A Canadian family who are being deported from their Highlands home where they founded a thriving cafe business have criticised the Home Office’s “one size fits all” policy for immigration.
The Zielsdorf family, who are set to be deported from their home in Laggan in a taxi after the authorities removed their driving licences, said stringent rules which require entrepreneurs to employ two full time staff to meet visa requirements does not take into account running a business in remote, rural areas.
A total of 67 local people have written to the Home Office to back their request to remain, but authorities have said they will be removed in just two weeks - on 4 May.
Jason Zielsdorf, who moved to Scotland from Calgary with his wife Christy and four of their five children to “find their roots” nine years ago, said the family were “heart torn” at their imminent departure. Their youngest son, Kiernach, six, was born in Scotland.
“Our youngest son was born here and has only visited Canada once on holiday, so this is all he knows,” said Mr Zielsdorf. “They are all heart torn that we have to leave. We are a strong family, but I think when we get back to Canada, there is going to be some repairing to do.”
The family, who have run a successful cafe, shop and holiday let business in the remote village in the Cairngorms National Park, initially lived in Scotland on a student visa while MrZielsdorf completed a Masters degree at St Andrews University. They stayed in Scotland on a post-study work visa and later applied for an entrepreneur visa, which would allow them to live in the UK for three years, with the possibility of a two year extension if they completed certain criteria.
However, their attempts to renew the visa were rejected in 2015 and they have since been trying to fight the decision - and sell the business, in which they have invested £300,000.
Mr Zielsdorf added: “It doesn't make a lot of sense to have a one size fits all policy in the UK when it is not a one size fits all nation."
Local MP Drew Hendry said: “It is devastating that despite every possible effort, they have been forced from their home, their friends and a place that they have long called home.
“I know they will be missed dearly and I share the community’s anger that this Governments draconian immigration policy has defied logic, to push out a family who have brought so much to their village.”
The case comes less than a year after the Brain family from Australia were allowed to remain in their Highlands home just days before they were due to be deported after winning a battle with the Home Office.
A Home Office spokesman said: “All visa applications are carefully considered on their individual merits, in line with the UK immigration rules and based on evidence provided by the applicant.”
The business, which was the location of McKechnie’s shop in the BBC TV series Monarch of the Glen before the Zielsdorfs took it over, is currently up for sale for the reduced price of £275,000.