US opens consulate in Hyderabad (Lead)

October 24th, 2008 - 9:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Hyderabad, Oct 24 (IANS) The consulate of the United States was formally opened here Friday. It will start issuing visas this December.US Ambassador to India David C. Mulford raised the American flag over the new office of the US consulate-general at Paigha Palace, a heritage building, in Begumpet, to formally inaugurate the facility.

The flag was hoisted with the tunes of the national anthems of the two countries being played in the presence of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy and the US consul general to Hyderabad Kornellis M. Keur.

Mulford said it was very rare for the US to open its large new consulate with full fledged services.

“The US Mission in India is now the largest our government has in the world today, outside of Iraq. It reflects the nature and diversity of our relationship which has grown in recent years to include nearly every kind of public and private engagement,” he said.

The US consulate, which will initially have 16 visa windows, will work out of the temporary facility for six years before moving into the proposed permanent facility to be built at a cost of $60 million in Gacchibowli area, he said.

The state government has allotted 12 acres of land for the consulate in Gacchibowli, an area where several US giants, including Microsoft, have their campuses.

Top officials, political leaders and captains of the Indian industry, trade and business attended the function held in the sprawling grounds of the palace.

This is the fourth US consulate in India after Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai.

US President George W. Bush, during his visit to Hyderabad in March 2006, had announced setting up of the consulate, fulfilling a long-pending demand of visa seekers from Andhra Pradesh, who presently travel to Chennai to avail the services.

“During his visit to Hyderabad in 2006, the president spoke warmly of this great modern Asian city at the heart of a civilisation that has been one of the wonders of both the ancient and modern world and where today cutting edge businesses are building the technologies of tomorrow,” said Mulford.

“When we selected Hyderabad to be the host city to our new consulate general, we did so in clear recognition of its importance as major social political and commercial center. Hyderabad is a city that works,” he said.

He pointed out that in addition to the important information technology centre, its diversified economy includes life science, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and high technology.

“Already it is a very major area for investment by US companies and off course you know US and Indian companies that are here employ many Americans. It is very important to have full service consulate here,” he said.

Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy said the US consulate would bring a lot of benefits to the people of the state. “Having the consulate here means avoiding at least 65,000 to 70,000 trips from Hyderabad to Chennai every year for US visa,” he said.

He said that in the Silicon Valley every fourth IT professional was from India and out of them every fourth was from Andhra Pradesh.

The consulate would formally start visa processing operation from the middle of December.

The consulate officials said it would initially handle 100 visa applications a day and the number would go up to 300 next year.

The US consulate in Chennai is presently handling 500 applications every day for different visas from Andhra Pradesh. About 40 percent of those applying for visas in Chennai are from Andhra Pradesh.

They said the consulate would start the operations with 12 US consul officials and 35 local staff members. Next year, the number of Americans will go up to 21 and the locals to 65.

Out of two million Americans of Indian origin, 400,000 hail from Andhra Pradesh.

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