New US consulate offers quicker service

Updated: 2013-07-25 11:18

By Li Wenfang in Guangzhou (China Daily)

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 New US consulate offers quicker service

Chinese citizens line up to attend visa application interviews outside the US general consulate in Guangzhou on Wednesday. The new consulate building, the second US government facility built in China after the embassy in Beijing, was put into use on Tuesday. Zou Zhongpin / China Daily

Undiscouraged by heavy rain in the morning, visa applicants queued for about 50 meters under shelter outside the new US General Consulate in Guangzhou on Wednesday.

Three hundred applications were processed in the morning and more were expected in the afternoon, with another 200 done on Tuesday, the day the new facility opened, said Fareed Abdullah, a visa officer at the consulate.

With office space of 18,000 square meters, the $267 million consulate in the booming central-business district of Zhujiang New Town is the second US government facility built in China since the completion of the Beijing embassy in 2008, according to the consulate website.

Guangdong province, where Guangzhou is the capital, is the largest provincial economy in China and a manufacturing center for products ranging from iPhones to ceramics. If it were a country, the province would rank the 16th, after South Korea and ahead of Indonesia and the Netherlands.

Situated in a garden setting, the seven-building consulate includes a consular building, an office building, accommodation for a security force of US Marines, a warehouse with service shops and three entrance pavilions.

The centerpiece of the complex is a four-story office building featuring an interior "Great Hall" and 67 service windows for visa applicants and US citizens, 22 more than at the old site. There are 55 visa officers at the consulate, up from 29 two years ago, and the local staff size has been increased.

"The facilities were designed for flexibility for current and future use," the consulate's website states. "With the bilateral relationship between the US and China evolving so quickly and the demand for consular services growing at such unprecedented rates, the building is designed to adapt to these changes easily with minimal cost."

Abdullah said the new consulate is better designed for the comfort of visa applicants, and that since "US-China relations are so important", he expected applications to keep increasing. In 2012, 1.36 million non-immigration US visa applications were handled in China.

Abdullah said he expected many of those queuing for visa interviews on Wednesday, a majority of whom were young, planned to study in the US.

With all the service windows open on Wednesday, Zheng Yu from Foshan, another city in Guangdong province, received his student visa in just 30 minutes. He compared that to his experience of applying for a visa to study at a US high school three years earlier, and said the new site offered greater efficiency and a more relaxed environment. "There are quite a lot of windows and more staff," Zheng said.

(China Daily USA 07/25/2013 page1)