The US Department of Education (DOE) announced that it will no longer recognize 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 recognize a school’s accreditation if its accrediting agency is recognized by DOE. It is estimated that the loss of this accrediting status will affect about 16,000 international students in the United States attending nearly 130 SEVP-certified schools and programs.
Most SEVP students are not required to obtain accreditation and can provide evidence in lieu of accreditation. However, there are two instances when SEVP-certified schools must be accredited: English as the second language (ESL) programs and F-1 students applying for a 24-month STEM optional practical training.
The loss of accreditation status of ACICS has an impact on the present filing of H-1B CAP FY 2018 petitions. The USCIS may issue NOIDs and ask to provide an alternative accreditation, evidence of accreditation or decline the petition altogether, if filed under the Master’s category. Although it is not clear whether USCIS will have a retroactive effect on individuals who graduated before DOE stopped recognizing ACICS’s credentialing authority. But it is advisable to get picked in the lottery under the Bachelor’s category, then getting picked and declined under the Master’s category, a potential foreseeable effect.
We extend a cautionary word to our readers to give a thought and select the category with the least negative consequences.