UK marriage visa rules 'must change' after Derbyshire couple forced to live apart

Sarah Mason Smith and Brent Smith Image copyright Bonbon Photography
Image caption Sarah Mason Smith and Brent Smith are forced to live thousands of miles apart because of UK visa rules, despite both being in work.

A solicitor has said rules on UK marriage visas need to be more flexible after a couple who both work have been forced to live apart.

Sarah Mason Smith from Derbyshire does not earn enough to meet the £18,600 threshold to allow her American husband to live in the UK.

Brent Smith's income alone more than meets the threshold and, they say, he could work remotely in the UK.

The BBC asked the Home Office for a comment but it has not responded.

'Hands tied'

The government brought in new rules in July 2012 which meant only British citizens who earn an £18,600-a-year salary for six months can sponsor their non-European spouse's visa.

The couple, both 28, married in August but Mr Smith returned to Kansas on Sunday before his marriage visitor visa expired.

Ms Mason Smith, a graduate who works as a support worker for an autism charity, said she may have to find a new career so her husband can live with her in Idridgehay.

"I feel like may hands are tied. I'm doing a job that benefits society. I feel like I'm doing my bit but my husband can't be here living with me."

She said they planned the wedding before they knew the technicalities of the law and had planned to live in the UK afterwards.

Mr Smith said: "Even if she found a new job tomorrow it would be eight or nine months before we could be together, apart from a holiday."

'Too rigid'

The couple's immigration solicitor Rachel Harvey said Mr Smith could do his £20,000-a-year job as a social media manager remotely in the UK.

"There's nothing to stop the government being more flexible," she said.

"The specified evidence requirement is so rigid that you cannot take anyone else's finances into account from overseas.

"I've had extremely high-earning individuals of foreign nationality who can do their jobs from here and they cannot count their salaries. That's the hardest thing to explain to clients."

The Home Office was asked for a comment but did not respond.

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