Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) for International Researchers

From the 21 May 2021, international researchers working in certain sensitive areas will be required to obtain an ATAS certificate before applying for their visa. Find out more about the scheme and how to apply.

Expansion of the scheme

This is an expansion of the scheme which currently applies to international students who require a visa to study in the UK and are intending to study at postgraduate level in certain sensitive subjects where their knowledge could be used in programmes to develop Advanced Conventional Military Technology (ACMT), weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) or their means of delivery.

With effect from 21 May 2021, the scheme will apply to any individual who will be undertaking research activities, at PhD level or above, in one of the Academic Subjects/Fields of Research relevant to ATAS. Access the up to date list of subjects here.

If the applicant’s role involves research or being part of a team conducting research in one or more of these subjects, they must apply to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to obtain a free of charge ATAS certificate before HR assigns the Certificate of Sponsorship.

This will include international researchers and technicians applying for the skilled worker visa, including extensions, sponsored researchers applying for Government Authorised Exchange visas and visiting academics and researchers.


Exemptions will exist for nationals from the EEA, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland and USA and those applying for Global Talent Visas.


Who will the ATAS requirement apply to?

Individuals submitting an initial or extension visa application on or after the 21 May 2021 who are:

  • Sponsored staff applying for a Skilled Worker visa; or
  • Sponsored Researchers applying for a Government Authorised Exchange visa; or
  • Visitors applying for a Visitor visa where research as part of a permitted activity is subject to the ATAS condition.

Are there any exemptions?

Nationals from the EEA, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland and USA and those applying for Global Talent Visas are not required to have ATAS clearance.

What does the ATAS condition mean?

The ATAS condition means that individuals undertaking research as part of employment at a licensed sponsor must obtain a valid ATAS certificate before commencing research in any of the specified academic subjects or fields of research.

Visa and ATAS application advice

Individuals will need to obtain an ATAS certificate to show that they meet the ATAS requirement before they apply for a visa to work in the UK.  As with other visa requirements, HR will not assign the Certificate of Sponsorship unless the ATAS certificate has been received.

Individuals will be able to apply for an ATAS certificate several months in advance and certificates will be valid for 6 months. Applications will normally be processed within 10 – 30 working days, however there are no fast track options available.

Individuals must submit the ATAS certificate as part of the visa application process


For further guidance on the ATAS scheme and making an application, please refer to hte government webpages:

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