Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

ATAS is a certificate issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), which gives you security clearance to study certain postgraduate programmes at UCL.

Does my programme need ATAS

  • Your offer letter from UCL will state if your programme requires an ATAS certificate. 
  • If you are applying for a Student visa your CAS statement will also state if you are required to obtain an ATAS certificate.

Student visa applicants who require ATAS

If you are applying for a Student visa, and do not meet one of the exemptions (please refer to exemptions below), you will be required to provide an ATAS certificate as part of the visa application process.

ATAS certificates are required for specific programmes of study which:

  • lead to a master’s degree; or
  • lead to PhD; or
  • lead to another postgraduate qualification; or
  • is a period of study or research which is part of an overseas postgraduate qualification

This is for both new students applying for entry clearance to the UK and existing students already in the UK applying for leave to remain.

You will be required to show your ATAS certificate in order to enrol on your programme.

Non-Student visa students who require ATAS

All individuals in the UK on a time-limited visa (e.g., Student visa, Skilled worker visa, PBS dependant visa etc.) require an ATAS clearance certificate before you will be permitted to enrol on to your programme, unless you are a national of any of the countries listed below

If you’re in the process of applying for asylum in the UK, you must apply for an ATAS certificate to study in the UK.

ATAS exemptions 

If you are a UK national or a national of any of the following countries, you do not need to apply for an ATAS certificate:

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Canada
  • Croatia
  • Republic of Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • United States of America

If you have Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK, you do not need an ATAS certificate to study in the UK.

You do not need an ATAS certificate if you’re studying for a postgraduate diploma or PGCE.

Students who already have an ATAS certificate

An ATAS certificate is issued for a specific programme with a named university and remains valid as long as the university and/or programme details do not change. If you already have an ATAS certificate you will need to apply for a new one if:

  • your course details change, including the course length: please note, you must apply for a new ATAS certificate within 28 days if your programme end date is postponed by more than 3 months
  • the area of research or modules change 
  • you move to another institution 
  • you need to extend your stay to write up your thesis

How to obtain an ATAS certificate

The application is free of charge and is completed online on the GOV.UK website.

To apply for an ATAS certificate, you will need to have been made an offer to study at UCL and should not apply for ATAS until you have received your offer letter (this does not need to be an unconditional offer). The offer letter will contain all the information required from UCL to complete your ATAS application.

An ATAS certificate is specific to both the programme of study you intend to undertake and the university you plan to attend. If you have an offer from another university and are undecided as to which offer you will accept, you need to apply for separate ATAS certificates.

If you are planning to attend a research programme at UCL, you are recommended to make early contact with your prospective supervisors as a brief synopsis of your research proposal needs to be included in your offer letter.

On the ATAS application form you cannot put a course start date in the past.  If you are applying for the ATAS for a programme you have already started you can put the next working day on the ATAS application for your course start date. 

If you have any further questions relating to ATAS, you can contact us via askUCL


ATAS application processing times

For new students the processing time can take up to 6 months – therefore it is recommended new students apply for ATAS once they receive the conditional offer letter from UCL and no earlier than 6 months before the start date of the programme. Your ATAS once issued is valid for 6 months - it must be valid on the date of your visa application.

For continuing students the processing times can take up to 4 months therefore it is recommended you apply for ATAS 4 months before your intended visa application date

If you have been waiting for an ATAS decision for more than 4 months, or you are inside the UK and your visa is due to expire, please contact Visa Advice via ASKUCL with your ATAS reference number + expected decision date and we will follow this up with the ATAS team.

You can find further information about ATAS on the gov.uk website.