AS British embassies closed their doors on Hong Kong visa applications yesterday, the Immigration Department was preparing to hand out its first SAR passports. Director of Immigration Regina Ip Lau Shuk-yee announced that application forms for the new travel documents would be released on June 9. Up to 4,000 people a day were expected to apply, but most requests would not be handled before the transfer of sovereignty. However, if someone urgently needed an SAR passport, their application would be considered in advance. After the handover, a new $160 million computer system will come on line and 300 officers now processing British passports will be transferred to cope with the surge. The British Trade Commission will be responsible for issuing British passports. The Finance Branch has earmarked a reserve pool of 262 general staff from government departments to be seconded if daily applications consistently pass 3,000. Meanwhile, British embassies, high commissions and consulates yesterday stopped accepting applications for Hong Kong visas. An Immigration Department spokesman said the move was necessary to ensure all visa applications for Hong Kong accepted by British posts could be processed before the handover. Foreign visitors wanting a visa should submit their applications directly to the Immigration Department by post or through a local sponsor. Nationals of more than 170 countries can currently visit the territory without visas.