The proposed US consulate in Hyderabad will start operations in a makeshift location by early next year and is expected to have a permanent facility in five years time.
The US government has urged state officials to handover Paigah Palace by April so that work could begin to set up the consulate.
A 10-member delegation of US diplomats, led by Henrietta H. Fore, under secretary of state for management, US Department of State, went around the heritage structure Tuesday.
The delegation also called on Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy, who offered land for setting up a permanent facility. Reddy assured to provide a suitable site for a permanent building keeping in mind available infrastructure and the required security.
The state government has offered 10-acre sites near the Microsoft facility at Gacchibowli and near Wipro at Gopanpalli. US officials are expected to finalise one of these locations on the outskirts in the next couple of months and sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the state government.
US President George W. Bush, during his visit to Hyderabad in March 2006, had announced setting up a US consulate here. US officials have since visited the city several times to scout for possible locations for the facility.
Officials said the team led by Fore expressed satisfaction over the choice of Paigah Palace - a heritage structure that currently houses the office of the Hyderabad Urban Development Authority.
"The temporary facility in a good location will be enormously helpful in moving forward," she said. Fore hoped the US consulate would start issuing visas from early 2008.
The Paigah Palace was built in the European style in the 1880s during Nizam's rule. It has 20 spacious rooms and four huge halls with a high ceiling going up to 26 feet.
Fore said the permanent building would come up in the next five years on the site that was best suited. She thanked the chief minister for the support extended by the government for setting up the consulate.
Reddy said the consulate would be of immense help to a large number of students and professionals of Andhra Pradesh. Visa seekers from the state presently travel to Chennai, New Delhi or Mumbai for visa interviews.
Hyderabad was preferred for the fourth American consulate as about 40 percent of visas issued by the Chennai consulate are reported to be from Andhra Pradesh.