards, so it might take more than 50 working days to receive your certificate. Please rest assured that the ATAS Team are working as quickly as possible to process ATAS applications. They process applications in the order they are received. We are not currently receiving responses from the ATAS Team more quickly than applicants and any interventions on our part may cause a delay to the processing of your ATAS application. We recommend that you wait for the outcome of your application. We are not able to speed up a decision on your ATAS application.  

If you are a PhD student, you will not be able to enrol remotely until you have received your ATAS clearance. If you are unable to receive your ATAS certificate before the start date of your course, speak to your Supervisor about deferring the start date of your course. There may be some flexibility with when you can start your course, but do check any funding implications if you are sponsored too.  

However if you are making your immigration application in the UK and your existing permission is due to expire within three weeks, and you applied for your ATAS certificate more than 30 working days ago, you can complete our contact form for guidance. 

What if something changes after I apply for my ATAS certificate?

If you have been granted an ATAS certificate, but something has changed, you will need to apply for a new ATAS certificate with your new details within 28 calendar days of any such changes being agreed. 

Relevant changes include if: 

  • You change your programme and your new programme also requires ATAS approval. You must get the new approval before starting the new programme. 
  • The completion date stated on your CAS is postponed by three calendar months or more. 
  • The length of your programme changes, for example you need to re-sit a failed module or if your research takes longer than expected. 
  • Your area of research or your programme content (modules) change. 
  • You move to another institution. 

If you need a new ATAS certificate, we recommend that you apply for your new ATAS certificate as soon as possible, so that you will know if you will be allowed to complete your studies. 

In certain scenarios you may be able to make specific changes to an existing—valid—ATAS certificate.  

If a student has a valid ATAS certificate and the course is extended/deferred within this period of validity, the student will not need a new ATAS certificate.

Students are do not require a new ATAS certificate if they have switched from Student permission to permission in another category, providing the course remains the same.

The ATAS certificate must accurately reflect that Queen Mary hosts the research, the research project and the duration. If any of these details change students should check whether they require a new ATAS certificate.


For how long is my ATAS certificate valid?

Your ATAS certificate will be valid for six months, and you must submit your Student visa application within this six month period. 

How can I check what my CAH3 code is?

If you are a new student, you should check your conditional offer letter. The Admissions Department will be able to provide more information if required. You can email: 

If you are a continuing student, please ask your supervisor to contact the immigration compliance team on providing a synopsis of your research and the HECOS code, after which they can tell you the CAH3 code for your ATAS application.

What should I write for 'sponsor'? 

If Queen Mary is your official financial sponsor (i.e. paying your tuition fees and providing you with a stipend), then you can copy the contact details from your sponsorship letter. This would usually be the details of your academic department. 

If you are meeting all the costs of your studies yourself, please put your own name and address in the relevant boxes. If another family member is meeting the costs, put down their details.  

What if my ATAS application is refused?

Unfortunately, universities and individuals are unable to ascertain the reason for an ATAS refusal, because the UK government considers it a matter of national security. 

You will have the option to request a review. For the case to be reviewed, you need to go through the review request process. You should have received the instructions on how to do this when you received the notification of refusal. 

In your review request, you should include a detailed statement from yourself including at least the following information: 

  • Your previous studies and how these relate to the PhD you are due to undertake; 
  • Why you are interested in studying in this specific subject area; 
  • Details about the research you will undertake at Queen Mary (agreed with your proposed Supervisor); 
  • What you intend to do after you have completed your course, and where 

You could attach a letter from your Supervisor on headed paper with your review request. This letter could include such information as why you were given an offer for this course at Queen Mary and academic information about your research proposal with details about how you will conduct your research. If your Supervisor has previously supervised PhD students researching similar topics, they could include an explanation about what these students are doing now, if they have this information.  

Please note that we are not aware of any Queen Mary students who have successfully challenged an ATAS refusal. 

If your review request is not successful, you do have the option to reapply for ATAS clearance. Whilst it is possible that a reworded research proposal could result in the grant of ATAS clearance, we are not aware of any Queen Mary students who have been granted ATAS clearance following a refusal.

If your review request is unsuccessful, you also have the option toseek legal adviceabout applying for judicial review of the decision.   




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