By the end of the year, Belgium may open its consulate general in Chennai.

Speaking at the opening of the visa application centre in Chennai, Karl Van den Bossche, consul general of Belgium in Mumbai, said, “At a time when we are closing down 10 embassies across the world, we plan to open one in Chennai. This is a big decision for us at a time when we are facing budgetary constraints and economic crisis.”

Nearly 30 percent of their visa applications come from southern India and Chennai is considered the best option to set up a consulate general as it is an industrial hub with a port, and automotive and pharmaceutical industries.

“Opening of this Visa Application Centre means that we bring the services we can offer closer to you. Having a centre here means applications can be submitted here. They will be sent to Mumbai and processed in 24 hours,” he said.

Last year alone, the Belgian consulate received over 34,000 visa applications from travellers in the southern and western regions of the country.

On the challenge of handling fake documents, Vishal Jairath, regional head, South Asia, VFS Global, an outsourcing and technology specialist for diplomatic missions and government, said they had specialised staff to scrutinise and verify these documents.

A business delegation headed by Prince Philippe, crown prince of Belgium, will visit Chennai, Mumbai and New Delhi in November.

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