On December 12 2016, the U.S. Department of Education (“DOE”) announced that it is no longer recognizing the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) as an accrediting agency. This decision affects more than 16,000 international students in the United Stated attending nearly 130 Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified schools and programs that are accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS).
While most SEVP-certified schools are not required to obtain accreditation and may provide evidence in lieu of accreditation, there are two major instances, both involving immigrant students, when it is required:
- Accreditation is required for all English as a Second Language (ESL) programs, per the Accreditation of English Language and Training Programs Act. This act states that all ESL programs must possess accreditation by a regional or national accrediting agency recognized by the Department of Education.
- According to the 24-month science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) optional practical training (OPT) extension rule, which went into effect on May 10, 2016, F-1 students must use a degree from an accredited U.S. educational institution as the basis of their STEM OPT extension. The institution must be accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the Department of Education at the time the student filed their STEM OPT application.
ACICS-accredited ESL programs must take action if they wish to remain SEVP-certified and continue enrolling international students. In order to do so, such programs must obtain accreditation from a different Department of Education-recognized accrediting agency and update their Form I-17, “Petition for Approval of School for Attendance by Nonimmigrant Student,” to remain SEVP-certified. If an ESL program loses its SEVP certification, the school at which that ESL program exists can continue to enroll nonimmigrant students as long as the school maintains its SEVP certification.
Nonimmigrant students must take action if they are:
- Participating in an ESL program accredited by ACICS
- Attending an ACICS-accredited school and wish to participate in STEM OPT in the future
All students attending schools accredited by ACICS should communicate with their designated school officials to learn if their school intends to become accredited by another accrediting agency. It is always a good practice for students to ensure their schools plan to maintain SEVP certification. If the school does not plan to maintain its SEVP certification, students must make plans to transfer, within the next 18 months, to another SEVP-certified school if they wish to stay in the United States.
If you are in an ACICS-accredited ESL program or school or a nonimmigrant student enrolled in a previously ACICS-accredited school, visit ICE.gov/SEVP for important information.