A successful Sheffield start-up could be forced out of business after its owner was refused permission to stay in the country by the Home Office.
Entrepreneur Will Chew, aged 27, set up food business Mak Tok in 2017, selling authentic Malaysian chilli paste at markets and independent shops around Yorkshire.
But he has now been told he has just 14 days to leave after his application for a new visa was rejected – because he only has £46,000 in his bank account.
He must now decide whether to ask the Home Office for a review of its decision or reluctantly close his budding business and say goodbye to the life he has built here.
He said: “I always thought people would appreciate what I have built, but things just turn the other way round at times.
“If I have to leave it will mean saying goodbye to my friends and family and make my staff redundant. It would not be sustainable for me to run the business from somewhere else.
“I appreciate the Home Office are trying to keep the country safe but they should look at cases on a more personal basis. We are not numbers, we are human.”
After completing his University of Sheffield course, Will applied for a graduate entrepreneur visa in 2015, which was extended by another year in 2016.
But after trying to switch to a non-graduate entrepreneur visa in January 2018, five and a half months later his application was refused and he was given just two weeks to leave.
Will says he knew about the £50,000 criteria for the visa from the very beginning, but was under the impression that the money could be spread across both his personal and business accounts.
But the Home Office says only the money in his personal account can be taken into consideration, leaving him £4,000 short.
“To have reached it and for it not quite to be what they wanted it is a bit depressing,” he says.
“I never actually thought about running a business in Britain but the people around me have been so lovely and supportive and it has been going very well.
“But the Home Office don’t even give you the opportunity to appeal, my only option is to ask for a review which has very little chance of overturning the decision.”
Mak Tok currently employs seven people in total across two bases, one at the University of Sheffield’s Enterprise Centre on Portobello Street and one in Leeds.
“Everyone at the University and in the city have been great,” said Will.
“I don’t want to leave.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Mr Chew’s case is ongoing and it would therefore be inappropriate to comment.”