As President Trump puts pen to paper in Kenosha, Wisc., this afternoon to sign an executive order encouraging U.S. companies to "buy American, hire American," tech companies and outsourcing firms will pay close attention to details about the H-1B visa program.
Firms such as Tata, Infosys (INFY - Get Report) , and Cognizant (CTSH - Get Report) that outsource tech jobs are the biggest sponsors of H-1B visas, which allow 85,000 foreign workers each year to fill jobs requiring specific skills. IBM (IBM - Get Report) , Microsoft (MSFT - Get Report) , Amazon (AMZN - Get Report) , Intel (INTC - Get Report) , Alphabet's (GOOGL - Get Report) Google and Apple (AAPL - Get Report) are also participants, according to stats from Howard University professor Ron Hira.
Bucking a recent trend, the number of applicants actually fell this year from 236,000 to 199,000 during the brief application window between April 3 and April 7. The administration caused a stir this year with the Department of Homeland Security disclosing on the eve of the filing date that it would provide extra scrutiny to some categories.
Trump has targeted the H-1B program, claiming they are a source of cheap labor. The White House says 80% of participants receive less than the median wage for their jobs, while 10% get the median wage and 5% or 6% are in the upper echelon for earnings in their niche.
The White House noted in its background briefing on Monday that it's planning to conduct a 220-day review of the program. The President wants the Departments of Labor, Justice, Homeland Security and State to look for any fraud or abuse, while the administration plans other changes such as shifting from a lottery to merit-based selection criteria.
Height Securities LLC analyst Peter Cohn observed in a Tuesday note that the timeline suggests that developments could come around Thanksgiving Day. "Changes to existing regulations, if any, will still require a lengthy rule-making process subject to notice and comment, and any recommended changes to statute will have to come from Congress, which we believe is unlikely to act prior to the 2018 elections," Height Securities LLC analyst Peter Cohn said.