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Consequences of ACICS Schools Loss of Recognition—OPT, H-1B, and I-140 Impacts

In August 2022, The Department of Education announced that it is no longer recognizing the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) as an accrediting agency. The full decision from the Department of Education is found here: https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-department-education-terminates-federal-recognition-acics-enhances-federal-aid-program-participation-requirements-acics-accredited-colleges

With this, comes significant immigration impact for those that have or are attending a school that is accredited by ACICS. It is worth noting that SEVP will provide guidance to students if the school loses its certification, however you should also contact your DSO immediately to understand the impact. The date that is important to keep in mind, as will be seen throughout this article, is August 19, 2022.

First, ACICS schools will be unable to issue program extensions, and students can only finish their current session if the ACICS accredited school withdraws its certification voluntarily or it is withdrawn by SEVP.

For those students who want to use their ACICS school’s education for their STEM OPT extension, they will likely see denials of the I-765. In order to be issued STEM OPT, you must have a degree from an ED-recognized U.S. school at the time of filing the application. For STEM OPT, this is the date the DSO recommends STEM OPT on the Form I-20. USCIS has announced that it will deny a I-765 for STEM OPT if:

  • The STEM degree that is the basis for the STEM OPT extension was obtained from a college or university that was accredited by ACICS; AND
  • The student’s DSO recommendation for a STEM OPT extension, as indicated on Form I-20, is dated on or after August 19, 2022.

This does not impact those that already have STEM OPT, or their STEM OPT application is pending and the I-20 was signed before August 19, 2022.

For purposes of the H-1B “master’s cap,” the degree from the AICIS school must have been conferred before August 19, 2022. If your degree comes on or after August 19, 2022, you cannot use it for purposes of the master’s cap.

The same is true for those who are the beneficiaries of I-140s filed under the advanced degree and professional classifications where the education must be a U.S. degree or foreign equivalent degree. Again, if you received your degree before August 19, 2022, you will be fine. If it was issued after, you cannot utilize this degree for purposes of the I-140.

Finally, any of the ACICS schools that file H-1Bs claiming cap or ACWIA fee exemptions will no longer be able to do so as of August 19, 2022. Those that are employed by these programs should consider finding new employers unless the school is exempt on another basis.

If you might be impacted by the ACICS loss of accreditation, and are concerned how this might impact you, we would recommend you contact a qualified immigration attorney. 

Reddy & Neumann has been serving the business community for over 20 years and is Houston’s largest immigration law firm focused solely on US. Employment-based immigration. We work with both employers and their employees, helping them navigate the immigration process quickly and cost-effectively.

By: Steven Brown

Steven Brown is a Partner at Reddy & Neumann, P.C. where he works in the Non-immigrant visa department and leads the Litigation Team. His practice covers all phases of the non-immigration visa process including filing H-1B, L-1, E-3, H-4, and H-4 EAD petitions. In the last two years, Steven has successfully handled over 1,000 non-immigrant visa petitions including filing petitions, responding to any necessary Requests for Evidence, and drafting motions and appeals. He has also become a key resource for F-1 students that seek guidance on properly complying with the F-1 visa regulations and any OPT or CPT issues they may have. Additionally, Steven holds a weekly conference call for companies that are part of one of the largest organizations for IT Services companies in America.