I Hate to Be Churlish when USCIS Seeks to Be Transparent, but . . .

By David North on April 2, 2019

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services had its heart in the right place when it published a new data mining system for the H-1B program — but it shipped what appears to be a beta version, which is chock full of holes.

The new system is called "The H1-B Data Hub". You are supposed to be able to type in the name of an employer and the year of interest to see what was done with the H-1B applications submitted by that employer.

I casually entered the names of a couple of marginal institutions that I have been writing about, knowing that they were busy (perhaps too busy) users of the H-1B program, although on a small scale. My efforts to get data on Northwestern Polytechnic University (Fremont, Calif.) and Virginia International University (Fairfax, Va.) came up empty for years when I was sure that they were filing applications. Maybe I was not using the software correctly (I am anything but a computer wiz) or maybe those institutions had mishandled something.

So, I changed my approach and decided to check on all eight Ivy League institutions for the years 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. All are well known for hiring H-1B professors and researchers every year. I used the same format for every year and for every college.

What the new system told me was surprising: In some years Brown, Harvard, and Yale had some H-1B applications (the range was from 24 to 129 per year, per institution) and in some years none. In all years, Columbia, Dartmouth, Princeton, and the University of Pennsylvania had none, but Cornell filed for H-1Bs in all four years. It sought 65, 70, and 61 in 2015, 2016, and 2017, respectively, but only two in 2018. This all sounded highly unlikely.

I compared these numbers to those of Myvisajobs, a database I have used for years, which relates to Department of Labor records, not those of Homeland Security, and found that Harvard filed for 238 positions in 2018.

The new DHS database showed that, while Harvard filed for 121 positions the prior year (2017), it had filed for none in 2018. The new DHS program showed that Yale sought 110 workers in 2015, 96 in 2017, 122 in 2018, but none at all in 2016. Meanwhile, for four years, four other large institutions had apparently sworn off H-1B scholars completely, without announcing the fact.

Then I explored the use of H-1Bs by IBM. I tried IBM (no spaces), I B M (spaces but no periods), I.B.M., International Business Machines, and International Business Machines Corporation. No luck, none of those entries, in none of the four years, had sought H1-Bs (according to the H1-B Data Hub).

I am looking forward to the next version.