Are you an international student in the United States or planning to apply for an F-1 visa? Then this video may interest you. Here, we discuss a recent announcement made by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regarding the loss of accreditation of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) as an accrediting agency, and how it will impact certain F-1 students in the United States. The ACICS agency accredited close to 30 schools in the United States attended by more than 5,000 students.
Did You know? The U.S. Department of Education has announced it will no longer recognize the ACICS as an accredited agency. Accordingly, students in an English language program or those seeking an extension of their STEM OPT may be impacted.
If you want to know more just keep on watching.
On August 19, 2022, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced that it no longer recognizes the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) as an accrediting agency. This determination immediately affects 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; and
- 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 the Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status. M-1 students are not eligible for OPT.
What does this mean in practice?
This announcement means that schools that were once accredited by the ACICS will no longer be able to issue program extensions and students that are currently in these programs will only be able to finish their current session.
Furthermore, the loss of accreditation 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 for purposes of maintaining F-1 status and receiving STEM OPT extensions.
How will I know if I am impacted?
Those impacted by this announcement will receive notification letters from SEVP informing them that their schools’ certification has been withdrawn.
If a student’s ACICS-accredited school can provide evidence of a Department of Education recognized accrediting agency or evidence in lieu of accreditation within the allotted timeframe, the student may remain at the school to complete their program of study.
If you already know that your school is accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) we recommend that you take steps to maintain your F-1 student status as soon as possible. This includes contacting your DSOs immediately to understand how this loss of accreditation will impact your status and/or immigration benefits.
Requests for Evidence
If you filed Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, on or after August 19, 2022, requesting a change of status or reinstatement to attend an ACICS-accredited English language study program, you will receive a Request for Evidence (RFE) in the mail.
Once you have received your RFE, you will be given the opportunity to provide evidence in response, such as documentation showing that the English language study program you will enroll in meets the accreditation requirements (by changing schools as necessary).
If you do not submit a new Form I-20 from a school accredited by an entity recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, USCIS will deny your change of status or reinstatement request.
OPT STEM Extensions
If you are an F-1 student applying for an OPT STEM extension program, you must have a degree from a Department of Education accredited U.S. educational institution at the time you file your STEM OPT application.
USCIS will issue a denial to any F-1 student filing a Form I-765 STEM OPT extension if:
- The STEM degree that is the basis for the STEM OPT extension was obtained from a college or university that was accredited by ACICS; and
- The student’s DSO recommendation for a STEM OPT extension, as indicated on Form I-20, is dated on or after August 19, 2022 (the date when ACICS ceased to be recognized as an accrediting agency).
Because students must use a STEM degree from an accredited, SEVP-certified school at the time of application, the ACICS loss of recognition as an accrediting agency prevents these students from qualifying for a STEM OPT extension.
60-day transfer period
Students who receive a denial will have 60 days to prepare for departure from the United States, transfer to a different school, or to begin a new course of study at an accredited, SEVP-certified school.
Students whose Forms I-20 have a DSO recommendation date prior to August 19, 2022, are not affected.
I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers
For beneficiaries who hold affected degrees, this loss of recognition also affects I-140 petitions filed under the advanced degree and professional classifications where the beneficiary’s educational credentials must be a U.S. degree or foreign equivalent degree. See 8 CFR 204.5(k)(2) and 8 CFR 204.5(l)(2).
Need assistance? If you believe you are impacted by this announcement, we invite you to schedule a consultation to evaluate your options. Please text 619-483-4549 or call 619-819-9204.
- ACICS Loss of Recognition May Affect Certain Students Applying for English Language Study and 24-month STEM OPT Extension Programs, H-1B, and I-140 ApplicantsDesignation: Ethiopia for Temporary Protected Status
- Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) School Member Directory
- SEVP Guidance The Accreditation of English Language Training Programs Act
- USCIS Extends Flexibilities to Respond to RFEs
- DOS Youtube Channel
- DOS Visa Services Operating Status Update
- ImmigrationU Membership
- Success stories
- Youtube channel
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