Foreign workers worry about restricted visas under a Trump administration

Among those in Southern California concerned about their future under a President-elect Donald Trump’s administration are high-skilled foreign workers on H-1B visas that allow them to work in the U.S. temporarily.

Some are worried enough to apply for green cards so they can remain in the U.S. permanently, one immigration attorney said, even though that process can take years.

The H-1B visa program allows tens of thousands to work in industries where there’s demand for hard-to-find skills, including knowledge in technology, engineering, science and math.

While Trump has put out mixed messages on the H-1B visas, he has called for restricting U.S. companies from hiring foreign workers. His pick for attorney general, Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, has long criticized the H-1B program and sought to curtail it.

Both Trump and Sessions view the program as one that takes jobs away from Americans.

Software engineer Priyanka Naik is one of those working in the U.S. on an H-1B visa. She came to the U.S. in 2009 as a student and now lives in Santa Barbara, where she works for a software company.

Naik was surprised by last month’s elections results. “I never expected Donald Trump to win,” she said — and now she’s nervous.

“When the election happened, I was a little concerned about what would happen with H-1B workers,” Naik said.

The H-1B program is capped  at 65,000 visas per year, with an additional 20,000 visas for workers with advanced degrees from U.S. schools. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services data, more than three-fourths of the annual visas go to workers from Asia, the majority of them from India and China.