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ACICS Loss of Accreditation – Options for International F1 Visa Students

ACICS Accreditation has been in the news for a while now. On Dec 12, 2016 Department of Education confirmed the Loss of ACICS Accreditation. So, how is this loss of Accreditation going to impact International Students here in the U.S.A.? I interviewed Immigration Attorney Murali Bashyam about the impact. You can access the Interview using the link below.

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Timeline of Events

  • June 14, 2016: Department staff recommended that ACICS’s petition for renewal of recognition by the Department be denied for several reasons.
  • Dec 12, 2016: DOE announced that it no longer recognizes ACICS as an Accrediting Agency.
  • Dec 14, 2016: ICE published Guidelines for affected students.
  • Dec 19, 2016: ACICS asked the federal district court to issue a Temporary Restraining Order in order to prevent the implementation of the December 12, 2016 decision by the Department of Education to withdraw ACICS’s recognition as a nationally recognized accreditation agency.
  • Dec 21, 2016: In an afternoon hearing on December 20, 2016, U.S. District Court Judge Reggie B. Walton denied the motion of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (“ACICS”) seeking a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) to stay the decision of the U.S. Department of Education (“ED” or the “Department”) terminating ACICS’s status as a federally recognized accrediting agency.
  • Feb 21, 2016: Judge Dismisses the Motion by ACICS requesting to block DOE
  • April 20, 2017: USCIS Issues Guidance on how they will process STEM OPT and English Language Programs.

ACICS and ICE Guidelines

ICE has published guidelines for the impacted schools and students. Let me focus on the impact on International Students enrolled in the list of schools that were accredited by ACICS. As per ICE press release, two groups of students are impacted:

  1. Students in ESL Program
  2. Students planning to use 24 Months STEM OPT Extension

acics loss of accreditation

Options for Affected Students

There are three options listed by ICE for students impacted by ACICS loss of accreditation:

  1. Check if your school plan to get accredited by another agency (then shouldn’t worry)
  2. Transfer to Another Accredited School in next 18 months
  3. Depart the United States if  Option #1 and #2 doesn’t work out.


acics loss accreditation options students f1 visa esl program

If you decide to go with Option #1, then I would have a “Plan B”.

The school accreditation process can take a long time. And you would have to understand the timeline and how long you have left to change your status or apply for university transfer. What if the new agency couldn’t complete the process in 18 months? Could you be affected by that right? So, understand your options and act now.

Until this point, I think it’s pretty self-explanatory. But, let’s look at another group of students who could be impacted

  1. Students who are about to Graduate
  2. Recent Graduates who are on OPT
  3. Working on OPT and about to apply fro STEM OPT Extension
  4. Students in STEM OPT Extension
  5. Impact when Applying for H1B Visa (while on OPT and STEM OPT)

As you can see above category of students don’t fall under the guidance issued by ICE. So, what should these students do? Please post your questions in the comments section below or use the form to submit your questions.

There is one more category of students

  • Students who got F1 Visa or about to attend F1 Visa Interview for ACICS Accredited Universities

I think it’s pretty easy advice to them right? I would try to get a visa for another accredited university.

University Transfer After ACICS Loss of Accreditation

I’m sure there would be universities that are willing to accept students from close to 667 affected ACICS member schools in the U.S.A. Here’s some ACICS Member schools with International Student Enrollments

  • Northwestern Polytechnic University
  • Silicon Valley University
  • Coleman University
  • Herguan University
  • California University of Management & Sciences
  • Virginia International University
  • Schiller International University
  • American college of commerce and technology
  • Stratford University, New Delhi

Twitter Reactions for ACICS

Questions After ACICS Accreditation Loss

Here are a few questions from students impacted due to ACICS Accreditation loss:

  1. I just got the visa for NPU, Can I come to the US and transfer university? What will happen at Port of Entry?
  2. I applied for OPT, will USCIS approve initial 12 months OPT?
  3. I’m on OPT, what’s the impact? My OPT is going to expire, I’m going to apply for the STEM OPT Extension. Can I Apply? If not, what are my options?
  4. I am working in STEM OPT Extension. What’s the impact on my current status?
  5. I have graduated from my university when it was Accredited, Am I eligible for Applying for H1B Visa under MASTER CAP?
  6. I have already completed my masters in computer science but did not apply for the OPT till now. Shall I apply for double masters now or can apply to opt?
  7. I’ve been approved for 17 months of opt extension and extra 7 months recently. I’ve I20, employment letter, valid visa, pay stubs, EAD cards. I’m visiting my family in India right now. Would there be any problem with my re-entry?
  8. Will my degree be considered as an accredited master’s degree? (Should I can consider myself as a person holding a Master’s degree or not?)
    1. Can I go for further education using my current degree by ACICS?
    2. Can I apply for H1B (Masters Quota) on my OPT period (April 2017)?
    3. What are the chances of getting new accreditation before Dec’17 as it is a lengthy process? (So I can then apply for OPT extension).
    4. How long does it usually take for an institution to get new accreditation?
  9. University Transfer Questions:
    1. Can you please suggest me any universities that are accepting transfer admissions now?
    2. I have 6 months left to Graduate. So, what should I do? Please suggest me the best option should I continue or should I apply for transfer?

Get Updates About ACICS News

What specific questions do you have about ACICS that I can help find answers? I asked above questions to to Immigration Attorney Murali Bashyam and you can watch the interview here. If you are in need of immediate help, you can also schedule a consulting call with Attorney via Ask an Attorney service.

I’m embedding a form here and if you like to get email updates on this topic, please complete it. I’m going to ask around other universities if they are accepting students from  schools affected by ACICS loss of accreditation.

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  1. Hi,

    Can you suggest any good accredited universities in Michigan area which cost 10k to 15kfor masters in computer science.
    Please guide me .


  3. Hello Raghu,

    I have Graduated from NPU in December 2016 and currently I am on my OPT EAD status, may I know what are the options to get STEM OPT extension other than filing for H1B this year.

    Please advice. Thanks for the help.

    1. As per ICE, you are not eligible to STEM OPT. If your H1B is not selected in lottery, then look for Plan B. I have explained about options in the Course/Interview with Attorney Murali.

  4. Hi,

    I finished my masters by 16th Dec 2016 and applied for OPT and i got my OPT , am i eligible for applying for H1 in student Quota , if not is my degree valid to go for further studies like Ph.D in other universities , please let me know .


  5. Hi,

    Can you suggest any good accredited universities in maryland or washington area which cost 10k to 15kfor masters in computer science.
    Please guide me .


  6. I came across a post on one of the forums discussing the ASICS accreditation and affected students. Copy pasting one of the posts.

    How many of you students at VIU, are in their final semester or almost left with the max of 3 subjects ?? Why are we guys still paying this university the tuition fee, even after it has lost its accreditation ? Unlike the other universities, VIU is still charging the late tuition fee, asking for students to come from overseas, allowing many students to transfer.. are they finally going to make money out of the final sem students, transfer fees and late fees.. are they not going to understand , what is going on with a student’s future ? But yet drag all the little money left even after it has nothing to give us back for our future,??
    I think the more the number of students gathers and go to the university.., the least we should demand the university is to not charge the Tuition fee for the final semester at least… who is in ??

    My Response:

    First of all, It is a situation which was unexpected. It was not a trap to lure students. Just because they lost accreditation, that doesn’t mean they should close the college. Grow up people, it was your decision to attend VIU. and the aim of VIU is to give offer a course and give you a degree. The aim of VIU is not to make sure you get STEM extension or H1b or green card. Grow up people, I can understand your frustration but it was your decision to study in VIU and we all know the reason why we have chosen to study in the university like VIU. Now, it is the time to face consequences. and what is this DEMAND you are talking about? Just because people demand, things are going to change or what? Come on people, grow up..look out for your own ways and don’t fall into these traps.
    Like · Reply · 39 mins

    User response:
    Past 2 semesters the accreditation issue has been going on.. we were told that our accreditation has been done and is valid until 2018 atleast. 2nd, answers like yours plus the same rude answers from the department of VIU, is increasing the frustruation of students. If a proper university is more intrested in just providing education, it should also think of how their education would help us build our career . The university did not provide proper information, proper guidence, proper dept staff to help students when they are going through sucha stressful situation. I personally not 1 % intrested in H1B or GC cos, i have many other better options. However, imagining students from very tight financial backgrounds who come here to build their careers just like most of the indian students, It is from their behalf im asking. The greediness of the university is not lessened even after the accrediation is down. They did not even conduct a proper townhall meeting to let all the students know the current situation of the university. Their own staff are not sure of what is happening, in regards to the future accrediation. Their answers to the students are very confusing. It all sounds like we are given false information.

    My Response:

    Its nor rude reply, Its a proper reply and realistic one. I am also one of the effected students and my STEM OPT is in jeopardy now. I have enquired with attorneys and law firms and the only clarity one has is to wait and watch. There is no clarity on this issue and it will take another month. VIU did not loose accreditation but ACICS lost its recognition as accrediting body and one should understand the difference. And remember, VIU has not promised you an accredited degree in the first place. How can you expect the university to provide you proper info where there isn’t any ? and coming to leaving students in jeopardy, Is the university kicking out students or denying initial OPT? Come on people, This what you need to understand. and in the US, nothing comes cheap and so does College Fees. This is a dynamic issue and it keeps changing. Wait until Feb where there is a hearing in court, until then there will not be any update or clarity as the matter is sub-judice and the university is not greediness, but the students who are joining are greedy to finish MS with ease. The university only cashed in this situation. Come on girly, Grow up.

    You still have to change the university. There are many universities in mid-west, central which offer degrees and they are pretty cheap at 10-15k for the entire MS with Campus job chances and funding but the catch is that you need to study. There is still time, have your scores ready and move out of VIU. If you say you do not have scores, that’s your problem. Without scores, if you have reached the USA and now you want to blame VIU or demand anything, Let me remind you, YOU do not have rights here legally.

    User response:

    How would you expect a student who spent 10 prerequisites plus 12 core courses almost going to finish their degree in a couple of months to study all over again? Guess this is a very rich student talking !!

    My Response

    I would never expect a student to study in VIU in the first place if they are serious about their education. 10 pre reqs and 12 core subs come secondary but why did you choose VIU in the first place? I don’t need to tell you why we all joined in a university like VIU.

    When there are universities offering the same MS for a much lesser price, say 15k with additional options of funding and assistantships, people are joining VIU and end up paying 30k as fees and considerable expensive cost of living. Now, that…See More

    FYI this is the best available info on accreditation issue. Try to go through and understand the situation first and then can think of our rights and demand VIU for fees roll back.…/doe-response-to-mlf-attorneys…/

    DOE Response to MLF Attorneys on Validity of Degree Issued Prior to…
    Like · Reply · Remove Preview · 2 mins · Edited

    1. Topic of accreditation is a well known issue. If you were planning to study in VIU, you should be doing the research and don’t believe in what the university says. Let me ask this, if you are buying a laptop or cell phone, how many hours did you spend to find coupons and figure out the best (and lowest cost)? But, when you get affected, you will blame the university and what they promised. How could you expect to get the feeling of owning a Ferrari (or Mercedes) when you can paid only for Tata Nano? I understand the pain, things have happened, now you got to figure it out a way to move forward and that’s what I’m trying to do here.

  7. Some students are in these schools because that’s what they can afford. So don’t just sit there and generalize. Not all figures are the same size. You seem happy this situation has happened.dont like your tone

    1. @Raj – Bro , There are many schools with lot more better standards than the above Mentioned unis(check National uni Rankings website or other noteworthy websites before coming to a conclusion) which has almost or the same tuition fee(as of NPU,SVU etc), in addition they would be providing the assistant-ships for the right candidate too .As most of the people say these unis are Visa Mills and most of the students studying in these unis dont even go to their classes and only work part times and all they need is OPT and bla bla and then join a consultancy, fake the resume , Proxy calls and what not.

      FYI I was a student from a reputed State funded Uni from Ohio and received scholarship/assistant ship based on my merit and my performance and i know the pain and the suffering what it takes to.

  8. Hi,

    I graduated on 19th dec 2016 (after 12th Dec 2016 decision).
    I have following questions, if you can guide us then it will be big help.

    For me I am not interested in STEM extension or H1B at this point of time.. Getting accredited master degree is my first priority.

    1. Will my degree be considered as accredited master’s degree? (Should I can considered my self as a person holding a masters degree or not?)

    2. Is there anyway, we can file request/petition to delay the accreditation loss decision loss by few days(semester end)? So people like me who finished their study just few days after the accreditation loss does not have to suffer. Can we take help from respected senators or congressman on this issue ?

    3. How about ACICS wins the initial stay on order on February 1, will my degree be considered as accredited Masters degree?

    4. In case, if my college get new accreditation in next couple of months or before dec’17, Will my degree be considered as valid? Can I be considered as valid H1B visa application for Masters Quota?

    I hope this covers all the questions from students like me who are recently graduated in dec’16 from ACICS accredited schools.

    Please guide us. Thank You.

  9. Hi Raghu,
    My brother completed his last sem exams in Dec at SVU and is supposed to apply for OPT in Jan but it seems his univ is even declining the application of first level of OPT. How is that even possible? What are his options ? and if he had to transfer can you please let us know the universities that are accepting such cases ?

    Thank you

    1. This is news to me. I have to talk to few SVU folks to see if that’s happening with others as well. Please join the Facebook GRoup (link is in the blog content)

  10. I am doing bachelors in Npu and I graduated in December 2016.will I get accredited degree ?what should I do now ?because master students can again apply for master study but I am
    Bachelors degree student.i don’t know what to do.can you give me some guidance?

  11. hi sir now we are planning to apply for summer intake and fall for m.s computer science which course is good for opt and suggest middle universities. My gre is little bit low . Please suggest universities list and suggestions.some body says summer intake visa approved chances will be less is it true?. How many programme is best ?Please give suggestion .

      1. It’s quite easy to ask someone and depend on other’s opinion undermining the credibility of the answer than to go online and do a check of the accreditation status of the university/school.

        Like everything we do, we believe in word of mouth. Who cares about the actual situation even though when we can read it ourselves on official websites, still we post the question as such.

        Likewise, when there is a general discussion going on a larger spectrum of issues, people pour in their personal questions and their own case scenarios.

        Raghu, Maybe you should put up a disclaimer on updates/general discussion threads that no personal questions, suggestions or advises will be issued.

    1. If you have done MSIS from Stratford University, Virginia, then the following would be the most probable case scenario..

      You must be a young aspiring guy who went to a school famously known for not so good things although you had a chance to go to a better school but choose to attend Stratford University with main intention to complete the course quickly, fastly and easily and move on to OPT and eventually file h1b in MS quota and so. This is your present situation.

      If your questions were specific to anything else, It should be communicated properly. And most importantly, there is a policy here, Use Ask Raghu to post your questions. Raghu WILL NOT be answering questions posted here. At least you should have read this and you would have found a much better way and a better platform to address your question and might have got a positive approach.

      I am sorry for being sarcastic but, Let’s pull up socks and lets follow rules something which we haven’t for ages.

      1. Awesome reply dude. People from these universities do not know the value of Masters degree, they come to US just to let friends and family in their country know they are in US by posting statuses, pictures on Facebook as if they are leading happy life.

        But the fact is students in univs like SVU, NPU around 15 people stay in one apartment and work offcampus, do not attend classes, no assignments copy in exams and complete masters in 1 year without any knowledge and with very less tution fee and go and join consultancy with fake exp and get paid more hourly


        Students in other reputed universities come to US and work hard for their assignments, exams and do their masters with thesis in 2 to 2 1/2 years with huge educational loans and complete masters get a full time job as an entry level with low annual salary.

        So the looser here is the people who go to good schools and work hard. At-least now the US govt. has come to know about these schools and students and I hope they continue to find such schools and give them hard time so that they will realize that Masters and life in USA is not so easy as they thought.

  12. Hi Raghu,
    I just have capstone to complete at NPU.
    I am came for vacation to Inida.
    Will i have any problem at port of entry?

    1. Hey Raghu,

      1) I am on Initial OPT, it expires in April, What is my situation now.?

      2) I have read in some website that to gain new Accreditation to the Schools should wait for 2 years as part of approving process, So how can the schools get new Accreditation within 18 Months?

  13. Hello Raghu,

    I fall in the category for which the guidelines have not been published by ICE. I applied for OPT extension on Dec 15th. What are the options do we have?

  14. Any impact on students who are visiting India whose OpT extension has been approved and working for an e Verify employer but had degree from Acics accredited universities ?

    1. hi raj,
      i am in same boat, planning a india trip.. please let me know if you get answers to your questions.
      is it ok to travel during this period?


  15. Hi Raghu –
    I have graduated last December 2015. I have applied for my stem extension and USCIS received my packet on 26th October 2016 and my case is still pending and i’m really nervous.
    Please explain what happens in my case and what other options do i have. Also am i eligible for applying H1 this April in masters quota.


  16. Hi,

    I graduated in dec 2016 (after 12th Dec 2016). I will get my degree in my hand in january’17. So I have following questions behalf of many of students like me, if you can guide us then it will be big help.

    Q1) Will my degree be considered as accredited master’s degree? (Should I can considered my self as a person holding a masters degree or not?)

    Q2) Can I go for further education on my current degree by ACICS?

    Q3) Can I apply for H1B (Masters Quota) on my OPT period (April 2017)?

    Q4) Can I apply for STEM OPT Extension in dec’17 or jan’18?

    Q5) What is the chances of getting new accreditation before dec’17 as it is a lengthy process? (So I can then apply for OPT extension)

    Q6) In case, if my college get new accreditation in next couple of months or before dec’17, Will my degree be considered as valid? Can I be considered as valid H1B visa application for Masters Quota?
    (Because the mail I received from my college says :
    “H-1B petitions require that the beneficiary “hold a United States baccalaureate or higher degree required by the specialty occupation from an accredited college or university” (8 CFR 214.2(h)(4)(iii)(C)(2)). We are unsure whether this means that the university be accredited at the time of application (as it is the case for STEM OPT) or that the degree was awarded at a time the university was accredited. We, however, believe it is the latter. Both the STEM OPT and H1B have similar degree requirements:” )

    I hope this covers all the questions from students like me who are recently graduated in dec’16 from ACICS accredited schools.

    Please guide us. Thank You.

  17. There is only one option, which shields from future shocks too.

    get out of those universities and join in a state funded university, public university. I know it’s not an easy suggestion but to avoid such shocks at the future level at the time of H1B’s or GC filings etc, It’s wiser to move to a public university even if we lose a semester.
    There are many universities in central, midwest and other not so popular regions. Admissions are easy with basic scores and usually competitive fees too and chances of getting a part-time job would also be very high. Try to move tot hose universities even if you have to lose a semester. Its worth and you don;t need to think about the situation like ACICS accreditation in the future.

    Any other option will make you vulnerable to other saving the face situations.

    1. I received so many questions through the form. Some students have asked if the university will give the refund and if they are eligible for Masters cap. When students decided to take shortcuts, they should have prepared for worst case scenarios.

    2. Yes Dinesh. I agree with you. But try to understand this particular case of students who graduated (finished studies of all credits) in december’s last or second last week. And they already applied for OPT. Most of them even received their EAD card in december. Now they don’t even have a chance to transfer to another college, right? or the can transfer?
      We have lots of question but . . .

  18. Hello Raghu ,

    I have applied opt on 8th December but it’s reached on 12th December.what are the chances to getting approved ?

  19. Hi Raghu , my question is if a student Graduated in December tries to transfer to another accredited university , will he be able to apply opt again from that univer of

  20. Hi Raghu as you mentioned there’s a category of students who doesn’t fall under ICE guidelines .. how about a student who graduated in April and currently in initial opt and planning to apply stem in this march .. So will he get stem extension what’s the options and choices left with ? Thanx in advance Raghu

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