Last Updated on February 23, 2023
On Aug. 19, 2022, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) announced that effective immediately, it would no longer recognize the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) as an accrediting agency for certain immigration-related programs. On Nov. 1, 2022, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provided information about the impact on certain immigration programs. The institutions accredited by ACICS will no longer be considered accredited for immigration purposes.
The Department’s decision immediately impacts the following programs:
- English language study programs
- F-1 students applying for a 24-month STEM OPT extension
What Should Students at These Institutions Know?
If a school’s certification is withdrawn, SEVP indicates that they will notify affected students in writing. ACICS-accredited schools can no longer issue program extensions. Students who are enrolled at an ACICS school can finish their current academic session, but they cannot continue with future academic sessions.
Along with the general information above, USCIS has additional guidance for the two specific programs.
English Language Study Programs
USCIS will issue a Request For Evidence (RFE) to any applicant who filed Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status on or after Aug. 19, 2022, requesting to either change their status or become reinstated to attend an ACICS-accredited English language study program. Applicants who receive an RFE can provide evidence in response, such as providing documentation that the program they want to enroll in meets accreditation requirements.
Applicants must submit a new Form I-20 from a school that is accredited by an entity recognized by the ED. If they don’t respond, USCIS will deny their reinstatement or change of status request.
STEM OPT Extension Program
Students who wish to apply for STEM OPT must have earned their degree from an educational institution that was accredited by the ED at the time they file their STEM OPT application. USCIS considers the filing date to be the date of the DSO’s recommendation on Form I-20.
USCIS will deny a STEM OPT extension if the STEM degree is dated on or after Aug. 19, 2022, or if the DSO’s recommendation for a STEM OPT extension (as noted on Form I-20) is dated on or after Aug. 19, 2022.
H-1B Masters Cap Cases
The ED’s decision to no longer recognize ACICS as an accrediting agency means that degrees obtained from an ACICS-accredited institution on or after Aug. 19, 2022 will not qualify as a U.S. masters or higher degree for the purposes of qualifying for an H-1B advanced degree exemption.
I-140 EB-2 and EB-3 Degree Requirements
Degrees dated before Aug. 19, 2022 from ACICS-accredited institutions may still be used to meet the educational requirements of I-140 Immigrant Petitions. Degrees from unaccredited institutions, however, may not be used in support of these petitions.
Envoy is pleased to provide you this information, which was prepared in collaboration with Ian Love, who is a Partner at Global Immigration Associates (GIA), one of the two independent U.S. law firms Envoy exclusively works with on the Envoy Platform (the "U.S. Law Firms").
Content in this publication is for informational purposes only and not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult an attorney at one of the two U.S. Law Firms working with the Envoy Platform or another qualified professional. On non-U.S. immigration issues, consult an Envoy global immigration service provider or another qualified representative.