Plans to introduce immigration changes for Britons before the handover were thrown into chaos yesterday as legislators refused to meet an April 1 deadline. The Government was unable to say whether it would proceed with the cut-off date beyond which British nationals will have to apply for work visas. Legislators threw its timetable into jeopardy, by deferring for a week, their scrutiny of amendments withdrawing the 'right to land' status for Britons who have lived in Hong Kong for more than seven years. Security Branch spokesman Mary Leung Lai Yim-ming said enacting the legislative amendments before the deadline was impossible. British Chamber of Commerce executive director Christopher Hammerbeck said he was concerned about widening confusion over the issue. Officials had planned to introduce the amendments and administrative changes removing Britons' visa-free privileges, which do not need Legislative Council approval, at the beginning of next month. Ms Leung said it was unclear, in light of the delay, if the visa requirements would be introduced on April 1 as planned. Proposals to remove the 'right to land' condition for Britons and replace it with 'unconditional stay' status have met with strong opposition from expatriates and legislators. Both provide rights to work and residency but the latter category has been viewed as not providing as much permanency and protection against deportation as the 'right to land'. Mr Hammerbeck said it would be better to unlink the issues of residency and visas and press ahead with changing visa conditions from April 1. 'It is important that we have a degree of certainty,' he said. Mr Hammerbeck said Britons who had lived in Hong Kong long enough to gain the 'right to land' and felt they had contributed to the community were anxious about the changes to their status. Altering residency status could be resolved at another time because it was related to the right of abode issue under discussion in the Joint Liaison Group, he said. Immigration officials have been briefing big companies about the changes which will require British nationals, who have been in the territory for less than seven years and are currently working, to apply for work visas. The British Chamber of Commerce is also arranging a meeting for representatives of small and medium-sized firms.