The American Consulate in Mumbai unveiled its upcoming Consulate building located in the heart of the Bandra Kurla Complex in a “topping off” ceremony today. In keeping with a Scandinavian tradition, where a tree is placed on top of a new building, the ceremony is inherent to western cultures across America and Europe.
The building is spread across an area of eighteen thousand square meters (roughly about ten acres) with nine buildings and plenty of open space. Visa services in Mumbai will witness a marked change in terms of efficiency of processing applications and applicants’ comfort with the inauguration of the building. “There will be no more waiting in the sun as there will be a special entrance only for visa applicants,” said Consul General Michael S Owen.
While at present, the consulate processes about 1300 to 1400 visa applications daily, the numbers are likely to shoot up to about two thousand daily. “This year we have already created a record when we processed fifteen hundred applications on one day and the numbers are going up daily,” said Owen.
The main structure of the consulate premise, of which the frame is ready, will have thirty-six interview windows as compared to just fifteen in the old premises. Also there will be two types of seating areas for the applicants. “With this enhancement, the American Consulate would be able to serve western Indian citizens in a much more efficient manner,” added Owen.
The project was first conceptualized in 2003 when a team from Washington arrived to zero in on the venue. At a cost of eighty two million dollars, the new premise stands as the largest Consulate structure in India and amongst the larger ones from around the world. While Lincoln House (formerly Wankaner House) on Bhulabhai Desai road employs about fewer than fifty Americans and a hundred and seventy to a hundred and eighty Indians, the new structure in BKC is expected to take that number between two hundred to three hundred Indians and between sixty to seventy Americans.
With the shifting of the Consulate building, the American Center library will also be shifted to the Bandra Kurla premises. Also an auditorium and ample open air space is planned for regular cultural events. “With more that three-fourth of the population now living in the suburbs and primarily the western suburbs, it’s a good idea to shift the American consulate to the Bandra Kurla Complex,” said Municipal Commissioner Jairaj Phatak, the ceremony’s chief guest.
But what happens to Lincoln house where the Consulate celebrated its golden jubilee this January? “We are still debating on that that. Perhaps we would want to make it a cultural center or something,” said Owen.