UK LAW firms based in Hong Kong are not unduly worried by the new immigration rules which will come into force in the run up to the colony's handover to China.

The Hong Kong government has announced that from 1 April the visa requirements for UK citizens will be brought into line with those of other foreign nationals working in Hong Kong.

The move will mean that UK lawyers will have to reveal special skills, experience or knowledge which are not readily available in Hong Kong, before they will be granted a visa.

But UK law firms in Hong Kong are denying that they will be hit by the loss of the special status of “resident British citizens” for their staff.

Edward Epstein, an Australian citizen and manager of the China practice group at Clifford Chance, said: “Getting a visa for foreign nationals is a formality.

“I'm not aware of any firm being unable to get the lawyer of its choice because of it.

“Brits currently in Hong Kong have plenty of time to make arrangements. And once a year they'll have to queue up to renew their visas like everyone else.”

David Lau, assistant commissioner of public affairs at the Hong Kong Government office in London, commented that even though the requirement for visas would be highly symbolic of the imminent handover of the province to China, the effect on UK citizens would be minor.

“Its simply a tidying up exercise to bring anomalies regarding British citizens into line with with the law for other foreign nationals before the handover,” he said.