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Foreign Students Severely Affected by ACICS Loss of Accreditation

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) informed interested parties that the decision by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to no longer recognize the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) as an accrediting agency will affect two immigration-related student programs:

  • English language study programs; as the programs are required to be accredited under the Accreditation of English Language Training Programs Act

  • F-1 students applying for a 24-month science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) optional practical training (OPT) extension, as the regulations require them to use a degree from an accredited, Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) certified school for their STEM OPT extension. The school must be accredited at the time of the application; this is the date of the Designated School Official’s (DSO) recommendation on Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status. M-1 students are not eligible for OPT.

SEVP will provide guidance to affected students in notification letters if their schools’ accreditation is revoked. Students are still advised to contact their DSOs immediately to get details on how this change affects their immigration status.

ACICS-accredited schools will be unable to issue program extensions, and students will only be allowed to finish their current session if the ACICS-accredited school chooses to voluntarily withdraw its accreditation or is withdrawn by SEVP. If a student whose ACICS-accredited school can provide evidence of a DOE-recognized accrediting agency or evidence in lieu of accreditation within the allotted time frame, the student may remain at the school to complete their programs of study.

The loss of recognition means that colleges and universities solely accredited by ACICS are no longer accredited institutions, and any degrees conferred by those colleges and universities on or after August 19, 2022, will no longer qualify as a U.S. degree in terms of qualifying for the H-1B advanced degree exemption (master’s cap).

Click here to view the USCIS alert.


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