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Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

Guidance for international researchers – Skilled Worker visa or international visitor

What is the Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)?

The Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) is a British Government scheme for certifying foreign students and researchers for entry into the United Kingdom to study or conduct research in certain sensitive technology-related fields. Guidance for degree seeking and visiting student applicants for ATAS clearance is provided separately.

From 21 May 2021, all researchers, including post-doctoral researchers, visiting researchers and academic staff who are subject to UK immigration control, must also hold an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate (with the exception of exempt nationalities), before applying for a visa to conduct activities on UK soil that could result in the Intangible Transfer of Technology (ITT) to weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and Advanced Conventional Military Technology (ACMT) programmes of concern.

Researchers coming to the UK as a visitor will need to apply under Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) before they begin any research subject to ATAS. If the research focus is changed at any time, a new ATAS certificate will be required.

Do I need an ATAS certificate?

You can check whether you need an ATAS certificate by answering a few quick questions on the UK government website here: https://www.academic-technology-approval.service.gov.uk/.

Typically, the requirement for an ATAS certificate is determined if you meet all four of the following numbered criteria:

1) Visa type

You are submitting an initial or extension application for a Skilled Worker visa; Senior or Specialist Worker visa, Graduate Trainee visa, Temporary Work - International Agreement visa or Temporary Work - Government Authorised Exchange visa

OR

You already hold a relevant immigration status (Tier 2/Skilled Worker) and will be undertaking new/additional/different research activity from your current research/study

OR

You are a researcher on a standard visitor visa undertaking science and academic activities, including:

  • gathering information and facts for a specific project which directly relates to your employment overseas, or to support independent research
  • taking part in formal exchange arrangements with UK counterparts
  • carrying out research for your own purposes or as a group

2) Nationality

You are a non-EEA national who requires permission to be in the UK.

Exempt nationalities

If you are a UK national or a national of any of the following countries, you do not require 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.

3) Role type

If you will undertake research at or above a postgraduate level (MSc or PhD) as part of your staff role/visit.

For staff (only) this means whether you are to be employed under a Standard Occupational Classification code (SOC) that requires Academic Technology Approval under the Scheme – see below for the list of relevant codes.

• 2111 Chemical scientists*
• 2112 Biological scientists and biochemists*
• 2113 Physical scientists*
• 2114 Social and humanities scientists*
• 2119 Natural and social science professionals not elsewhere classified*
• 2150 Research and development managers*
• 2122 Mechanical engineers
• 2123 Electrical engineers
• 2124 Electronics engineers
• 2127 Production and process engineers
• 2129 Engineering professionals not elsewhere classified
• 2311 Higher education teaching professionals*
• 3111 Laboratory technicians
• 3112 Electrical and electronics technicians
• 3113 Engineering technicians
• 3114 Building and civil engineering technicians
• 5235 Aircraft maintenance and related trades

*Previously known as designated PhD level SOC codes

4) Research field

If your field of research is in a subject set out in the list of Academic Subjects/Fields of Research relevant to ATAS - see Appendix 1 below.

If you are due to start new/additional/different research activity from that of your current research and you meet all 4 of the criteria indicated here, you will need a new ATAS certificate before you can start your new/additional/different research activity.

Do I need an ATAS certificate?

Do I need an ATAS certificate?

You can check whether you need an ATAS certificate by answering a few quick questions on the UK government website here: https://www.academic-technology-approval.service.gov.uk/

A new ATAS certificate is required for any change in research area and must be obtained before the research commences. 

For current researchers will retrospective applications be needed?

Researchers who are current staff working for the University will not have to retrospectively apply for ATAS clearance if they hold a valid visa. However, if the research scope changes and falls within ATAS regulations an application for ATAS must be made and certificate obtained before the research commences.  

Applying for an ATAS certificate

When should I apply for ATAS?

You should apply for your ATAS certificate as early as possible as you will need to submit this as part of your visa application.

If you are a new visa applicant, it is recommended that you apply as soon as you receive your job offer but no earlier than 6 months before your proposed work start date.

If you are applying to extend your visa, it is recommended that you apply at least 4 months before (but no earlier than 6 months before) your current visa expiry date.

How do I apply?

To apply for an ATAS certificate you will need to complete and submit the online application form, available at Guidance on how to apply for an ATAS certificate - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).

When you begin your ATAS application, please select The University of Manchester from the dropdown menu. Your ATAS certificate must be linked to The University of Manchester to enable you to use this as part of your visa application to work at Manchester or, where you have already obtained your visa, for the clearance certificate to be valid for your change of research focus or academic visit to the University.

Please make sure you select “researcher” (not “student”) as this will determine the questions you are asked and the clearance you obtain. If you have just completed or are about to complete your studies, it is worth including a sentence or two about your status in the free text box where you give your research statement, to avoid any confusion and to confirm you are applying under the ‘researcher’ route.

How much does an ATAS certificate cost?

There is no charge for an ATAS certificate even if you need to reapply for additional clearance if your course or research area changes.

I will be applying for a new passport soon, should I apply for ATAS clearance now or with my new passport details?

As your ATAS application is linked to your passport, if you plan to obtain a new passport before applying for your visa you should wait until you have your new passport before applying for ATAS clearance.

What should I do if I submit my application and then realise that I have made a mistake?

For instances where an ATAS application has been made and is pending assessment, you should contact the ATAS team at atas@fcdo.gov.uk with details of the change required, they will send the application back to you to make the changes and to resubmit your application for the ATAS team to review.

How will I know if my ATAS application has been successful?

If your application is successful, you should receive an email from ATAS with the attached ATAS certificate to the email address that you used to register. You should check your spam or junk folders regularly to ensure the email has not been filtered out. You must read your ATAS certificate carefully to check that the details on it are correct; if any information in the certificate is incorrect, please contact people-od.operations@manchester.ac.uk for advice.

Who do I inform when I hear my ATAS application has been successful or unsuccessful?

People &OD will be informed directly as to the outcome of your ATAS certificate. To expedite the process it is advisable to inform your supervisor (recruiting manager) and Research Services/School Operations contact also. You could also send it direct to the International Staff and Compliance team who is processing your Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) using the following email address people-od.operations@manchester.ac.uk

What do I do if my application is unsuccessful and I wish to appeal?

A member of the People & Organisational Development Team will be in contact with you should your ATAS be refused and the process to appeal will then be explained.

Where an ATAS certificate is refused, you are NOT permitted to commence work remotely. This includes where the ATAS decision is under appeal. No work should be undertaken, regardless of location, until an ATAS certificate is granted.

How to complete your application

What is my CAH code?

To apply for an ATAS certificate you will need to know the CAH code for your field of research as you will need to enter this on your application form.  Please see Appendix 1 below.

Your academic supervisor should confirm your CAH code with you. They can consider this using the list in Appendix 1. The CAH code should be selected based on your research project, not your Department or research group.

Skilled Worker, Intra-company transfer, Intra-company graduate trainee, Temporary Work - International Agreement, and Temporary Work - Government Authorised Exchange visa holders may also undertake a course of study. These visa holders only need to apply for one ATAS certificate but they should include both the research project and study activities in their application.

What if my project falls under multiple CAH codes?

If a supervisor feels that several CAH codes could apply to the project they should choose the CAH code for the most significant subject and ensure the statement of research refers to the other areas of research.

Please note that if there are several codes that could apply and only one falls into ATAS you would still need to apply for an ATAS certificate with that code.

What start date should I enter on the form?

If you are a new visa applicant, you should enter the proposed work start date detailed in your job offer.

If you are applying to extend your visa, you should enter the start date for the visa extension application i.e. the day after your current visa expiry date. This may be different to any associated contract extension start date.

If you already hold a relevant immigration status (Tier 2/Skilled Worker Visa) and are applying for permission to undertake new/additional/different research activity, you should enter a realistic start date based on standard timeframes. This also applies if you hold a standard visitor visa and need to apply for ATAS clearance to undertake permitted academic activities at the University of Manchester during your visit to the UK.

Please note that you will not be able to enter a start date in the past as ATAS will not allow you to make a retrospective application.

The application asks for a research statement - where can I get this?

Your academic supervisor will provide you with the research statement. See Appendix 2 below.

You should copy the research statement and enter it into the ‘What Will you be Studying/Research Statement’ box on your application form.

The application asks for details of any government funded research that I have worked on – how can I find out if my research work at Manchester is government funded?

Please ask your supervisor to confirm whether your project would be classified as government funded research and, if so, to provide the required details.

The application asks for information about my sponsor - where can I get this?

If the University of Manchester is your employer and is sponsoring you to come to the UK as a staff member then you would input the details for the University of Manchester in the “sponsor section.”

Additionally, where a researcher is funded by an external body then the funding body details should also be included

The University of Manchester sponsor details

Address:

Oxford Road
Manchester
M13 9PL

Email address: people-od.operations@manchester.ac.uk

The question “Provide details of the conditions your sponsor has attached to their offer” is not relevant to staff or visitors and is associated with conditions attached to student study.

The application states that one of my referees must be from my home country. What should I do if I cannot provide a referee from my home country?

If you are unable to provide a referee from your home country because you have been working in another country, then please provide two referees who meet the other referee criteria. If the ATAS team ask for more information, then please explain the reasons why this is not possible.

Timescales

I am an existing/new staff member: what are the timescales for processing new appointments and contract extensions which require ATAS clearance?

See Appendix 3 below.

How long does it take to get ATAS clearance?

Applications will normally be processed within 10 working days (though it can take longer) and up to 15 working days between April and September. There are no fast-track options available. The processing time will only start at the point at which that the ATAS team receive a completed and correct application, so you should check your application carefully before submitting it.

Between April and September processing times increase and can take 30 or more working days to complete. You should not submit duplicate applications as this increases processing time. The government advises not so contact the enquiries team within 6 weeks of your application during September.

Please refer to Gov.UK guidance for up-to-date timelines.

How long is an ATAS certificate valid for?

If you need to apply for a visa, your ATAS clearance certificate is only valid to be used in a visa application for 6 months from the date of issue. Please make sure that you submit your visa application before the certificate expires.

Aside from the validity of the certificate in relation to a visa application, the clearance certificate will remain valid throughout your research/visit unless your academic circumstances change, e.g., you change your research focus, or you extend your visa or visit.

Export Controls

You will also need to consider export controls, which are separate from ATAS.  Compliance with both are essential to safeguard ourselves and the work we carry out, while also mitigating against any potential threats to national security.    

You can find out more information on the University’s Export Control StaffNet pages.

Appendices

Appendix 1 - Academic Subjects/Fields of Research relevant to ATAS 

Appendix 2 - Guidance for supervisors on writing the research statement

Appendix 3 - ATAS process guidance and recruitment timelines – Skilled Worker route

Appendix 4 - ATAS process map