Returning UK citizens face challenges


British PM invited to explain “unfair” policy to British expats in Japan at G7

British residents of Japan moving back to their home country with a Japanese spouse or children face problems. Rules introduced by the Cameron government in the past few years that apply to non-EU family members require proof of a legally constituted and recognized enduring marriage, and proof that a suitable UK residence is available.

Additionally, it is necessary that the family of the UK citizen wanting to return with his or her family either has a job earning more annually than £18,600 for a couple, £22,400 for a couple and a child, and £2,400 for each additional child (USD, $26,500, $31,750 and $3,500). This is significantly more than the average annual income of UK residents, and it is unlikely that any language teacher in Japan, for example,can guarantee such income before returning to the UK.

There is, however, an alternative, that demands savings as liquid assets, which have been held for more than six months, of over £62,500 ($88,500) for a couple if no income is available (the amount increases if there are children). Furthermore, the visa thus granted is for a mere 30 months, and costs £1000, in addition to a £500 health charge, after reapplication must be made for another 30 months. After five years, it is possible to apply for indefinite leave to remain.

These rules are applied strictly and seemingly without exception. However, most UK residents are unaware of these restrictions, and assume that the wife, husband, or child of a UK citizen has automatic right of residence, as is the case in many countries, and indeed is the case in the UK for EU citizens.

The official reasoning is that the UK government does not wish to spend money on social welfare payments to those it feels are undeserving of welfare (i.e., non-EU wives, husbands or children of British citizens who for whatever reason cannot meet the financial requirements). It was estimated that nearly 18,000 families per year are broken up by this ruling, which was at one time deemed to be in violation of human rights by a British court (overturned on appeal). A British journalist working in Japan said that he has met many British residents of Japan who have been unable to return back to the UK with their families to care for ageing relatives in their own country.

A petition at asks the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, to meet some British residents when he visits the country for the G7 summit, and give reasons why this approach has been adopted, which stands in strong contrast to the Japanese regulations, which grant almost automatic right of residence to those married to or children of Japanese citizens.

The petition attracted approximately 200 signatures in the first three days, and some of the comments show the attitude of British residents of Japan and their relatives “back home”: “An inhumane law”, “infringes on human rights”, “determined to alienate expats”, “iniquitous”, “unfair”, “a disgrace”, “nonsensical”, “bloody disgrace”, “a real insult”, “basically unfair”, “just plain wrong and unfair”, “unfair and racist”, “extremely unreasonable”, “the law is a joke”, “a nightmare”, “frustrating, disappointing and demeaning”, “treating Japanese nationals as unworthy is itself unworthy” – a few phrases picked at random from the latest comments.

It remains to be seen whether Mr. Cameron will accept the invitation to explain himself.

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