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  • On December 12, 2016, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced that it no longer recognizes the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) as an accrediting agency. This determination immediately affects two immigration-related programs:
    • English language study programs, as the programs are required to be accredited under the Accreditation of English Language Training Programs Act.
    • F-1 students applying for a 24-month science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) optional practical training (OPT) extension, as the regulations require them to use a degree from an accredited, Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified school as the basis of their STEM OPT extension. The school must be accredited at the time of the application; this is the date of the Designated School Official’s (DSO) recommendation on the Form I-20.
  • SEVP will provide guidance to affected students in notification letters, should their schools’ certification be withdrawn. However, students enrolled at an ACICS-accredited school should contact their designated school officials (DSOs) immediately to better understand if and how the loss of recognized accreditation will impact the F/M student’s status and/or immigration benefits application(s).
    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 to:

    • Transfer to a new SEVP-certified program;
    • Continue their program of study until the current session end date listed on their Form I-20 (not to exceed 18 months); or
    • Depart the United States.
  • After this 18-month grace period, SEVP will terminate the SEVIS records of any active F/M student at an ACICS-accredited school who has not transferred to an SEVP-certified school or departed the United States. Please note, this guidance applies equally to all F/M students-regardless of program of study and the 18-month period is valid for English as a Second Language (ESL) students as well.
    ACICS-accredited schools will be unable to issue program extensions, and students will only be allowed to finish their current session if the ACICS-accredited school selects to voluntarily withdraw its certification or is withdrawn by SEVP. If a student’s ACICS-accredited school is able to provide evidence of an ED-recognized accrediting agency or evidence in lieu of accreditation within the allotted timeframe, the student may remain at the school to complete their program of study.
  • English Language Study Programs
    USCIS will issue requests for evidence (RFEs) to any individual who has filed Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, on or after December 12, 2016, requesting a change of status or reinstatement in order to attend an ACICS-accredited English language study program. Upon receiving an RFE, individuals will have an opportunity to provide evidence in response, such as documentation showing that the English language study program they are seeking to enroll in meets the accreditation requirements. If the student does not submit a new Form I-20 from an accredited school, USCIS will deny a change of status or reinstatement request because the program of study is no longer accredited by an entity recognized by ED. For more information about the loss of ACICS accreditation on English language study programs, see U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s page on ACICS Loss of Accreditation Recognition.
  • The 24-Month STEM OPT Extension Program
    F-1 students wishing to participate in the STEM OPT extension must have a degree from an ED-recognized accredited U.S. educational institution at the time they file their STEM OPT application. As noted above, USCIS considers the filing of the application to be the date of the DSO’s recommendation on the Form I-20.
    USCIS will issue a denial to any F-1 student filing a Form I-765 STEM OPT extension 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, and as indicated on Form I-20, is dated on or after December 12, 2016 (i.e., the date on which ACICS ceased to be recognized as an accrediting agency).
    Because there is a requirement that students use a STEM degree from an accredited, SEVP-certified school at the time of application, the ACICS loss of accreditation prevents these students from qualifying for a STEM OPT extension. Students who receive a denial will have 60 days to prepare for departure from the United States, transfer to a different school, or to begin a new course of study at an accredited, SEVP-certified school.
    Students whose Forms I-20 have a DSO recommendation date prior to December 12, 2016, are not affected. For more information about the impact of loss of ACICS recognition on the STEM OPT extension program, see U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s page on ACICS Loss of Accreditation Recognition.

source: http://www.immigration-law.com/

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An F-1 student who is approved for optional practical training (OPT) and has a qualifying degree in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, or math) field, from an accredited university typically is eligible to apply for a 24-month STEM OPT extension following completion of the initial 12-month OPT period. However, what happens to eligibility for a STEM OPT extension if a university loses its accreditation after the student graduates? Unfortunately, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) appears to be taking the position that these degrees cannot be used to apply for the STEM OPT extension benefit.

Use the following post to check or find accredited schools in US

Please Verify Your University for Accreditation before coming to US

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STEM OPT Eligibility Unlikely Following School’s Loss of Accreditation

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ACICS Loss of Accreditation Recognition

ACICS Loss of Accreditation Recognition and Alert for Foreign Students Taking ESL or Plans for STEM OPT Based on ACICS Accredited Schools Education

  • On Dec. 12, 2016, the U.S. Department of Education announced that it no longer recognizes the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) as an accrediting agency.
  • During the school certification process, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) only recognizes a school’s accreditation if its accrediting agency is recognized by the Department of Education. As a result, this decision impacts SEVP-certified schools and programs that have ACICS accreditation.
  • Nonimmigrant students who must take action are:
    1. Those participating in an ESL program accredited by ACICS.
    2. Students attending an ACICS-accredited school who 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. SEVP is following the Department of Education’s timeline for schools and students affected by ACICS’ loss of recognition as an accreditor. According to this timeline, schools accredited by ACICS have 18 months to find a different accreditor for their programs. SEVP advises schools accredited by ACICS to maintain frequent communication with their students and to share information about their plans so that students are aware and informed of their options.
  • Similarly, SEVP will not take immediate action on nonimmigrant students’ Student and Exchange Visitor Information System records during the next 18 months, following the Department of Education’s timeline. If a student’s school does not plan to maintain its SEVP certification, the student must make plans to transfer, within the next 18 months, to another SEVP-certified school or depart the United States.
    In addition it is always a good practice for students to ensure their schools plans to maintain its 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 or depart the United States.

Source: http://www.immigration-law.com/

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