A “RUTHLESSLY dogmatic” Home Office is today accused of inflicting “personal anguish” on an American couple who have made their home in the Highlands, after they received a notice to quit the country along with a pile of Christmas cards.

SNP MP Drew Hendry was speaking to The National after two of his constituents, Russell and Ellen Felber, who are originally from New York, were told they had 30 days to leave the UK and the Inverness guest house in which they have invested £400,000.

He said Ellen had been hospitalised several times through stress caused by their battle with the Home Office, and was currently in hospital again following their latest communication.

Hendry, the MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, said: “This is yet another case where a couple, working hard, being successful and adding to our community and local economy are being forced out of the Highlands by a ruthlessly dogmatic Home Office.

“To see yet another case of folk valued and welcomed by their neighbours being treated so heartlessly is just another signal of the UK government’s manifest lack of understanding of the Highlands and its people.”

The Felbers came to Scotland almost six years ago and settled in Inverness, where they bought and refurbished the Torridon Guest House and turned it into an award-winning establishment that regularly attracts five-star reviews on travel websites.

Russell, 59, told The National they arrived here on an entrepreneur visa and bought the house, which had previously been used as student accommodation.

“It was a five-year entrepreneur visa – we had the initial visa for three years and extended it for a further two years,” he said.

“Then around February/March we applied for leave to remain so we could become permanent residents. We met all the requirements, but what they’re telling us is that it’s an employment thing.

“Under the application terms, we had to employ two people full time for 12 months, but we actually employed one person for 24 months and were told it was OK to do it that way. We had to meet that requirement to get the extension.

“Then we did the ‘life in the UK’ test with the business still running and when we applied for permanent residence, they said we’re supposed to have four employees for 12 months each.

“But we can’t find that requirement in any part of the visa papers.”

Russell said they saw an immigration lawyer who sent their paperwork back to the visa office almost six months ago, but the notice to quit arrived in their weekend mail.

“We got the notice of removal on Friday – the week before Christmas,” he said. “My wife got very stressed and off we went to the hospital again and that’s where she is now. She can’t understand what went wrong with the application.

“We have all these papers and application forms stating that we must create an aggregate of at least two full-time posts for at least 12 months each – and this is on the final application of the indefinite leave to remain form.”

Russell added: “We’ve invested almost £400,000 in the guest house and we’ve paid £7,000 in fees over the five years. We’re paying our taxes and National Insurance, we’re not taking any public money and are contributing to the local economy.

“If you look at TripAdvisor and Booking.com reviews you can see how well the business is doing – we are regularly given four and five-star reviews, our ratings are very high.

“My wife is in hospital just now, but she’s in tears and can’t understand what’s happening. We don’t know when she’ll get home.”

Ellen is a keen bell-ringer at Inverness Cathedral and has also excelled at learning Gaelic, said Russell, but she was having difficulty concentrating on anything at the moment.

Hendry added: “The stress and personal anguish inflicted on Russell and, especially Ellen, is devastating.

“We have, as in other cases, sought to work behind the scenes to seek sense but these approaches have been swept aside by what can only be described as the brutal ‘notice to remove’ delivered amongst the Christmas cards from the Felbers’ friends and neighbours.”

The Home Office said: "We do not routinely comment on individual cases. All applications are carefully considered on their individual merits, in line with the UK immigration rules and based on evidence provided by the applicant."