240,000 Indian immigrants on path to US citizenship

Washington: Over 240,000 illegal Indian immigrants in the US could be soon on their path to obtaining citizenship under a "big deal" reached by a bi-partisan group of influential Senators but uncertainty remains for the tens of thousands of highly skilled Indians seeking a Green Card.

Described by the White House as a "big deal", the compromise announced by the group of top eight Senators proposes a path to citizenship for 11.5 million illegal immigrants of which more than three-fourths (77 per cent or 8.9 million) are from North America, including Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America.

"We have come together on a set of bipartisan principles for comprehensive immigration reforms that we hope can pass the Senate in an overwhelming and bipartisan fashion," Senator Charles Schumer said after he and a bi-partisan group of seven influential Senators came up with set of principles for comprehensive immigration reform legislation. Mexico alone accounts the maximum 6.8 million illegal immigrants.

The Department of Homeland Security in its report released in March 2012, estimated that there were 240,000 illegal immigrants from India in 2011, which are now going to benefit from this immigration reform.
Among the Asian countries, India is ranked third when it comes to illegal immigrants after China (280,000) and Philippines (270,000).

India has registered quite an increase in illegal immigrants, which was about 120,000 in 2000, said the report of the Department of Homeland Security.

It was way back in 1986 that the US had last come out with a path to citizenship for an estimated three million illegal immigrants.

However, neither the Senators and the President Barack Obama's blueprint posted on the White House mentioned lifting the country specific quota on Green Card, a major drawback in the current immigration system, which has resulted in an agonising long wait for permanent residency for tens of thousands of Indian Americans.

The deal reached by the bi-partisan group of Senators talks about giving Green Card to those who earn a PhD or Masters degrees in science, engineering, technology and maths, which is again going to benefit students from countries like India and China the most.

Family sponsored preference categories are limited to 226,000 per year and employment based preference visa are limited to 140,000 per year.

In addition, there are limits to the percentage (seven) of visas that can be allotted to each country.

As per the latest visa bulletin, the Green card wait period for Indians in the most popular EB3 (employment-based) is more than a decade.

An October 2011 analysis by the National Foundation for American Policy concluded wait times for wait time for Indians under the existing plan could be up to 70 years, while that for the Chinese could be two decades.

New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg has been one of the most ardent advocate of lifting of country specific quota on Green card and elimination of Congressional mandated limit on H-1B visas.

"Right now, the cap on H1-B visas and Green Cards is much too low. And caps on Green Cards are set by countries, so Iceland actually gets the same number of visas as India. That may be fair to those two countries, but it's certainly not fair to American business and to Americans," Bloomberg had said recently.

Image courtesy of Michael Elliott / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How to get a Job in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is a monarchy ruled by a king chosen from and by members of the Al Saud family. The king rules through royal decrees issued in conjunction with the Council of Ministers, and with advice from the Consultative Council. The king appoints members of both councils. Islamic law is the basis of the authority of the monarchy and provides the foundation of the country's conservative customs and social practices. Saudi Arabia has a modern and well-developed infrastructure, and facilities for travelers are widely available.

How to get a Job in Saudi Arabia

First and foremost have a professional resume.  Ensure that key accomplishments are clearly stated.  Have a strong objective statement such as why you want to work in Saudi Arabia, what position you seek and why you are the most qualified individual for such a position.

Circulate your resume.  Put it on the usual web sites and/or message boards.  Some useful places to submit a resume for employment in Saudi Arabia include:

  • Career Builder – this web site is utilized by many Saudi companies and institutions seeking candidates.
  • Bayt.com – this web site specializes in advertising positions and opportunities in the Middle East region and always has a variety of differing types of positions available in Saudi Arabia.
  • Monster.com – this well known web site also has search engines and links for jobs in Saudi Arabia.
  • Executive Jobs in Saudi – as the name states, this web site specializes in positions in Saudi Arabia.
  • Clarendon Parker – an international recruiting firm with a local office in Riyadh.
  • Helen Ziegler – the best web site for those who are seeking a position in Saudi Arabia’s medical industry.
  • Aramco – with US Headquarters in Houston and locations throughout Saudi Arabia, this is one of the largest of expat employers in Saudi Arabia’s oil industry.

It is further suggested that instead of waiting for an employer to find your resume, bring your resume to the attention of a target employer instead!  There are directories which identify American companies which have a presence in Saudi Arabia.  And if one works in a specific industry, again there are global directories organized by industries too.  Use these directories to identify potential employers.  And of course as with any perspective opportunity – DO YOUR RESEARCH.  Know the company, know its mission, vision and values.

Education first - Microsoft Partners in Learning

Reiterating that education is an important sector for Microsoft Corporation, the IT major announced a global investment of $250 million over five years into its Microsoft Partners in Learning (MPIL) programme recently, taking its total investment in the program to $750 million over 15 years.

Created in 2003, MPIL is a forum set up to engage with teachers both online and offline and look at how technology can be directly introduced in the classrooms. Every year, the company organises a meeting of educators from across the globe on a different continent where they are encouraged to exchange ideas and also receive prizes for their work. Last year, the meet was held in Prague, Czech Republic where six teachers from India participated chosen from more than 28000 project applications received.

The company aims to grow the MPIL community to 20 million of the 75 million teachers worldwide by 2018 and expand it beyond the 119 countries that currently participate.

The company also announced that this year would be Microsoft’s biggest year for product launches and most of the products can be worked back into education.

“We have some exiting new stuff in terms of products that will help in education. Education is a pillar in our strategy and our visions are about sustainability and new ways to use education to drive economic growth,” said Don Grantham, President of Microsoft for Central and Eastern Europe.

“We can’t educate tomorrow’s leaders with tools and practices from the past. We must continue to invest in the development of enhanced learning environments that lead to better outcomes,” said Anthony Salcito, Vice President for Worldwide education.

“We see a significant opportunity to invest in the economy of tomorrow by working with educators today to teach 21st century skills,” said Laura Ipsen, corporate vice president, Microsoft Worldwide Public Sector.
Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How to Create a Great Work-from-Home

"Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of." - Benjamin Franklin

Those of you who know the joys of working from home, whether you’re self-employed or freelancing or telecommuting, know also the joys of procrastination and the lures of laying on the couch.

On the other hand, working from home tends to blur the boundaries between work and personal life — if you work too hard, you will have no personal life left. So how do we stay productive, and at the same time stay sane? Here are some tips:

  1. Define your spaces; separate work from home. Have a room dedicated to working. If you're lucky enough to have an extra room lying around, you can set that up as your home office. Otherwise, look at the spaces around your home to determine where it would be best to set up shop.
  2. Set regular hours, and stick to the schedule.
  3. Don’t stay unshaved in pajamas. Instead, have breakfast, have a shower, get dressed. Then make a list of sensible tasks for the day and get started.
  4. Close the door. If the door is open, that represents something to you, and to your family. To you, it represents the idea that if it’s a bit tough, or you don’t feel like working today, you don’t have to.
  5. Keep your desk and general work area tidy. A tidy workspace helps keep a tidy mind, which helps make your day more productive.
  6. Turn off the telephone when you need to work without distraction. 
  7. Don’t stop working if it’s a hard day. There’ll be times when you haven’t got any ideas, or just don’t feel productive. Train yourself to do some work anyway.
  8. Keep three lists of three. The first list has three things you will do today. The second is three things you’d like to get done, but aren’t essential. The third is three things that need to be done at some point. That way, when you’ve trogged through your days work.
  9. Start the day properly. Have a good breakfast, spend some time alone to just sit and do whatever. Relax, let your mind wander. Pray. Just make sure that your mind isn’t in the “I hate working” frame of mind.
  10. Have a good chair. Mesh backed ones, or good comfy leather perhaps. It’s worth spending some money on.

If your company has granted you permission to work virtually, congrats. You can get a surprising amount done without the distractions of the office. But now you've got your work cut out for you: you've got to first create an environment that will help you be productive and focused while you work. Follow the tips and do it!
Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How to Write a Resume Summary Statement

Summary Statement should be short paragraph form or bulleted statements, containing only several sentences. Your summary should begin with a headline that summarizes your professional title and/or your professional statement.

There are three things a well-written summary should address:

  • Your experiences and skills as they relate to your idea job
  • What you can bring to the organization and the open position that no other candidate can
  • Your professional goals

When you want to get even more specific on your resume, consider using a resume profile. It's a section of a resume that includes a brief summary of your skills, experiences and goals as they relate to a specific job opening.  A well-written profile can show the employer, at a glance, why you are qualified for the job for which they are hiring.

Even though your resume summary is written by you, it should be composed in third person, in present tense. Think of it as a summary of what one of your best colleagues would say about your professional achievements. Reinforce your title, and sell only the experiences and skills that meet your career objective. If you have multiple career objectives, such as you wish to get a position in either marketing or
public relations, develop separate resume summaries for each of the objectives. A summary can also contain a brief bulleted section highlighting only a few vital competitive skills that you bring to the table.

Helpful Key Questions

  1. How many years of career experience do you have? 
  2. What areas of expertise make you stand out from your competition? 
  3. What are your most significant accomplishments in your career? 
  4. Do you have earned any awards or special recognition in both your career and education? 
  5. What specific knowledge, ability or unique skill do you have? 
  6. How can you help to improve company performance? 

See some resume samples

Is immigration really the biggest issue facing the UK?

Dominic Ladden-Powell, Online Editor for the UK Visa Bureau analyse a recent study by a leading think-tank which revealed that UK immigration is considered the biggest issue threatening the UK.

The report, titled 'State of the Nation: Where is Bittersweet Britain Heading?' was written by the think-tank British Future and published in the Observer, claims that one in three Britons believe tensions between immigrants and those born in the UK is the most divisive issue in the country.

Immigration was chosen by more people as the nation's biggest issue than the still flailing economy and the housing market's ongoing problems.

Net migration to the UK stood at record high levels until recently with over 250,000 more people entering the UK than leaving each year. Figures have since started to reduce after the Conservative-led coalition Government's changes continued to take their toll but it appears to have done little to dampen the public's concerns.

The study, which surveyed 2,515 people aged between 16 and 75, said respect for the law, for the freedom of speech of others and English language ability were the three most important traits for new immigrants to have. Full article.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The dark side of things

One of the recommendations of policy makers in education is to use more of ICT (information and communication technology) in teaching methodology, and so schools and universities equip their classrooms and departments with computers, LCD projectors and what you may. With that they feel the recommendation has been adequately addressed. The talk by Michio Kaku on “The Universe in a Nutshell” is among those resources that education givers could make use of to inspire and teach their students. It is one of the clearest understandings of physics delivered in an interesting manner. It is a 42-minute talk and is illustrated.

Michio Kaku is a physicist and professor at The New York State University. He begins by telling us how physics has played a role in making almost everything in one’s life. “...at some point everything in the living room or a hospital will trace itself to a physicist,” he says. More you can hear from his talk (the YouTube video given above and the link is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NbBjNiw4tk&feature=related)

New post-study work arrangements and international students

New post-study work arrangements are being introduced in early 2013 for eligible international students who graduate with an Australian Bachelor’s, Master’s or a Doctoral degree.

The new post-study work arrangements will be built as an additional stream in the existing temporary skilled graduate (subclass 485) visa. The subclass 485 currently allows international students who graduate with skills and qualifications that relate to an occupation that is in demand to remain in Australia for an additional 18 months.

From early 2013, the temporary skilled graduate (subclass 485) visa will be renamed the temporary graduate (subclass 485) visa. You may apply for the temporary graduate visa through either the new post-study work stream (the new arrangements) or the graduate work stream (the existing subclass 485 arrangements) provided you meet the specific eligibility requirements.

The post-study work stream of the subclass 485 will be for international students who lodged their first student visa application after the introduction of the genuine temporary entrant requirement (GTE) on 5 November 2011. If you do not meet this requirement, you may still be eligible for a temporary graduate visa through the graduate work stream. [Download a PDF document from immi.gov.au website - get it from here]

Eligible qualifications

To be eligible for the new post-study work arrangements, you must graduate from an Australian educational institution with a Bachelor’s, Master’s and/or Doctoral degree. You may qualify for the new arrangements using any combination of eligible degree level qualifications.

The Australian study requirement

Regardless of whether you are applying under the new post-study work stream or the graduate work stream, you must meet the Australian study requirement in the six months before making your subclass 485 application. The Australian study requirement is defined as study in Australia in a registered course for a period of at least two academic years. The course must be conducted in English and must be completed in no less than 16 calendar months.

Are the new arrangements linked to skilled migration?

The new arrangements are not linked to skilled migration and do not provide a pathway to permanent residence.

Visa validity

Under the new post-study work arrangements, the duration of the subclass 485 visa you are granted will depend on the qualification that you have used to qualify for the arrangements. Full article

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Your attitude for a good placement interview

As the placement season in professional colleges heats up, so do does the growing concern of the recruiters about choosing the right fit.

Many of the candidates crack the interview code, but not the career code. These syndromes persist transcending the limits and creates a lose-lose situation for the candidate, corporate and also for education institutions. Slated reasons for this premature employee turnover are many. The ostensible reason being attitude of the new generation, including inflated ego, inability in assessing one’s potential, inadequate self-awareness, lack of proper training, guidance from mentors, unrealistic corporate expectations and a labyrinth of similar issues. Subsequently, interview trainers come up with new formulae for cracking upcoming interviews and the vicious cycle continues. Recruiting managers these days prefer graduates to post graduates for the obvious reason that they can be hired for their attitude and trained for their skills notwithstanding the cliché.

However, the personal interview continues to be a major phase in evaluating a prospective candidate for a chosen position. The recruiters make a final decision on the selection of the candidate invariably after the personal interview. An expert interview panel can easily evaluate the candidate and decide if it is worth investing on the candidate in tune with the organisational ethos.

Everyone undergoing the recruitment process is familiar with interview techniques. An often ignored fact by candidates at this stage is recruiter’s expertise for deciphering the employability of the candidate which surpasses a set of questions and answers. But, the hard truth is that a skilful interviewer, can unmask the pretensions unless the allured attributes are demonstrated convincingly, which requires systemic modulation of the personality.

Hence, the big question each candidate should ask himself is: Why should I apply? To put it specifically, the candidate should question himself ruthlessly by asking, How will I fit in? Can I really do the job? Can I find a way for differentiating myself? and What are the alternatives available? It is the company of my preference, but am I their kind of person?

Secondly, it is fundamental that the candidate is expected to know the recruiter, their requirement, the trends in the sector, the recruiter expectations, etc. Candidates should also know the basic set of skills and terminology with each domain and be proficient in at least the relevant areas. These are necessary but not sufficient to navigate an interview. Read full article here.
Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Are you planning to apply for Visitor visa?

Australia is a country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania and numerous smaller islands. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area. It is the only country that is also a continent which makes it unique. Besides that, there are a lot of breathtaking sceneries that you can see, delicious cuisines you could taste, sporting activities you could watch and so on.

If you talk about the beach, the Land Down Under is home to some of the best beaches in the world. It offers the best waves that are great for surfing, both for beginners and professionals. There are parks which are also home to some of the most unique and diverse species of animals. There are also educational institutions in Australia that are a great source of academic and vocational training.

Most importantly, Australia has a diverse and multicultural society that gives a fair and equal treatment to its immigrants and citizens. If you wish to experience a different kind of adventure, then complete your visitor visa requirements for Australia.

The tourist visa requirements for Australia are simple. You need to have sufficient funds to cover the trip, have an “incentive to return”, meet character requirements, and also meet health requirements.

If you have already completed these tourist visa requirements, then you can already lodge an application by yourself or with the help of National Visas. National Visas is a leader in visa and immigration advice who will guide you through the process of applying for a visa.

Once you have received your visitor visa to Australia, you have to remember some important points to make sure that you don’t violate any provisions of your visa.

These include not being able to work in Australia for the duration of your stay; however, you can study for not more than three months. You may also have the Business Short Stay Visa Condition which is valid if you want to visit Australia for business meetings, conventions, short term projects or conferences that will not exceed 6 weeks. However, this requires the applicant to have a high level of skill.

The tourist visa requirements for Australia may be a bit expensive since you will have to prove that you have enough money to sustain your vacation. However, what awaits you is truly worth the wait. Australia is the home of the happiest people in the world according to a survey. And if you come here, you will surely be able to prove that yourself.

Image courtesy of Bill Longshaw  / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Estimated 863,000 illegal migrants living in the UK

Nigeria, Pakistan, China, India and Bangladesh are the countries named by the UK Home Office as the hub of illegal migration, according to a report in the Daily Mail.

It claims that a latest Home Office study reveals a "robust estimate" of 863,000 illegal migrants living in the UK, 70 per cent of whom are believed to be based in London.

Their origins have been deduced based on the nationalities of people detected by the authorities.

Britain's Immigration Minister Mark Harper blamed the problem on "uncontrolled immigration" over the years under the Labour government and stressed the Tory-led coalition was determined to get "tough on illegal immigration".

The latest figures come from the London School of Economics and are included in a study titled 'Practical Measures for Reducing Irregular Migration.'

The analysis also reveals that around 10,000 foreigners who had no legal right to live in Britain have been granted permission to stay under a provision that allows a migrant who has lived in the UK for 14 years the right to abode.

The British government has come under repeated attack for failing to get a grip on Britain's mounting backlog of immigration cases.

Recently, it was reported that Capita, a company awarded a contract by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) worth up to 40 million pounds to track down more than 174,000 immigrants who may be living illegally in Britain, may have been wrongly pursuing people who have the right to stay in the UK and others who left long ago.

The UK's immigration problems are also set to multiply as Bulgarians and Romanians will gain the unrestricted right to live and work in Britain from December 2013, when temporary curbs imposed in 2005 to protect the British labour market within the European Union expire.

Prime Minister David Cameron has insisted the country will demand new restrictions to keep out benefit tourists as it fears a tidal wave of EU immigrants from next year.

Many Malaysian foreign workers were cheated

Thirty-six foreign workers have alleged that their Malaysian employer deducted big amount of money for work permit fees.
The workers from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have also alleged that they failed to obtain the permits and their salaries had also not been paid for two months by their employer, a maritime logistics company.
The workers stopped going to work about two weeks ago and have lodged two police reports and gone to the Labour Department with their grouses.
Darshan Singh from Punjab said that he wanted to seek employment elsewhere. "My family wants me to go home and get married but I can't leave as my passport is with the company's owner," 30-year-old Singh was quoted by the Star newspaper.
An NGO central executive committee member K S Kottapan, who is helping them, claimed that the Immigration Department did not have any record of the workers' applications.
The company's assistant operations manager said the agent helping to obtain the work permits had absconded with the money.
"We went to his office to check on the status but he had vacated the place," he said, adding the company did not owe the workers' salary arrears.
He claimed a second agent told them that the workers were allocated to other employers, adding that they needed time to sort the matter out.
He claimed the company had suffered losses as the workers had not given any notice before stopping work.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Healthcare- Occupational Employment

This chart book, Occupational Employment and Wages, 2010, includes graphs, maps, tables, and text describing the U.S. occupational workforce in May 2010. It contains Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) employment and wage data for occupations employed in different industries, States, and metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. Latest available figures include:
-Wages for selected health assistants, May 2010 
-Wages for selected health aides, May 2010 
-Employment and hourly mean wages for the largest occupations in general medical and surgical hospitals, May 2010 
-Employment and hourly mean wages for the largest occupations in the medical and diagnostic laboratories industry, May 2010
-Employment by occupational group in outpatient mental health and substance abuse centers, May 2010
-Employment by occupational group in residential mental health and substance abuse facilities, May 2010
-Employment of selected healthcare workers in non-healthcare related industries, May 2010 
-Location quotient of medical transcriptionists, by area, May 2010

Work Pass Administrative Fee Changes

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has reviewed the administrative fees for all work passes. The administrative fees for most work passes will increase on 1 April 2013.

This is in line with the Government’s financial principle that the full cost of providing a public service should be borne by users of the service, rather than taxpayers in general.

Employers have been paying administrative fees for the application and issuance of work passes since 2005. When the fees were first introduced, they were set at a level that was substantially below cost recovery. The fees were first revised in 2011. This helped increase the proportion of costs borne by employers who use work pass services, but it still fell short of full cost recovery.

The new administrative fees, to be implemented on 1 Apr 2013, will bring the fees closer to the full costs of providing work pass services. These include new service initiatives which lead to better customer convenience and experience (for example, a new card courier service that will save employers one additional trip to MOM, and remove the need for those with renewal cases to visit MOM at all, as well as additional electronic services for the reinstatement of work permits). Customers can also look forward to the opening of the new Work Pass Card Registration Centre at the MOM Services Centre in early 2013.

Please refer to MOM press release and FAQ for more details.

Five ways to beat the blues, post holidays

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic
Soon after the holiday season ends, the back-to-work blues take over.

1. Keep a day for Yourself 

Plan your holiday in such a way that you dedicate a day to yourself before you join office.

2. Share your Stories 

Connect with your colleagues informally. Share your holiday experiences.

3. Take Stock 

Clearing e-mails needs to be one of the priorities when you return to work.

4. Get Back Slowly 

Don't immerse yourself in work the day you join.

5. Prioritise 

Address the most important issues first. Meeting one or two of your most valuable customers or taking stock of how much work is done on an important project, for instance.

Read more here

US Metropolitan Area Employment and Unemployment Stat Non 2012

Unemployment rates were lower in November than a year earlier in 322 of the 372 metropolitan areas, higher in 36 areas, and unchanged in 14 areas, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. Four areas recorded jobless rates of at least 15.0 percent, while 52 areas registered rates of less than 5.0 percent. Two hundred eighty-eight metropolitan areas reported over-the-year increases in nonfarm payroll employment, 77 reported decreases, and 7 had no change. The national unemployment rate in November was 7.4 percent, not seasonally adjusted, down from 8.2 percent a year earlier.

In November, 29 metropolitan areas reported jobless rates of at least 10.0 percent, down from 68 areas a year earlier, while 192 areas posted rates below 7.0 percent, up from 129 areas in November 2011. Yuma, Ariz., and El Centro, Calif., recorded the highest unemployment rates in November 2012, at 27.5 and 26.6 percent, respectively. Bismarck, N.D., registered the lowest unemployment rate, 2.6 percent. A total of 217 areas recorded November unemployment rates below the U.S. figure of 7.4 percent, 146 areas reported rates above it, and 9 areas had rates equal to that of the nation.

The largest over-the-year percentage increase in employment among the metropolitan divisions was reported in San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, Calif. (+3.4 percent), followed by Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas (+3.1 percent), and Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, Mass. (+3.0 percent). The largest over-the-year percentage decrease in employment occurred in Nashua, N.H.-Mass. (-0.9 percent).

The PDF version of the news release

No journalistic work on tourist visa in India

The Union Home Ministry has advised foreigners visiting India on tourist visas not to get involved in ‘journalistic activities’ during their stay in the country.

A senior Home Ministry official said that a circular has been issued on the basis of inputs from intelligence agencies, which had found some foreigners using their tourist visas for “journalism or other forms of writing”.

“The Ministry of Home Affairs has noticed that foreigners coming on tourist visa are involved in coverage of events/ journalistic activities. In this context, it is stated that tourist visa is not the appropriate visa for such activities by foreigners. Tourist visa is issued to foreigners who do not have residence or occupation in India and whose sole objective of visiting India is recreation, sightseeing, casual visit to meet friends and relatives etc. No other activity is permissible on tourist visa,” a statement from the ministry said.

The circular further stated that the Ministry of External Affairs has been requested to convey to all Indian missions abroad that they strictly enforce the rules on tourist visa.

The circular comes a month after it became known that a US geophysicist, who had visited India several times in the past and studied Himalayan seismology, was not allowed to enter the country in May last year. Roger Bilham, a geophysicist at the University of Colorado, had, during his last visit in January 2011, addressed a press conference organised by Greenpeace in which he had raised questions about the safety of the proposed nuclear power plant at Jaitapur due to seismic reasons. Bilham has written several articles in international journals on Indian seismology, including threats to nuclear power plants from potential earthquakes.

Several international students stranded in the UK

Several international students have been stranded in the UK without passports and are unable to get home for Christmas after the UK Border Agency asked them to reapply for their visas.

According to a report in The Guardian, London School of Film students from as far afield as the US, India, Russia and Lebanon were asked to hand over their passports to the Border Agency in November so they could be issued with new study permits.

This was following the decision to strip London Metropolitan University of its "higher trusted status" before the start of the academic year.

The Guardian said that London Met, which sponsors the students and issues degrees on behalf of the film school, also has hundreds of international students who are unable to get home due to lengthy delays at the Border Agency, despite being promised a fast-track service.

Education vice-president at London Met, Syed Rumman, said he believed around 600-700 Met Uni students were stuck because UKBA still had their passports.

After a petition by the film students, the office of the London mayor, Boris Johnson, said it had written to the Border Agency to try to expedite the process.

Tara Verma, 24, a second-year MA student from New Delhi, was unsure how she would spend Christmas.

She said she had already missed her best friend's wedding and had to cancel a 700-pound flight to India.

London Met was stripped of its higher trusted status in late August, ending its ability to enrol and teach foreign students.