The Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

Students with immigration permission to be in the UK undertaking some MEng degrees and other postgraduate qualifications mainly in some science and engineering subjects require an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) security clearance certificate from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the UK Government.

Whether you need an ATAS certificate depends on your specific area of study. If you do need it, and you are making an application for Student immigration permission to study at Queen Mary University of London, you will need to obtain the ATAS certificate before your CAS is issued. Your offer letter will confirm whether you need it. If you have any other type of immigration permission, you still need an ATAS certificate before you can start the course, if it is in one of the specific subject areas.

For more information about which subject areas and qualifications need an ATAS certificate, and to apply for one if you need it, see the UK 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.
  • Current students will need to show their ATAS certificate when requesting their CAS from QMUL.
  • It can take 30 working days (6 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. 

Update during the pandemic and remote study: Postgraduate Resarch students will not be able to enrol until they have ATAS clearance.

*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 clearance
  • What do I do if my ATAS application is delayed?
  • What if something changes after I apply for my ATAS certificate?
  • For how long is my ATAS certificate valid?
  • How can I check what my CAH3 code is?
  • What should I write for 'sponsor' if Queen Mary is my official financial sponsor?
  • What if my ATAS application is refused?

Nationalities not requiring ATAS clearance

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

What do I do if my ATAS application 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: [email protected] 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, so we recommend that you wait for the outcome of your application as we are not able to intervene to speed it up for you.

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, please let us know

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 you have a valid ATAS certificate, you may be able to change the course start and end date where your start date was delayed only as a result of delays in ATAS processing the applications. Where you have contributed to the delay by submitting incomplete applications or made a late application and/ or your applications was processed within the times advertised on the ATAS website, the ATAS Team reserve the right to request you make a new ATAS application.

If your circumstances are as above, i.e. your course start date has been delayed only as a result of delays in ATAS processing, you can contact the ATAS Team to ask for your start and end date to be changed by emailing: [email protected]

For how long is my ATAS certificate valid?

Your ATAS certificate will be valid for 6 months, and you must submit your Student visa application within this 6 month period. You would then only need to apply for a new ATAS certificate if there is a relevant change to your course, as listed above. 

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: [email protected]

If you are a continuing student, you can check with the Research Degrees Office if you are not sure. You can find their contact details here

What should I write for 'sponsor' if Queen Mary is my official financial 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. In order for the case to be reviewed, you need to go through the correct process to request a review. 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.

If your review request is not successful, you do have the option to reapply for ATAS clearance. A reworded research proposal can result in the grant of ATAS clearance, although this is not guaranteed.

If your review request is unsuccessful, you also have the option to seek legal advice about applying for judicial review of the decision.  


Law, regulations and policies can change quickly. The information on our website is given in good faith and has been carefully checked but QMUL cannot accept responsibility for any errors or omissions. QMUL is not responsible for the content or reliability of the linked websites which are provided for further information.

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