Question to the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office:
To ask Her Majesty's Government when they intend to re-open the Academic Technology Approval Scheme certification scheme.
The Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) requires all non EEA students subject to existing UK immigration permissions to obtain an ATAS certificate before they can apply for a visa to study a postgraduate qualification in subjects which could be used to assist programmes related to Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and their means of delivery. The decision by the Home Office to suspend all Visa Applications and close its Visa processing network, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, means that if an ATAS certificate were to be granted it could not be used. On 6 April, in consultation with other departments, we suspended ATAS. This suspension will remain in place until such time as we are able to properly assess applications. ATAS assessments require access to sensitive information and we placed the duty of care to assessment staff above maintaining a system which was not required while no visas are being issued. We have created processes for students already in the UK who need to extend their stay in the UK. These can be accessed through the Home Office Covid helpline or directly to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office through the university.