Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS), run by the UK government's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), is designed to prevent the transfer of information and the spread of knowledge or technology that could be used in programmes to develop Advanced Conventional Military Technology (ACMT), weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) or their means of delivery.

Until recently, only 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 ACMT, WMDs or their means of delivery, have needed to apply for an ATAS certificate.

Earlier this year the government announced that from 21 May 2021, ATAS is being expanded to include international researchers who will be undertaking research activities in the UK that could possibly result in the Intangible Transfer of Technology (ITT) to WMD and ACMT programmes of concern.

In practice, with effect from 21 May 2021, any international person who will be undertaking research activities in the UK, at PhD level or above (NB. this means Lecturers, Senior Lecturers, Researchers, Postdoctoral Research Assistants), in one of the Academic Subjects/Fields of Research relevant to ATAS (the same as for students) will be required to apply for government clearance by obtaining a free of charge ATAS certificate before they can apply for a Skilled Worker visa to start or continue working in the UK. If they do not include an ATAS certificate with their application, it may be rejected/refused.

Sensitive Academic Subjects include Mathematical and Computer Science, Biological Sciences, Engineering, Physical Sciences, Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects, Technologies, Medicine. There is also a quick assessor to see if ATAS is required or not.

Exemptions exist for nationals from the UK/Ireland, EEA, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland and USA and those applying for other visa types e.g. Global Talent Visas.

It is recommended that individuals submitting an initial or extension visa application apply for their ATAS certificate as early as possible. Individuals can apply for an ATAS certificate in advance and certificates will be valid for 6 months. Applications will normally be processed within 10 working days, up to 15 working days between April and September 2021. Applicants will need to obtain the ATAS certificate prior to the CoS being issued.