ATAS: Frequently asked questions

Please see below for answers to frequently asked questions about the Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS).

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What is ATAS?

The Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) is run by the UK government's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

Under the scheme, International students who are applying to study for a Masters-level qualification or higher (including undergraduate Masters degrees) in certain sensitive subject areas have to apply for government clearance before they can study in the UK.

Clearance is granted in the form of an electronic ATAS certificate, issued by email.


Which students are covered by the ATAS scheme?

The requirement for an ATAS certificate applies to all non-UK nationals irrespective of where you are living when you apply. Students of the following nationalities are exempted:

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.


I am applying for an undergraduate course. Do I need to apply for ATAS clearance?

You will only require ATAS clearance if your course leads to a Masters qualification, for example an MEng or MPhys, in certain subject areas. If you are applying for an undergraduate course that requires ATAS clearance, we will let you know by email from May of the year in which your course is due to start.

You can also find out if you need ATAS clearance on the UK government webpages:

Find out if you need an ATAS certificate


I am applying for a postgraduate course. Do I need to apply for ATAS clearance?

Only courses in certain sensitive subject areas require ATAS clearance. If you are applying for a postgraduate course your offer letter will tell you if your course requires ATAS clearance.

You can also find out if you need ATAS clearance on the UK government webpages:

Find out if you need an ATAS certificate


I am applying to the University of under the Erasmus or Study Abroad scheme. Do I need to apply for ATAS clearance?

You may require ATAS clearance if you apply for and are accepted on certain Level 4 or Level 6 modules.

If you are required to apply for ATAS clearance we will tell you by email.


I am applying to more than one university. What should I do?

Each ATAS certificate is specific to a course and a university. You should submit an ATAS application for each course where ATAS applies. You can submit as many ATAS applications as you hold offers.


I am an undergraduate applicant and selected another university as my Firm choice and the University of Sheffield as my Insurance choice. Should I apply for two ATAS certificates?

Yes. You can apply for ATAS clearance for more than one course/university. This will give you the flexibility to change your mind.


When should I apply for ATAS clearance?

You should apply for ATAS clearance when you receive module information from us, and at least six weeks before you intend to apply for your visa.


Can I apply for my visa before I get ATAS clearance?

No, if your course requires ATAS clearance you will need your ATAS certificate to apply for your visa.


Will I be able to register for my course without ATAS clearance?

If your course requires ATAS clearance, UK immigration law does not allow universities to register International students until the student has received an ATAS certificate.

If you entered the UK on Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 5 or Dependant's visa you must still apply for ATAS clearance before you begin your studies. You will not be allowed to register until you have received an ATAS certificate.


How do I apply for ATAS clearance?

Apply for ATAS clearance on the GOV.UK website.

When you start your ATAS application you must select 'University of Sheffield' from the drop-down menu so that your ATAS application is linked to your correct course and university.

The ATAS application process is managed by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. You can get further guidance about your ATAS application on the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office webpages:

Guidance on how to apply for an ATAS certificate


I cannot access the ATAS website. What should I do?

Try using a different web browser. The ATAS website works best in Google Chrome.


I need a CAH3 code. What is this and where do I find it for my course?

Your CAH3 code relates to your course but may be different to your Sheffield course code or UCAS code. We will tell you the relevant CAH3 code for your course by email.

For postgraduate applicants, the CAH3 code will also be on your offer letter.


What modules should I list on my ATAS application?

Even though the application form only asks for elective modules you intend to study, you should list all the modules for your course. This will allow you to be flexible in your module choice when you start your course.

For undergraduate courses it is only the fourth year modules which are required. You should copy and paste all modules as they are shown in the link which we send to you.

For PhD applicants you should copy and paste your research summary from the ATAS Sheet attached to your offer letter.


Is my programme a joint programme with another country?

If your course includes time abroad, but your degree will only be awarded by the University of Sheffield, you should answer 'No'.

If your course includes study in two different countries and will be either jointly awarded by the University of Sheffield and another institution, or awarded solely by another institution, you should answer 'Yes'.


Who do I list as Referees?

You will need to provide details of two referees who have known you for a minimum of three years.

If you have studied at degree level, at least one of the referees should be from the university where you studied. If you have not previously studied at degree level, you should provide at least one referee from the institution where you completed your most recent studies.

If you have work experience, a referee from your employment would also be acceptable.

A referee from your home country is preferable but is not essential if you have studied and/or worked in another country.

Family members are not acceptable as referees.


You must provide details of who is going to fund your study in Sheffield. If you are funding your study yourself, please put your own name and address in the relevant boxes. If a family member is funding your study, put down their details.


Who do I list as my Supervisor?

If you are a applying for postgraduate research, your supervisor will be listed on your offer letter.

If you are applying for a taught course, we advise you to enter the Head of Department in this section. You can find the Head of the Department for your course on your department's webpages. You can find a list of academic departments here:

Academic departments


Should I select 'Taught/Research Student' or 'Researcher'?

If you have an offer of a study place with us, you should select 'Taught/Research Student'.

You will then be asked 'What type of study are you undertaking?'

If you are applying for a taught course (for example MEng, MSc), you should select 'Taught'. If you are applying for a research course (for example PhD), you should select 'Research'.

If you have a contract of employment with the University of Sheffield, you should select 'Researcher'.


How do I complete the online application form?

The online application form has 10 sections, which should be completed in full, with as much detail as possible provided for each section. Everything that is entered into this form is used to assess your application.

Proposed Study
  • What university or Higher Education Institution will you be studying at?: Select the University of Sheffield
  • Course: We will provide you with the relevant details, including the CAH3 code, either in your offer letter (PhD applicants) or by email (postgraduate and undergraduate Masters applicants)
  • What you will you be studying?: Make sure you complete this section correctly
  • Masters courses: Even though the application form only asks for elective modules you intend to study, you should list all the core and elective modules for your course. This will allow you to be flexible in your module choice when you start your course. Therefore, you should copy and paste all modules as they are shown in the link which we send to you. Please note that for undergraduate courses, only the fourth year modules are required.
  • PhD applicants: You should copy and paste your research summary from the ATAS Sheet attached to your offer letter.
Personal details

Details from this section will be included in your ATAS certificate and must match your passport

Spouse

Indicate if you are married and are planning to bring your spouse with you. If your spouse chooses to study an ATAS-relevant subject while in the UK, they will need to submit their own, separate, application for ATAS clearance.

Contact details

Make sure your contact details are accurate. The ATAS certificate will be sent to the preferred email address you enter in this section.

Undergraduate/Postgraduate studies

Provide full details of all previous university-level (undergraduate and postgraduate) study you have undertaken

Other studies

Indicate if you have undertaken any other studies you think may be relevant to your application, for example formal professional training

Published papers

Indicate if you have had any academic or professional papers published, either alone or with co-authors

Employment history

Indicate, with as much detail as possible, any paid employment you have undertaken. Employment that relates to your proposed course of study, or that has been secured based on previous studies, is particularly relevant. If you have not been employed, please indicate 'Not applicable/Never employed'.

Please ensure there are no long gaps in your employment/education history. If you were unemployed or, for example, a full-time parent please indicate this on the form.

Referees

Provide the details of two referees who have known you for a minimum of three years.

If you have studied a degree, at least one of the referees must be from the university where you studied. If you have not previously studied at degree level, you should provide at least one referee from the institution where you completed your most recent studies.

If you have work experience, a referee from your employment would also be acceptable.

At least one of your referees should be a teacher, lecturer or professor from your home country.

Family members are not acceptable as referees.

Sponsors

Provide details of who is going to fund your study in Sheffield. If you are funding your study yourself, please put your own name and address in the relevant boxes. If a family member is funding your study, put down their details.


How long will it take for the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office to process my ATAS application?

It will take at least 20 working days (four complete weeks). Processing times will increase between the months of April and September, when it can take 30 or more working days (six weeks). When you submit your ATAS application you will be given an estimated decision date by which you should receive a decision on your ATAS application.


Is there a 'fast track' service to apply for ATAS?

No, to ensure fairness and consistency ATAS applications are processed in order of receipt. Therefore, you should submit your ATAS application as early as possible.


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

If your ATAS application is successful, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office will send an ATAS certificate by email to the address that you included in your application. You should check your spam/junk folders regularly to ensure the email has not been filtered away from your inbox.

When you receive your certificate, you should check that the details on it are correct and match the details on your offer letter/email from the University of Sheffield. If everything is correct, print the certificate and include it in the documents you will submit as part of your visa application. If there are any mistakes, contact the FForeign, Commonwealth and Development Office at atas@fcdo.gov.uk.

You do not need to send your ATAS certificate to us as we receive our own copy directly from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.


I have not received my ATAS certificate. What should I do?

If you have not received your ATAS certificate by your estimated decision date, please check your spam/junk folder to make sure that the email containing your certificate has not been filtered away from your inbox.

The University has no control over your ATAS application but if you have not received your ATAS certificate by a week after your estimated decision date, if you email study@sheffield.ac.uk we will try to help. Please include your applicant number/UCAS ID, your ATAS reference number and your estimated decision date.

You can also contact the ATAS team at atas@fcdo.gov.uk but they will not respond to emails sent either 1) less than 20 working days (four weeks) since you submitted your application or 2) before your estimated decision date. Please do not contact us during this period as we will be unable to help you.


What do I do if I am refused ATAS clearance?

If your course requires ATAS clearance, without an ATAS certificate you will not be granted a visa to study in the UK.

Applications for visas to study on other courses that do not require ATAS clearance will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

If you think your application has been treated unfairly you can ask the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to review your case.


How can I contact the ATAS team at the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office?

You should email atas@fcdo.gov.uk if you have a question about your application.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office will not reply to any query on an application that is not at least 20 working days old. If your application is more than 20 days old they will try to reply to you within five working days. However please be aware that delays are possible over the summer due to the volume of enquiries received.


Do I need to tell the University of Sheffield when I receive my ATAS certificate?

No, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office will notify the University when they send you an ATAS certificate. We will note the decision on your applicant record. However, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office do not tell us if they refuse your application.

If your application is refused, please send an email to study@sheffield.ac.uk including your applicant number/UCAS ID, ATAS reference number and a copy of the refusal notice. We will then advise you about your options.


How long does my ATAS clearance last?

Your ATAS certificate is valid for six months from the date it was issued. This means that must submit your visa application no later than six months after the date of your ATAS certificate.


Do I need to apply for ATAS clearance every six months?

No, you only need your ATAS clearance to be valid when you apply for your visa. You will need to apply for fresh ATAS clearance if your course changes or if you have to apply for a new visa.


I have Indefinite Leave to Remain. Do I still need to apply for ATAS clearance?

If you have Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK, which does not have an end date, you do not need ATAS clearance to study.


I am in the process of applying for asylum in the UK. Do I need to apply for ATAS clearance?

Yes. Unless you have already been granted asylum in the UK and your Biometric Residence Permit does not have an end date, you must apply for ATAS clearance to study relevant courses.


I am a British citizen holding a British passport. Do I need to apply for ATAS clearance?

No.


If I apply for ATAS clearance for a course at Sheffield, does that mean that I have to become a student at the University of Sheffield?

No, you can still change your mind after you receive your ATAS certificate.


I have received ATAS clearance but I have changed my passport. What should I do?

Send an email to study@sheffield.ac.uk including your applicant number/UCAS ID, ATAS reference number and new passport number, with a scan of your new passport attached. We will ask the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to issue a new ATAS certificate with your new passport number.

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