We want to bring to your attention the recent development regarding the loss of recognition of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). This decision, effective Aug. 19, 2022, has significant implications for certain immigration-related student programs and applicants, particularly those associated with English language study, 24-month STEM OPT extension, H-1B, and I-140 petitions.
Affected Programs and Applicants:
- English Language Study Programs:
- Students seeking to attend ACICS-accredited English language study programs must take note of the loss of recognition. USCIS will issue requests for evidence (RFEs) to individuals who filed Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, on or after Aug. 19, 2022, for a change of status or reinstatement related to English language study programs accredited by ACICS. Students are required to provide evidence that the intended program meets accreditation requirements from an entity recognized by ED.
- 24-Month STEM OPT Extension Program:
- F-1 students applying for a 24-month STEM OPT extension must have a degree from an ED-recognized accredited U.S. educational institution. If the STEM degree is from a college or university accredited by ACICS, and the DSO recommendation on Form I-20 is dated on or after Aug. 19, 2022, USCIS will issue a denial. Students facing denial will have 60 days to prepare for departure, transfer to another school, or begin a new course of study at an accredited, SEVP-certified school.
- H-1B and I-140 Applicants:
- Degrees conferred by colleges and universities solely accredited by ACICS on or after Aug. 19, 2022, are no longer considered qualifying U.S. degrees. This impacts eligibility for the H-1B advanced degree exemption (master’s cap) and certain beneficiary requirements for I-140 petitions filed under advanced degree and professional classifications. However, degrees obtained before the loss of accreditation are generally accepted.
Action Items for Students:
- Affected students enrolled at ACICS-accredited schools should contact their designated school officials (DSOs) immediately to understand the impact on their status and immigration benefits applications.
- The loss of ACICS recognition affects H-1B cap or ACWIA fee exemptions for institutions of higher education. Institutions that no longer meet the definition due to the loss of recognition may no longer qualify for these exemptions unless exempt on another basis.