Britain is expected to poach local Immigration Department officers handling sensitive citizenship and passport issues to work for its consulate after the handover. They will join a large section in the mission handling immigration. The move is expected to further drain the overstretched department, whose officers have built up expertise on schemes such as the granting of British nationality and passports to Hong Kong residents. Speculation is widespread in the department that some officers on the nationality and passport projects will be transferred to the consulate. Their employment by the British Government could avoid their coming under pressure as employees of the Special Administrative Region administration to divulge names of people who have obtained full British passports. British Government spokesman Bill Dickson said it was to start recruiting. He said: 'It is well known over there that we will be looking for people.' There could be interest from officers wanting to work for the consulate, which is under construction in Supreme Court Road. 'If there are people in the Immigration Department who want to join us, they would be welcome,' said Mr Dickson. Asked whether locals working for Britain could come under pressure, Mr Dickson said jobs advertised for the British Trade Commission attracted hundreds of applicants. The consulate will have to take over a number of the functions currently being handled by Kong Kong Immigration in the leadup to the handover, like the issuing visas and passports and dealing with nationality applications. Of an estimated 100 officers working on the projects, the source said 30 to 50 could end up in the consulate. Mr Dickson would not comment on the number of staff working at the mission. But there have been previous indications of an increase from 30 now at the British Trade Commission to 130 after the consulate takes over the work of the Immigration Department. High-ranking officers responsible for managing the department had not confirmed there would be a transfer of staff, a source said.