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I'm asking this on behalf of a good friend, who is a retired English army officer.

He has been married to a Japanese woman for 15 years, and they have a 14-year-old son.

He has for many years been trying (without success) to get UK residency for his wife. It is of critical importance, as his health is failing, and if he were to die soon the child and wife would have to return to Japan. He is keen that the child complete his education in England.

The problem is that there is a condition: one may only get UK residency for a foreign spouse if one is earning above a threshold level; I believe it is around £20k p/a. and this man is retired; he is living off his savings and army pension.

Currently the wife has to to commute between Japan and England every six months (a tourist Visa lasts six months and can only be used for six months of any year).

Is anyone aware of a way through this awkward situation?

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    It is possible to use a combination of pension income and savings (over a certain baseline amount). if you can find out what his pension income is and how much he has in savings you could work out how short he was in savings; if it might then be possible to increase his savings amount somehow (e.g. by transferring some money from her account) then all could be well. – topo Reinstate Monica Oct 10 '14 at 12:02
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Because of the old age of your friend it is possibly not be the best option, but people in similar situation try to take the Surinder Singh route. Here they first emigrate to another EU country (like Ireland, Germany or France), where the partner can join them. After residing there for 6 months (so they can no longer be considered a UK resident) they can come back to the UK. When returning they are now considered an EEA citizen, and EEA immigration laws will apply to them and not UK laws, which are much more relaxed.

You can read about how to enable this option at this question.

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You can apply for an exemption to the income requirement rule. It is best to get some legal help with this but it can be done on your own just by asking. They are required to consider the exemption and can't simply dismiss it out of hand. Retirement is a good reason to ask for an exemption since clearly is a special case and hopefully he can demonstrate that he is capable of providing for his wife and son on his pension.

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