People holding overseas passports have virtually given up declaring foreign nationality. Only 283 people have registered this year with the Immigration Department as part of the process which involves cancelling their Chinese nationality in favour of their adopted home. It entitles them to consular help from diplomats if they get into trouble with Hong Kong or Chinese authorities. The low application rate for the first eight months of 1998 compares with 1,434 who cancelled their Chinese nationality in the first month after the handover. Some 2,281 foreign passport holders registered their overseas nationality in the last six months of the year. The low turnout comes despite a reported increase in migrants returning to Hong Kong in search of jobs, cheaper housing and better money-making opportunities. It also defies the advice of Western consulates to register to ensure they could receive consular assistance. Canada, Australia and the United States told their passport holders with Chinese backgrounds that by registering they could avoid being labelled as Chinese citizens. Diplomats said it showed the smooth transition had soothed concerns among returning migrants that they were unlikely to get into trouble with the law or need help from a foreign government. But they have also warned Hong Kong Chinese could be afraid of registering their foreign nationality in case the information is used to accuse them of being 'unpatriotic'. Some foreign passport holders professed to wanting to remain Chinese citizens so they could continue using mainland-issued travel documents allowing them to cross the border without applying for visas as foreigners. Migrants in Hong Kong with foreign passports can declare their foreign citizenship or do nothing. Residents of Chinese descent will be regarded as Chinese citizens, without the right of consular protection, unless they make the declaration.