Foreign Students Affected by School Loss of Accreditation


Foreign students studying or intending to study in the United States often navigate a complex landscape of regulations and requirements. Recently, significant changes have occurred that directly affect foreign students, particularly those enrolled in English language programs and STEM fields. 

On August 19, 2022, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) made a crucial announcement that has repercussions for students under the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS). Specifically, the federal government had formally terminated its recognition of ACICS as an accrediting agency for quality and compliance issues. Schools that were was granted accreditation through ACICS also lost their accredited status. Stratford University is one such example. 

Implications for English Language Study Programs

One immediate effect of the ED's decision is on English language study programs. The Accreditation of English Language Training Programs Act requires such programs to be accredited. With ACICS no longer recognized as an accrediting agency, students enrolled in English language programs at ACICS-accredited schools may face challenges. It's essential for affected students to communicate promptly with their Designated School Officials (DSOs) to understand how this decision impacts their status and immigration benefits applications.

Impact on STEM OPT Extension Program

Furthermore, the ED's decision impacts F-1 students applying for a 24-month STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) extension. To qualify for this extension, students must have a degree from an accredited institution. Since ACICS accreditation is no longer recognized, F-1 students with degrees from ACICS-accredited institutions may face denials when applying for STEM OPT extensions. It's crucial for affected students to ensure they meet the accreditation requirements by seeking guidance from their DSOs and exploring alternative options.

Other Considerations

The consequences of ACICS's loss of recognition extend beyond English language programs and STEM OPT extensions. Degrees conferred by ACICS-accredited institutions after August 19, 2022, may not qualify for certain immigration benefits, such as the H-1B advanced degree exemption. Additionally, institutions solely accredited by ACICS may no longer qualify for H-1B cap exemptions or other fee exemptions.

Next Steps for Affected Students

Foreign students impacted by these changes must take proactive steps to safeguard their academic and immigration statuses. This may include exploring alternative institutions with recognized accreditations, understanding the implications for their specific circumstances, and seeking guidance from immigration advisors and DSOs.

In conclusion, the ED's decision to no longer recognize ACICS as an accrediting agency has significant implications for foreign students in the United States. It underscores the importance of staying informed, seeking guidance, and adapting to changes in the educational and immigration landscape.

(Immigration laws and policies change regularly.  If you have any questions regarding this article, please visit to schedule a legal consultation.)  


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