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Derecogniton of ACICS by U.S. Department of Education, and its effect on international F and M students

On December 12, 2016, The U.S. Department of Education announced that it will derecognize the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) as an accrediting agency.  On March 15, 2017, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) began issuing notices to SEVP-certified schools accredited by ACICS who had not reported the loss of accreditation to the Department of Education as required by regulations.   ICE states that all schools that were accredited by ACICS  must update their Form I-17 to update its status with a new accreditor, additional information regarding specific programs, or withdraw from SEVP.

According to USCIS and ICE, the loss of recognition will have immediate effect on foreign nationals that are enrolled in English language study programs or are seeking 24-month STEM OPT extension from a school that was accredited by ACICS.

SEVP will not take any action against international students for 18 months from December 12, 2016, if the school is either withdrawn or voluntarily withdraws.  After 18 months the students will have 3 options:

  1. Transfer to a new SEVP-certified program;
  2. Continue the program until the earliest of 18 months or the session end date listed on their Form I-20; or
  3. Depart the United States.

USCIS urges students enrolled at an ACICS-accredited school to contact their designated school official immediately to understand how the loss of recognized accreditation will impact them.   You can find out whether your school is ACICS-accredited here.

SEVP will terminate the SEVIS records of any active F/M student in a school that is accredited by ACICS.    Such school will not be able to issue extensions and the current students can only finish the current session.  USCIS will deny all applications for STEM OPT extensions filed after December 12, 2016.  USCIS considers the date the DSO’s recommendation on Form I-20 as a “filing date”.  Students whose Form I-20 has a DSO recommendation prior to December 12, 2016, will not be affected.

If you are an affected student and are seeking legal help, contact our Chicago immigration attorneys for advice.