Potential Loss of School Accreditation – Impact on F-1 Students, Even After Graduation

Taking effect on May 10, 2016, the STEM OPT extension regulation included a new provision requires school F-1 student attending the accredited school. The regulation specifically stated that the following requirement:

  1. The degree serving as bases for the 24-month OPT extension is from an educational institution in the United States and accredited by a recognized accrediting agency.
  2. The accrediting agency must be recognized by the Department of Education at the time of application.

Very recently, one of the accrediting agencies recognized has been given notice that its Department of Education recognition might be lost. On September 22, 2016, both the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) were told that their approval may not be renewed.

The loss of this agency recognition would mean that for F-1 international students, who already graduated from ACICS accredited schools, would not be eligible to apply for the STEM OPT (Optional Practical Training). The 24-month extension is no longer applicable unless the school attended is able to obtain accreditation from an agency duly recognized.

There might still be good news for affected students as the decision is not yet final. ACICS plans to appeal for positive decision and while on appeal, the agency is recognized by the Department of Education. The issue needs close monitoring.  For more information, students may consider directly contacting their schools to know the school plans to resolve the situation in case of accreditation ultimately loss

They have to clarify if losing the accreditation now will affect those who have earned their degrees from these schools with applications of immigrations who have taken as master capH-1B and the petition in I-140 for the green card process. USCIS has to look back to determine whether the school has been accredited at the issuance of the degree. Those concerned are hoping that the loss of accreditation if it does happen will not be considered as retroactive to degrees already granted.

Students who graduated from schools accredited by ACICS should watched developments closely especially if they are planning to file an H-1B petition next April for a master’s degree.


Foreign STEM students are allowed by OPT to prolong their studies in their stay in the US after completing 6-12 months studies under a student visa. Hey used OPT to either look for jobs or apply for further education or simply wait until OPT term expires. Former President Barack Obama planned to extend the same to over three years but with the election, he ran out of time.

New US president Donald Trump’s had no plan for the extension of the STEM OPT. Standing for  to science, technology, engineering and mathematics, STEM grads could benefit immigrant-friendly nations like Australia, Canada and New Zealand, among others.

However, not extending OPT by Trump does not affect students going to top schools like Stanford or MIT for their graduates are given priority in securing jobs after graduation. The impact hits students going to tier-2 and tier-3 universities in the US.

Marian Moore – Social Media Manager

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