Singapore is set to allow visa-free entry for Special Administrative Region passport holders, becoming only the second country to declare easy access for Hong Kong people after 1997. And South Africa is likely to follow the lead set by the United Kingdom as a Commonwealth member in not requiring Hong Kong people to apply in advance for visas when travelling with the blue-covered SAR passports. But Pretoria's final position will depend on China allowing it to maintain a consular presence in Hong Kong after 1997, an issue currently being hammered out in talks over South Africa's official recognition of Taiwan. It remains optimistic of maintaining a continuing presence here, said Consul-in-Charge Martin Malan. The main motivation of those queuing to become eligible for the British-backed passports was the ease of travel they provided, said an Immigration Department spokesman. Eighty nations offer visa-free access to British National (Overseas) (BNO) passport holders while only the UK and Singapore have so far indicated the same privilege would apply for those travelling with the SAR document. Diplomatic sources also blamed the rush on travellers wanting to secure a document for easy travel because it was expected to take a few years to issue an expected 5.5 million SAR passports. Travel with the stateless Certificate of Identity, which has to be used by those without BNO documents, is more difficult as visas are required for them. Legislative Council security panel chairman James To Kun-sun said it was too early to tell whether the British document would provide easier entry to other countries than the SAR as China and Britain were lobbying for its acceptance. 'It's like a race. The BNO is leading but the SAR is catching. I won't say which will be the winner,' he said. Diplomatic sources said some Hong Kong people might seek to use visa-free access should problems arise during the transition period to travel to another country and apply for permanent status there. Singapore Commissioner See Chak Mun said there were no plans to change requirements for Hong Kong people, who are generally allowed visa-free entry. Its liberal requirements for SAR residents differ from the attitude towards travellers from the People's Republic of China who are required to obtain visas. People from Middle East countries and India are among the few nations who are required to lodge applications in advance. Immigration consultant Christina Yao Wai said applying for passports from other countries such as Canada took up to three years of residency while the BNOP was easier to get. 'If they want a passport fast, it's going to be quicker,' she said.