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ATAS for Researchers

ATAS for Researchers

What is ATAS and how does it effect you as a researcher?

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ATAS Expansion – Inclusion of Researchers

In January 2021 the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) announced the decision to expand the Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) to incorporate international researchers.

The expansion of ATAS is designed to protect UK research from exploitation and from inadvertently supporting the proliferation of WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) or advanced conventional weapon technologies.  In addition to the national security benefits, this extension of ATAS will also enhance the protection of UK sensitive intellectual property. 

ATAS applies to all international students and researchers (apart from exempt nationalities) who are subject to UK immigration control and are intending to study or research at postgraduate level in certain sensitive subjects.

This ATAS expansion with regards to researchers became effective on 21 May 2021.

The HEI/research institute must check the ATAS certificate before allowing the research to start, and if this is not provided you will not be permitted on-site.

Please note, Queen’s requires that ATAS for Visitor Visa holders should be required at the point of Immigration Documents Check/registration. Visitors to Queen’s should not receive their ID Card until the University has a copy of their ATAS Certificate on record.

Queen’s internal page on ATAS is located here.  Further information on ATAS and the requirements for international students can be found there. 

This webpage will focus on ATAS as it pertains to researchers. 

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What is a researcher?
The UK government defines a researcher as:

An individual conducting an investigation into a problem or situation, where the intention is to identify facts and/or opinions that will assist in solving the problem or tackling the situation. A researcher may be working independently or as part of team. You need to apply for an ATAS certificate if research is being conducted at PhD level or above. PhD students should apply through the student route, not researcher route. Please note this includes lecturers, senior lecturers, professors and postdoctoral research assistants.

The below assumes that you are not a national of a country listed on the exemption list and you intend to research a sensitive subject area.


If you’re an academic researcher applying on the Skilled Worker, Intra-company transfer, Intra-company graduate trainee, Tier 5 International Agreement, and Government Authorised Exchange routes, you will need to apply for, and be granted, an ATAS certificate before applying for a UK visa or permission to stay.

Further information on this can be located here.

Visiting Academic/Researcher

Option 1)

If you’re a researcher on a Standard visitor visa attending meetings, conferences, seminars or interviews, or giving speeches, and will not be undertaking research during your time in the UK, you do not need to apply for ATAS clearance.

Option 2)

If you’re 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

You must apply for an ATAS certificate, if engaged in an ATAS categorised sensitive subject.

Further information on this can be found here.

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Quick ATAS Checker Tool
Use this quick checking tool to determine if you require an ATAS certificate.
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Click here for answers to frequently asked questions regarding ATAS

Internal Contact Details

For further details and assistance on this matter please contact or

Please note, information was correct at time of drafting however it is strongly recommended that the original Government website pages always be consulted for up to date guidance in relation to this matter.



Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS): occupation codes

QUB Internal ATAS webpage