British student Stacey Gough and her Japanese boyfriend, Yoshihiro Ki, have decided to marry and get a spouse visa in Japan because they say the income requirement for having foreign partners is less stringent than in Britain.

“Why is it moral to tear people apart based on income?” asked Gough, 24, lamenting the hardship facing international couples seeking to live together in Britain.

New regulations are making it virtually impossible for some British citizens to obtain visas for their foreign partners to live and work in the country, campaigners say.

Since July 2012, any British citizen must be earning a minimum of £18,600 (¥2.93 million) per year to obtain a visa for a partner from outside the European Economic Area, which consists of 28 European Union member states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

The new requirement, which is designed to ensure migrants are unable to apply for income-related British state benefits, has affected many people, particularly women and students.

Campaigners argue the new threshold does not take into account the potential earnings of the foreign partner, as well as such assets as property, and the couple’s expenses. Some applications have been rejected because the sponsor’s income is derived from sources not deemed permissible under the British Home Office’s complex set of rules.

Marianne Bailey falls into this category and has been unable to get a visa for her Japanese husband, Kei Yamamoto, who is facing the prospect of deportation. Bailey recently sent a report of case studies and a petition to the government.

“These new rules are the most draconian in the world. They are insulting to Japanese people. Japanese spouses have never been a burden on the British state,” she said in an interview.

Bailey’s report includes the case of a mother living in Japan who cannot return to Britain with her Japanese husband because she is working part-time. Rules also stipulate that those applying from overseas need to have been earning the minimum amount for a certain period of time, as well as having a job offer in Britain.

Several people have contacted Kyodo News to voice their concerns at the new visa regime.

Steven Cuthbert, 34, a teacher who lives in Saitama Prefecture, is trying to secure a visa for his Japanese wife and daughter to live in Britain while he studies for a doctorate. Under the new rules, the couple must have at least £62,500 (¥9.83 million) in savings, as Cuthbert will not be earning a salary in Britain.

However, he has found the process of providing evidence of savings extremely bureaucratic and has had to delay his move to Britain as a result.

“How dare they (the British government) attack my most fundamental human rights?” he said. “Most people aren’t aware that these rules exist until they try to go back to the United Kingdom with their spouses and families. The discovery that actually you can’t, then comes as a rather nasty surprise.”

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a man living in Yokohama with his Japanese wife and son said he will struggle to meet the income requirement and has taken on extra jobs to boost his prospects of returning home with his family.

The British government decided to introduce these new rules due to growing pressure to cut public spending and curb immigration. In July, the High Court said the minimum income requirement was “disproportionate,” giving hope to applicants who do not earn the £18,600 threshold that they could appeal against a refusal.

The Home Office is now appealing against this judgment to the Court of Appeal and, in the meantime, is putting on hold any spouse visa applications that have failed because they do not meet the minimum income limit.

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