Accreditation Requirement Becomes Law For Intensive Language Training Programs Who Enroll F-1 Students

December 02, 2010

On December 14, 2010, the president signed into law "An Act to require the accreditation of English language training programs, and for other purposes." [Pub.L. 111-306] The law amends section 101(a)(15)(F) of the Immigration and Nationality Act to require that intensive language training programs be accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the Department of Education in order to be SEVIS-certified, issue Forms I-20, and enroll F-1 nonimmigrant students. The bill had been passed by the House on December 1, 2010 (HR 2361) and by the Senate on September 27, 2010 (S 1338).

The law will become effective on June 12, 2011 (i.e., 180 days after enactment), but there are provisions that give nonaccredited intensive language training programs that are already SEVIS-certified one year from date of enactment to apply for accreditation by a Department of Education-recognized accrediting agency. To allow time for the accreditation process to be completed, the law will also permit F-1 students to enroll in such nonaccredited programs for three years after enactment, provided the program has applied for accreditation within one year from the date of enactment.

SEVP had verbally stated that college or university-based intensive English programs (IEPs) that are governed by a nationally or regionally accredited college or university would be considered accredited under the law if the school's IEP offerings fall within the scope of that school's accreditation, and would not be required to seek independent accreditation, although they could choose to do so voluntarily. IEPs that are physically located on an accredited school's premises but that are not governed by that regionally accredited institution, as well as independent IEPs, would be required to seek separate accreditation. However, SEVP never developed implementing regulations for this statute, stating that the statute was "self-implementing" without need for regulatory guidance.

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Below is the text of Public Law 111-306.

Public Law 111-306
111th Congress

An Act

To require the accreditation of English language training programs, and for other purposes.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

Section 1. Accreditation of English Language Training Programs.

    (a) In General- Section 101(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)) is amended--
      (1) in paragraph (15)(F)(i), by striking "a language" and inserting "an accredited language"; and
      (2) by adding at the end the following:
    "(52) The term 'accredited language training program' means a language training program that is accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the Secretary of Education.".
    (b) Effective Date-
      (1) IN GENERAL.- Except as provided in paragraph (2), the amendments made by subsection (a) shall--
        (A) take effect on the date that is 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act; and
        (B) apply with respect to applications for a nonimmigrant visa under section 101(a)(15)(F)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(15)(F)(i)) that are filed on or after the effective date described in subparagraph (A).
      (2) TEMPORARY EXCEPTION.-
        (A) IN GENERAL.- Notwithstanding section 101(a)(15)(F)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended by subsection (a), during the 3-year period beginning on the date of the enactment of this Act, an alien seeking to enter the United States to pursue a course of study at a language training program that has been certified by the Secretary of Homeland Security and has not been accredited or denied accreditation by an entity described in section 101(a)(52) of such Act may be granted a nonimmigrant visa under such section 101(a)(15)(F)(i).
        (B) ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENT.- An alien may not be granted a nonimmigrant visa under subparagraph (A) if the sponsoring institution of the language training program to which the alien seeks to enroll does not--
          (i) submit an application for the accreditation of such program to a regional or national accrediting agency recognized by the Secretary of Education within 1 year after the date of the enactment of this Act; and
          (ii) comply with the applicable accrediting requirements of such agency.

Approved December 14, 2010.