Amber Aguilar and her husband, Diego, have moved to Chile
The first year of a young couple's marriage has been made miserable by a "rigid and inflexible" immigration policy, the High Court has heard.
Amber Aguilar, 18, of north London, had to choose between career ambitions in the UK or life in Chile with her Chilean husband - she chose the latter.
The High Court must now rule whether the government has violated their human rights by refusing her husband a visa.
Government lawyers say the policy is designed to combat forced marriages.
They are defending their continued refusal of a visa for 19-year-old Diego Aguilar saying it was not "disproportionate" to require couples to live abroad for a period.
The couple met in 2006 and married two years later, the court heard.
In the past, once a wife reached 18, she was entitled to apply to have her husband live with her in the UK.
But five days after their wedding, the rules changed.
Now both partners in a marriage must be 21 before a visa can be issued to a foreign national.
The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), which has brought this test case, said the government's inflexibility was "tearing families apart".
They argue by refusing Diego a visa, the government has violated the couple's right to family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The JCWI said Amber and her husband Diego were sharing a single bed in a cramped home in Santiago, where they were unable to find jobs and there was no welfare system.
Christopher Jacobs, representing the couple, said there were being penalised because of an "irrational and unreasonable" refusal by the home secretary to allow exceptions to the rule in cases where marriages plainly were not forced marriages.
He said Amber had been forced to put her ambitions to become a modern languages teacher on hold as the appropriate university courses were not offered in Chile.
"It is unreasonable for the secretary of state to adopt this blanket, rigid and inflexible approach where the claimant has demonstrated the marriage is miles away from a forced marriage," he told the court.
Angus McCullough, appearing for the home secretary, argued the decision against Diego did not amount to an interference with the couple's human rights and the application for judicial review should be refused.
The hearing continues.