Effective August 19, 2022, Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges & Schools (ACICS) is no longer an Accrediting Agency. This loss of recognition may affect certain students applying for English language study and 24-month STEM OPT extension Programs with degrees from an Institution accredited only by ACICS, H-1B (Cap-Exempt), and I-140 Applicants. If you want to know whether your school is accredited by ACICS, you can look it up here- https://ope.ed.gov/dapip/#/home
The deadline for institutions to seek accreditation with another recognized agency is 18 months from August 19, 2022. However, it is likely that this grace period will be shorter for most students because the “current session” is unlikely to last 18 months. So, if you are an international student at an ACICS accredited institution, you should check with your school’s DSO on how this will impact your immigration benefits. You must check if your school chooses to voluntarily withdraw its SEVP certification or is withdrawn by SEVP. This will not impact those students whose school is able to provide evidence of an ED-recognized accrediting agency or evidence in lieu of accreditation.
English Language Study Programs: If you are a student who filed for a change or reinstatement of status (i.e., filed Form I-539 with USCIS) on or after August 19, 2022, to attend an ACICS-accredited English language study program, you will receive a Request for Evidence (RFE). The student should respond to the RFE by submitting a new form I-20 from an accredited school.
STEM OPT: If you are applying for STEM OPT extension you must have a degree from an institution that is accredited at the time of application. “At the time of application” is the date of the DSO’s recommendation on Form I-20. USCIS will deny the 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.
If the recommendation on I-20 is dated prior to August 19, 2022, you are not affected.
What happens if your STEM OPT extension is denied? You will have 60 days after denial to either depart the United States, transfer to a different school, or to begin a new course of study at an accredited, SEVP-certified school.
H-1B Cap-Exempt Petitions: Institutions that are no longer recognized by a qualified accreditation agency, or otherwise recognized as pre-accredited, would no longer qualify for an exemption from the H-1B cap or the ACWIA fee.
Impact on I-140 beneficiaries under the advanced degree and professional classifications (EB-2) category: Those who hold degrees conferred after August 19, 2022, by Institutions accredited by ACICIS will also be affected since the ‘advanced degree’ criteria won’t be met.
To conclude, if you are a student in an institution accredited only by ACICS, you must contact your designated DSO to understand the impact on your immigration status.
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