Talented student has to leave US

Visa blunder stymies dream career

Last updated 13:00 07/01/2014
 Dominic Channon
FRUSTRATED: Dominic Channon cannot get back into the US.

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Temporary exile from the United States has halted dreams of a career in international athletics and action-sport photography for Dominic Channon.

By quirk of complex visa requirements, the 24 year-old has found himself back in Nelson, starting from scratch, having graduated as a scholarship student from Providence College and recently scoring a job in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

It was a dream run on the way to fulfilling ambitions of a career in extreme-sport photography, after a full-on attempt at making it into the league of international athletics.

Mr Channon, who grew up in Nelson, has recently completed a five-year athletics scholarship in Rhode Island. The former New Zealand under-20 cross country champion and 3000m record holder at age 18 has had gradual performance improvements in the US, including most recently a second in the 10,000m event at a track and field championship event in New Jersey.

Mr Channon graduated in May this year and applied to extend his US visa by way of Optional Practise Training - a 12-month work permit which allowed him to work within his field of study which included photography, studio art and art history.

He had just scored a job in a camera and printing store in the heart of US extreme skiing, ice climbing and kayaking in Jackson Hole, and his American girlfriend, Emma Perron, had also found a job there, when a family bereavement called him to his mother's family in the United Kingdom.

"We wanted to move because we wanted to lead more of an outdoor lifestyle. Emma moved to Jackson Hole in April and I moved in mid June as I was still studying and running."

At short notice Mr Channon arranged to go to the UK, checked with the international department of the college he is an affiliate of, which advised him of the documentation he would need.

However, when Mr Channon tried boarding the aircraft for the return flight home that he was made aware he was missing documentation, despite his efforts before leaving the US to have it all in hand.

"I went to board at Heathrow for the flight to Salt Lake City, and they wouldn't let me on the plane."

He said it was devastating to realise he would not be going back to the US. His girlfriend and all his possessions, including sophisticated photography equipment, were out of reach in Wyoming.

"The hardest thing for me was was that I was so excited to have moved to Wyoming, which we did on a whim, and it was taken away in a second.

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"I called Emma and she was devastated. She had just accepted a job in Jackson Hole that she too was excited about. I felt we were on the brink of a breakthrough, akin to qualifying for the Olympics."

Mr Channon then spent two weeks in the UK figuring out what to do next, including an option of going to Europe where his father is based. Because he holds a British passport he is able to work in the European Union, but decided to come back to New Zealand and "start from scratch".

Ms Perron, also a top-level athlete from Connecticut who met Mr Channon at college, has made the decision to come here, too, on a working visa. The pair is thinking about moving to Wanaka to continue the dream they started in Wyoming.

Mr Channon has not given up his athletics dream, but is beginning to realise that other things can fulfil his ambitions equally.

"My running is not over yet, but I put so much into it. I have made every life decision around it over the last eight years, but in the last six months I've had my eyes opened to a new world."

- © Fairfax NZ News


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