US on major expansion of consulates in India: Official

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Bangalore, Jun 24 (UNI) The United States has taken up a major drive to expand its four consulates and add a fifth at Hyderabad in the next 18 months, Minister Counsellor and Consul General Peter G Kaestner said today.

Speaking at an Interactive Session on US visa services organised by the Bangalore Chamber of Industry and Commerce here, he said major expansion work was in progress in Mumbai, New Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai offices.

In Mumbai, a new complex was coming up at a cost of 100 million US Dollar while consulate positions were being increased in all its offices.

''Our Hyderabad Consulate would open during this year as promised by US President George W Bush during his visit to Hyderabad in 2006,'' he said.

The Andhra Pradesh Government had given on lease the Piagah Palace in Hyderabad and the renovation work, taken up at a cost of seven million USD, was in progress. The new consulate would have a headcount of 46, he said.

Mr Kaestner said the US decided to open a new consulate in Hyderabad in the wake of 9/11 terror strikes.

''Our intention is to check visa frauds which is high in Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and Gujarat. We want to take a closer scrutiny of the people seeking visa from Hyderabad,'' he said.

He said the main focus of the US, while issuing visas, was to ensure secured boundaries, open door policy and vigilance against visa frauds.

''We are open to people visiting the US but all will have to undergo security checks which will be of the high order,'' he said.

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