On August 19, 2022, the Department of Education announced that it would no longer recognize the “Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools” (ACICS) as an accrediting agency.
This will affect Immigrants in several ways, depending on where they are in their course of study.
First, for those still in school, either an English Language Program or a University or College program, these schools formerly accredited by ACICS will no longer be able to process extensions of status, and students will only be allowed to finish their current session IF the school voluntarily withdraws its certification or allows SEVP to remove it. HOWEVER, if the school can provide evidence of an ED-recognized accreditation or evidence in lieu of accreditation within that allotted timeframe, all students may remain at the school and complete their course of study.
Second, for those students seeking a STEM extension, because the school must be accredited at the time the DSO signs the eligibility for the STEM extension on the I-20, only cases that have been filed in which the DSO signed the I-20 before August 19, 2022 will be approved. Those who applied after that day who are at schools formerly accredited by ACICS will be denied, and the student will only have a 60-day grace period in which to fix their status or leave the US.
Third, for those students who have already graduated, as the school has lost its accreditation (assuming it had no other accreditations), the degree is no longer considered a valid US Degree for either H-1B advanced degree purposes or for purposes of the EB-2 Advanced Degree category. However, according to USCIS, this will ONLY apply to degrees issued on or after August 19, 2022 – degrees issued before that date, while the College was still accredited, will still be valid for these applications.
Lastly, if the College has no other accreditation, it would also not qualify under the H-1B cap exemption for institutes of higher education; it would no longer be able to file for such cap-exempt H-1Bs (nor would it be exempt from the ACWIA fee either).
This move by the Department of Education dramatically impacts immigrants, especially those in F-1 status currently and, because of its immediacy, it is something you should take action on immediately if you are one of those affected. If you wish to search to see if your school was impacted (although you should be getting a notice from SEVIS), you can use this website to do so: http://personify.acics.org/Default.aspx?TabID=204.
Please contact us with any questions or if you were affected by this de-certification and need assistance maintaining your status.
Please remember, as always, this blog does not offer legal advice. If you need legal advice, consult a lawyer instead of a blog. Thank you.