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ATAS - staff guidance

Section 2: What is ATAS?

ATAS is a certificate issued by the (FCDO) Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office which grants students security clearance to study certain subject areas in the UK. These subject areas relate to where the knowledge gained may have application in the development or delivery of weapons of mass destruction (for example, certain science subjects, mathematics, engineering, technology or medicine).

An ATAS certificate will be required as part of a Student Visa application if the course a student is applying to study attracts ATAS.

ATAS is also required by any person holding any visa with limited leave in the UK (including a Standard Visitor visa). They may not need an ATAS certificate to apply for the visa, however, they will need ATAS clearance to study on the course.

Staff are advised to read the information on the Admissions website.

Section 3: Who does not require an ATAS?

  • A national of the United Kingdom
  • A national of 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

Section 4: What courses require ATAS certificate?

Whether a specific course requires ATAS clearance is determined on the basis of the course CAH3 code, as per Appendix ATAS from the Immigration Rules).

If a course requires ATAS this will be shown in the MCR screen within SITS. Any queries in that respect should be directed to the Immigration and Compliance team:

Section 5: How to apply for ATAS clearance

Applications for an ATAS are submitted online and are free of charge. 

Section 6: What information is required in an ATAS application?

As part of the ATAS application process, students are required to provide details of the course elements or research that attract ATAS clearance; this is sometimes referred to as an 'ATAS statement' - see below. They are also asked why they are interested in this study area and what their future aspirations are.

In addition to confirming their personal details, students are also asked to provide information on all previous study post 18, including at University level, details of any published papers and their employment history.

The names and contact information of two referees who have known the student for three years are also required, in addition to information about who is funding the student, e.g. self-funded, or scholarship.

Section 7: When should students apply for ATAS?

Students can apply for an ATAS certificate once they have:

  • Received a conditional or unconditional offer from Warwick, and
  • Received an email from the relevant Admissions services with the information required for ATAS application.

ATAS applications take on average 20 - 30 working days to be decided, although processing time may be much longer during summer months.

Therefore, students are advised to submit their ATAS application as soon as possible (although no more than six months before the start date of their course).

Students will receive an email from the FCDO to confirm that their application has been approved or refused. The University (PG Admissions as the sole contact) will receive a copy of ATAS as well directly from the FCDO. Admissions team will then update offer conditions and notify the student.

Section 8: ATAS statement

Guidance on what information should be included in the ATAS statement:

Undergraduate Masters - For MEng degrees, only list the final year electives or, if there are none, the core modules.

Taught Postgraduate - For a taught master’s degree, list the elective/optional modules; there are no electives, list the core modules.

Doctoral - A research statement, 6-7 lines in length, summarising the research activities the student will undertake, including the research abstract; this statement should provide sufficient detail to allow the FCO to determine if clearance should be granted. You can find examples of good and bad research statements here.

Students should copy paste their course details into the ATAS application form.

Where a new ATAS statement is required because of a course change or extension to registration and the student requires a new Visa, ensure that the course name on the new statement appears the same as on the student's CAS.

Section 9: Further ATAS clearance for enrolled students

A student may require a new ATAS certificate after enrolment if they:

  • change course part way through their study and the new course requires ATAS clearance - this includes a change in qualification aim; *
  • are granted a period of academic extension which extends their course end date +3 months beyond the course end date stated on their most recent CAS; or
  • have changed their research area

* FCDO have confirmed that a minor change to the name of the programme with no fundamental difference in the course syllabus or type of qualification that the applicant will receive at the end of their studies/research, or any changes in access to labs or learning environment, will NOT require new ATAS clearance.

Students in this situation must apply for new a ATAS Certificate within 28 calendar days of being notified of the changes to their course, regardless of when their visa expires. Student Records will initiate the process when they identify any students in this situation and will not process any course transfer, internal upgrade or academic extension requests until a new ATAS has been received.

If you are aware of any student who requires a new ATAS certificate due to any of the above reasons but who hasn't been contacted by Student Records please contact the relevant team:

Section 10: How long is an ATAS certificate valid for?

An ATAS certificate is valid for 6 months from the date of issue. If a student needing ATAS clearance for a Visa application does not submit a Visa application before their ATAS certificate expires, they will need to make another application for fresh ATAS clearance before they can apply for their Student Visa.

Once used in a successful Visa application an ATAS certificate will remain valid for the duration of the course it was issued for, from the course start date to the course end date given on the CAS, plus an additional + 3 calendar months after the course end date - provided the subject or research area does not change and the course end date is not postponed for a period of more than 3 calendar months.

There is a lot of information and guidance available on the ATAS website, including frequently asked questions and information on what to do if a student's ATAS application is delayed or refused.

Section 11: If ATAS clearance is refused

Students will be notified by email from FCDO if their ATAS application has been refused, but specific reasons for refusal to grant clearance will not be disclosed to either the student or the University.

In most cases, offer holders will be advised to discuss their research area with their supervisor and asked to re-apply for ATAS with an amended statement.

However, current students who are part way through their research or at the end of their research course may not be able to change research area easily. Therefore, their only option would be to continue with their studies overseas as a change of study location.

If the student is able to continue their studies overseas, they can do so without an ATAS but the FCDO has advised that the university will need to follow export control rules. Please refer to the process set out in this document for more information.

  • Students who don't want to apply for ATAS because they don't need a UK visa yet - offer holders only:

Students on a partnership course often start their research course outside of the UK and come to Warwick only in their 2nd or 3rd year. Some of these students may be reluctant to apply for ATAS given that they do not need a Student Visa because they are not coming to the UK for a while yet, or, they want to start the course before they get ATAS clearance.

PG Admissions should always encourage a student to obtain ATAS certificate where applicable even if they are not coming to the UK straightaway. However, in exceptional circumstances a student may be permitted to start engaging remotely without ATAS if export control license rules can be satisfied - please refer to the process in this document.

Section 12: For staff helping students - Top tips for a successful ATAS application

Having an ATAS application refused can be stressful and in some cases may cause a student to be delayed in joining their course. To minimise the chances of this happening, we've put together some hints and tips:

1. Students are encouraged to refer to the ATAS application guidance on the Immigration Service website - this step-by-step guide goes through the whole ATAS application from the student's point of view.

2. When asked to choose whether they are a 'Taught/Research student' or a 'Researcher', Doctoral students should select Taught/Research ('Researcher' is for paid academic researchers, not students). UG/PGT students should select Taught/Research also.

3. Students should always enter their course title as per their offer email, or new CAS (if there has been a change of course) - any discrepancy might result in clearance not being granted.

4. Remember that not all course changes require new ATAS clearance where it is only a superficial change to the name and the qualification aim/research area remains unchanged.

5. Students should copy paste the ATAS statement provided by the University and not attempt to write their own.

6. If students are struggling to identify two suitable referees, refer them to our guidance which lists acceptable contacts to use.

7. If a student notices a mistake or omission after they have submitted their ATAS application, there is no way to correct this and they will need to submit a new application with the correct information.

8. If a PhD student's application for ATAS is refused, they should discuss with their supervisor whether it is possible to amend the research proposal and re-apply with a new ATAS statement.

Page Change Log:

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29/Jan/2024 - Format only ISA: JL 01/Apr/2024
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