The Supreme Court has overturned a high court ruling that granted a Thai woman estranged from her Japanese husband the right to stay in Japan.
The ruling, issued Thursday, suggests that if the foreign spouse of a Japanese national wants to avoid deportation, the couple’s marriage must have a material base of tangible cohabitation, as well as a legal base.
Peancai Midchid, 43, whose Japanese husband left her for another woman in the early 1990s, had sued the government for refusing her a visa that would have allowed her to stay in Japan.
Peancai argued that it was illegal for the government to deny the renewal of her visa in April 1994 just because she is separated from her husband.
But the presiding justice, Masao Fujii, said, “Even when a foreigner is legally in a marital relationship with a Japanese, that person has not satisfied the requirements for legal stay if their relationship has lost the material base for leading a social life.”
Fujii said Peancai had lived separately from her husband for four years and eight months before she saw the renewal of her visa denied.
He also noted that her husband has two children with the woman he is currently with.
“The marital relationship has no prospect of being mended,” Fujii added, validating the immigration authority’s decision to deny the plaintiff a visa extension.
Peancai criticized the ruling, saying, “We’ve long been husband and wife, and I’ve been waiting for my husband to come back.
“Does the state have the right to freely tear apart a marital life forged through international marriage?”
Peancai’s lawyer said the ruling could have adverse consequences for any foreigner subjected to domestic violence at the hands of a Japanese spouse.
Foreigners in this category, the lawyer argued, could lose their right to remain in the country should they seek to protect themselves by fleeing their marital homes.
Peancai is not a victim of domestic violence.
The lawyer added that the plaintiff will apply for special permission to become a permanent resident of Japan.
According to earlier rulings, Peancai and the Japanese man married in Thailand in February 1988. Having come to Japan as the man’s spouse in April 1989, Peancai had her visa renewed every year until 1993.
The Osaka District Court rejected the plaintiff’s suit in December 1996 on the grounds that the marriage between the plaintiff and her husband had broken down.
In December 1998, the Osaka High Court acknowledged Peancai’s right to stay, stating that, “It goes against justice to be forced to leave the country because of the extramarital affair committed by the plaintiff’s husband.”
The government appealed the ruling.