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Impact of ACICS Loss of Accreditation on STEM OPT Extensions

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced on December 12, 2016 that it no longer recognizes the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) as an accrediting agency. This decision of the ED affects foreign students under F and M status pursuing a program of study at ACICS-accredited schools.

18 Month Grace Period

If an ACICS-accredited school voluntarily withdraws from SEVP certification or cannot provide evidence in lieu of accreditation for programs listed on their Form I-17, international students at these schools will have 18 months starting December 12, 2016 to:

  • transfer to a new SEVP-certified program;
  • Executive has been directed to rigorously enforce and administer the laws governing entry of foreign workers into the U.S. This is aimed at creating higher wages and employment rates for US workers, and to protect their economic interests.
  • depart the United States.

After the 18-month grace period, SEVP will terminate the SEVIS records of any active student under F or M status at an ACICS-accredited school who has not transferred to an SEVP-certified school or departed the United States. This guidance applies equally to all students on F or M status, regardless of program of study.

STEM OPT Extension Program

In order to qualify for the 24-month STEM OPT extension, an F-1 student must have a degree from an ED recognized, accredited U.S. educational institution at the time he or she files the STEM OPT application to USCIS.

As a result of ACICS loss of accreditation, USCIS has announced that it will issue a denial to any F-1 student filing a Form I-765 STEM OPT extension if:

  • The STEM degree was obtained from a college or university that was accredited by ACICS; and
  • The student’s DSO recommendation for a STEM OPT extension, and as indicated on Form I-20, is dated on or after December 12, 2016.

NOTE: Students whose Forms I-20 have a DSO recommendation date prior to December 12, 2016, are not affected.

Students who receive a denial will have 60 days to

  • prepare for departure from the United States,
  • transfer to a different school, or
  • begin a new course of study at an accredited, SEVP-certified school.

Foreign students enrolled at ACICS-accredited schools should contact their designated school officials (DSOs) immediately to understand how the school’s loss of recognized accreditation will affect their nonimmigrant status and applications for immigration benefits.

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