National / Crime & Legal

Gay American married to Japanese national sues government for long-term visa

Kyodo

An American man who married his same-sex Japanese partner in the United States sued the central government Thursday, demanding it grant him long-term resident status.

American Andrew High and his Japanese partner, Kohei, who withheld his family name, live together in Tokyo and are also seeking ¥11 million ($102,000) in damages in the suit filed with the Tokyo District Court, claiming the government’s repeated denial of a long-term visa has impinged on the couple’s freedom to live as a family.

Long-term resident status, granted by the justice minister in consideration of special circumstances, has a maximum designated term of five years.

“It would be discriminatory if my two clients cannot live together in Japan, while a foreigner who marries a Japanese person of the opposite sex can acquire (long-term) resident status,” said Masako Suzuki, the plaintiffs’ lawyer.

According to the suit, the couple have been together for around 15 years and were married in 2015 following the legalization of same-sex marriage by the U.S. Supreme Court across all 50 states. Such unions are not legally recognized in Japan.

High has applied unsuccessfully for a long-term resident visa five times since 2018. He currently resides in Japan on a temporary visa and says he could face deportation if the Japanese government refuses to renew it.

The Immigration Services Agency, which falls under the Justice Ministry, said it will respond appropriately after examining the details of the suit.

Earlier this year, a Taiwanese man became the first foreign gay partner of a Japanese citizen to be granted special resident status by the Justice Ministry, following the revocation of a deportation order for overstaying his visa.