THE Home Office has dismissed an MP’s plea to allow an American couple living in the Highlands leave to remain while they continue their fight for permanent resident status.

Russell and Ellen Felber, below, arrived in Scotland almost six years ago and have invested almost £400,000 turning the Torridon Guest House in Inverness into an award-winning establishment.

Their original three-year entrepreneur visa was extended for a further two, but when they applied to become permanent residents, the Home Office rejected their applic-ation in a “notice to quit” that was delivered along with a batch of Christmas cards.

Drew Hendry, their MP, wrote to Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill, expressing his shock at the Felbers being given 30 days to leave the UK, and calling for a meeting to discuss the case.

However, the Home Office rejected his request and refused to budge on the notice to quit.

The National:

Hendry, the SNP member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, said the rejection was putting undue stress on Ellen, who has already been hospitalised several times through their visa trial.

“To put this letter out at Christmas, when everybody knows nothing can be done until January, is extremely stressful for Russell and Ellen,” he said.

He and the family’s lawyer are now considering both legal and political moves to keep them in the country.

The latest development came as the SNP launched an attack on the Tory Government’s “obsession with draconian immigration rules”, which has resulted in many families having to spend the festive season apart.

Changes to income threshold requirements mean any UK citizen (or settled person) wishing to sponsor a spouse to live with them here must earn a minimum of £18,600 – more when children are involved – which must be met entirely by the UK citizen. This is up from a previous threshold of £5,500 which included a spouse’s prospective earnings.

The SNP said the changes have had a disproportionately negative impact on people in Scotland, as 41 per cent of UK citizens here do not earn enough to sponsor a spouse, and 53 per cent do not earn enough to sponsor a spouse and child. This compares to 27 per cent and 34 per cent respectively in London.

Stuart McDonald, the party’s spokesman on Immigration, Asylum and Border Control, said: “The new Tory immigration rules are unreasonable and are having a disproportionately negative impact on people in Scotland.

“The evidence shows the one-size-fits-all rules make no sense. People who could be united with their loved ones, who would make a valued contribution to society and a valuable contribution to the economy, are instead being excluded to the detriment of the country. Added to this, thousands of children across the UK face the intolerable situation where their main contact with their stranded parent is through Skype.

“Instead of obsessing over damaging and arbitrary targets, and adding to the hostile environment that is turning skilled migrants away, the UK Government should reform the immigration system so it meets Scotland’s needs and makes the most of the huge economic and social benefits that migrants bring.”

Chai Patel, from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, added: “We live in a world where it is more possible than ever to travel and to communicate across borders and it is natural for people to meet and fall in love and to have children.

“What is cruel and unnatural, is a government policy that separates British citizens and British children from their parents and loved ones based on an arbitrary income threshold that many cannot meet.”

Among couples affected by the ruling is Paul McMillan, a medical student living in Glasgow, whose partner Megan Richter is a qualified social worker in the US. She wants to move to Scotland to be with him and help improve the lives of Scots as a social worker.

Under the rules that do not allow prospective earnings of the foreign spouse to be considered McMillan is unable to bring his partner to the UK and believes he will be forced to leave when he graduates.

He said: “If these xenophobic immigration rules are not reversed, and if the Conservative Government does not build a skilled migrant and family-friendly immigration system allowing my partner to join me in the UK, then I will leave immediately upon graduation and in doing so walk away from the NHS.”

Catherine Khadijah Owoyomi, of Royston, Glasgow, is married to Nigerian national Khalid Owoyomi, but does not earn enough to meet the threshold to sponsor her spouse and has to travel abroad just to see him.

She is also now the primary carer for her parents since her father was diagnosed with leukaemia, and has had to cut her working hours as a result. This means she has little hope of meeting the restrictive threshold and being permanently reunited with her husband.

“Since marrying, Khalid I have been fighting an uphill battle with the UK Government so that my husband can come and live here with me,”

she said. “I love my country and I do not want to leave Scotland but as the current rules stand I may have no choice but to migrate to another country just so I can have a normal family life with my husband.

“I feel like my life is currently on hold while I battle to get him a visa.”