Double Dipping with H-1Bs: Virginia International University

By David North on January 18, 2018

In state and local politics there is a phenomenon called "double dipping". Well-connected pols manage to secure two or more sources of taxpayer-provided income from two or more elections, appointments, or some combination of both. For example, the same individual serving as both the mayor of a town and a member of the county board of supervisors. It is a widespread practice in France as well.

That may not be a good idea, but it is both common, and often legal; it certainly was when I encountered it during my youth in New Jersey politics.

Double-dipping can happen in the immigration field as well. Middlemen who get alien investments through the EB-5 program, for example, then turn around and use another part of the immigration system to get low-cost labor. Sometimes this is questionable but legal, and other times it is flat-out illegal. As we previously reported, an EB-5 funded lumber mill in Florida used workers on tourist visas to lower costs and, in this instance, it was caught in the act.

Today's example of double-dipping in the immigration field involves a low-ranking university in the Virginia suburbs of Washington. It is one of the four such educational entities with remarkable profit margins that we reported on recently. Virginia International University (VIU) is also part of the Gulen network of schools that is said to siphon off educational funds into the politics of Turkey, as noted earlier. This is the conservative (but non-violent) Islamic cult that revolves around a self-exiled Turkish cleric, Fethtullah Gulen, who lives in rural Pennsylvania.

VIU's bread and butter is the foreign student trade; it would quickly go out of business if it were not able to issue the paperwork that leads to F-1 visas (as it can at the moment ). So that's the first and most obvious dip. But that is not enough for VIU; like some other compromised colleges, it also makes extensive use of the H-1B program.

This is not always part of the picture. A somewhat comparable and nearby institution — the American College of Commerce & Technology (ACCT), recently put out of business by Virginia state authorities — never used the H-1B program, as VIU has extensively. But ACCT was a stand-alone activity — it was not part of a broader network like VIU.

VIU, whose student enrollment is probably in the 400-500 range, down from earlier highs, has filed for and received 38 H-1B slots in the last seven years, plus half a dozen green cards, telling the U.S. government in each case that it needed the skill involved, despite the presence of large numbers of qualified resident workers in the D.C. area.

And VIU, as we show in the following table, is not, for the most part, seeking faculty members; most of the H-1B workers it hires have run-of-the mill managerial jobs.

VIU claims that over the years it needed five public relations people, five analysts, two "student event planners", and dozens of other alien workers — all for administrative positions — in addition to five H-1B professors and one teacher with a green card. As a further indication of the oddness of these applications, two of the six professors, one with the H-1B permit and the other with a green card, were brought in to teach English. (We are not sure where they came from, but most of the alien workers recruited for the Gulen network are from Turkey.)

What's going on here? Before we answer, that, let's look at the record of VIU's little list of desired alien workers, with all the data drawn from public records.

Is VIU Using H-1B to Staff a University or to Harbor Its Old World Friends?

(Denied and withdrawn H-1B applications not included)

Fiscal Year Total H-1B Certifications Faculty Occupations Other Occupations
2017 5 2: Professors of computer science and international affairs 3: Application developer, curriculum director, dean of general studies
2016 3 1: Professor of computer systems 2: Associate dean, instructional designer
2015 10 0 10: Four public relations positions; three analysts; one each: IT specialist, operations manager, software developer
2014 5 1: Professor of public affairs 4: Two analysts, two curriculum coordinators
2013 7 1: English language professor 6: Director of international continuing education, educational specialist, media specialist, program management analyst, student education event planner, university editor
2012 7 0 7: Admissions manager, business development officer, informational technology specialist, international business administrator, computer systems administrator, public relations specialist, student event planner
2011 1 0 1: education administrator
Totals 38 5 33


It should be borne in mind that VIU, despite its slim credentials, is regarded as a university by the H-1B program, so there are no numerical limits on its use of the program. Further, the instance of denied petitions is modest, so virtually anyone that VIU wants, it gets.

Given VIU's large number of requests for foreign workers, and the stories we have heard about the staff turnover at VIU, one possibility is that all the H-1B filings are done with staff vacancies in mind. But five public relations people and one media specialist from abroad in four years? And how about the certifications for two "student event planners", a job that any recent college grad could handle, with both having to come from overseas?

So, in the years 2011 through 2017 VIU was certified for a total of 33 administrators and five faculty members. How many of those persons are still on the payroll? More importantly, how many have used VIU to get to this country legally and then disappeared either into illegal status or into other H-1B jobs? We will be asking a government agency that question, and we hope that the state agency in charge of private, for-profit schools, will be equally curious.

There are two alternative theories to the "skills shortage" hokum of why there is this much usage of the H-1B program by VIU.

One is that the Gulen cult is using the H-1B program to bring over its friends and followers to help build that organization; other reports have shown that Gulen schools coerce their Turkish staff members, but not the American ones, to contribute substantial chunks of money to other Gulen organizations. We have no proof of that with VIU.

The other likely theory is that VIU, and the charter schools that make up most of the Gulen movement in the States, are using the lax rules of the H-1B system to bring in relatives and friends from Turkey, as another form of chain migration. These two theories do not conflict with each other.

But then again, maybe in Virginia there is no one qualified to be a "student event planner", and such people have to be brought in from Istanbul or Ankara.