DHS Begins Limited Implementation of DACA under Final Rule
USCIS— On October 31, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security’s final rule to preserve and fortify DACA went into effect. The final rule’s implementation means that DACA is now based on a formal regulation, thereby preserving and fortifying the program while the program remains the subject of litigation in court. Previously, DACA was based on a policy memorandum that then-DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano issued on August 15, 2012.
Under the final rule, USCIS will continue to accept and process applications for deferred action, work authorization, and advance parole for current DACA recipients. Due to ongoing litigation, USCIS will continue to accept but cannot process initial DACA requests.
“This final rule is our effort to preserve and fortify DACA to the fullest extent possible,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “Ultimately, we need Congress to urgently pass legislation that provides Dreamers with the permanent protection they need and deserve.”
The final rule affirms that:
- Current DACA recipients’ deferred action, employment authorization, and advance parole will continue to be recognized as valid under the final rule.
- DACA is not a form of lawful status but DACA recipients are considered “lawfully present” for certain purposes.
- Non-citizens who meet eligibility criteria, clear all national security and public safety vetting, and are found to merit a favorable exercise of discretion may be granted deferred action and obtain renewable two-year work authorization. Given pending litigation, however, the Department is currently barred from granting deferred action to any new DACA recipients.
Current grants of DACA and related Employment Authorization Documents are valid, and USCIS will accept and process renewal DACA requests and accompanying requests for employment authorization under the final rule.
ACICS Loss of Recognition May Affect Certain Students Applying for English Language Study and 24-month STEM OPT Extension Programs, H-1B, and I-140 Applicants
USCIS- On Aug. 19, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced that it no longer recognizes the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) as an accrediting agency. This determination immediately affects two immigration-related student programs:
- English language study programs, as the programs are required to be accredited under the Accreditation of English Language Training Programs Act; and
- F-1 students applying for a 24-month science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) optional practical training (OPT) extension, as the regulations require them to use a degree from an accredited, Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) certified school for their STEM OPT extension. The school must be accredited at the time of the application; this is the date of the designated school official’s (DSO) recommendation on the Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status. M-1 students are not eligible for OPT.
SEVP will provide guidance to affected students in notification letters if their schools’ certification is withdrawn. However, students enrolled at an ACICS-accredited school should contact their DSOs immediately to better understand if and how the loss of recognized accreditation will affect their status and/or immigration benefits applications.
ACICS-accredited schools will be unable to issue program extensions, and students will only be allowed to finish their current session if the ACICS-accredited school chooses to voluntarily withdraw its certification or is withdrawn by SEVP. If a student’s ACICS-accredited school can provide evidence of an ED-recognized accrediting agency or evidence in lieu of accreditation within the allotted timeframe, the student may remain at the school to complete their program of study.