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Schools: Upcoming ESL Accreditation Act Deadline

December 6, 2013

On December 14, 2010, President Obama signed the Accreditation of English Language Training Programs Act, Pub. L. 111-306, 124 Stat.3280 (the Accreditation Act). The Accreditation Act requires any English Language training (commonly known as ESL) program seeking to enroll F-1 students to have accreditation that meets both of the following criteria:

  • From a regional or national accrediting agency
  • Accrediting agency recognized by the Secretary of the Department of Education (ED)

The Accreditation Act contains a temporary exception from the accreditation requirement for any Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified school that submitted an application for accreditation of their ESL program to an ED-recognized accrediting agency by December 14, 2011. This temporary exception will expire on December 14, 2013.

Guidance for DSOs of ESL Programs of Study

SEVP is aware that there are currently SEVP-certified ESL programs that applied for accreditation by December 14, 2011, but may not obtain accreditation by December 14, 2013, due to circumstances beyond the control of school officials. SEVP does not intend to take any administrative compliance enforcement action against such schools under two conditions:

  • School officials continue to comply with the requirements of the ED-recognized accrediting agency to which they applied.
  • The agency does not deny accreditation to the school.

Both of the above conditions must occur to ensure SEVP does not take related administrative compliance enforcement action. SEVP also will defer administrative compliance enforcement action against SEVP-certified ESL programs if both of the following occur:

  • The agency initially denies accreditation.
  • School officials appeal the denial in a timely manner.

In addition, SEVP will not take administrative compliance enforcement action based on a school’s denial of accreditation until the school has exhausted its appellate rights and the accrediting agency issues a final decision.

SEVP still may initiate or continue any other type of review or administrative compliance enforcement action consistent with its duties to certify or recertify schools to admit F-1 students or to ensure compliance with any other applicable statutory, regulatory or other certification requirement. This guidance does not prevent any of those actions.


School officials who have questions about the Accreditation Act should visit SEVP’s Frequently Asked Questions Web page.

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