US couple hopeful of U-turn on Inverness deportation

A lawyer has urged a judge to quash a Home Office decision to deport an American couple who run a B&B in Inverness.

Torridon guest house, which the Felbers run. Picture:

Advocate Alan Caskie told judge Lady Carmichael that the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, should have allowed Russell and Ellen Felber, from New York, to remain at their home in Inverness where they have invested more than £300,000 in the Scottish economy.

The Court of Session heard that the couple originally came to Scotland in 2011 on an entrepreneur visa. The Felbers moved to the Highlands and spent hundreds of thousands of pounds renovating a guest house in the city, which has attracted rave reviews and awards.

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However, the court heard that the Home Secretary decided not to grant them indefinite leave to remain in the UK last year.

Ms Rudd made the decision after applying rules which were made in 2014 regarding the numbers of employees that people on entrepreneur visas had to apply.

The new rules were made following a decision to extend the Felbers’ visas.

The court heard that the couple had followed the requirements set out in the old rules dictating entrepreneur visas.

Mr Caskie argued that the Home Secretary shouldn’t have applied the new 2014 rules when considering the application made by the Felbers to indefinitely remain in the UK.

He told the court that the system was “unfair” and complicated.

Urging Lady Carmichael to quash the decision made by Amber Rudd not to grant the Felbers indefinite leave to remain, Mr Caskie argued: “The system is Byzantine.”

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The Felbers spent £300,000 buying the award-winning Torridon guest house in the town in 2011.

They are thought to have invested another £100,000 renovating the property.

The couple have become well-loved members of the community in Inverness - Mrs Felber has became an active member of Inverness Cathedral’s bell-ringing club and she was also taking Gaelic lessons.

However, in December 2016, Russell, 59, and Ellen, 53, received a letter from from the Home Office telling them they had 30 days to leave the United Kingdom.

The Felbers came to Scotland in 2011 on a three-year visa which was extended by another two years.

The couple were advised that as part of their Visa into the UK, the government required them to either employ two full time employees for 12 months or one employee for 24 months.

The Felbers chose to employ a person for 24 months and were granted a two-year extension to their original three year Visa.

However, when the couple applied for leave to remain in the United Kingdom in early 2016, the Home Office refused to grant the application.

The Home Office argued that the couple needed to have employed more people during their time in the UK to be eligible for indefinite leave to remain.

The court heard that the Home Office changed the rules on the numbers of employees that business people on entrepreneur Visas in November 2014.

These new rules were devised after a decision had been made to extend the Felbers’ visas.

Mr Caskie argued that it was unfair for Ms Rudd to make a decision using the new 2014 rules when his clients had acted in accordance with their VISA requirements.

He told the court: “This is a case where the application of common sense and discretion should be applied.”

Chris Pirie, the advocate representing the Home Office, argued that Ms Rudd hadn’t broken the law when deciding the Felber case.

He urged Lady Carmichael not to quash the Home Secretary’s decision.

Lady Carmichael told the lawyers that she would issue her decision in a written judgement in the near future.