After a Long Wait, Translator’s Special Immigrant Visa Finally Approved


By Debbie Gregory.

For Iraqis and Afghans, working with the U.S. military in the Middle East carried great risks. Mahmood, who is going by his first name for his protection, is one of more than 23,000 Iraqi and Afghan people who worked with American Forces, and then immigrated to the United States.

Their work as translators or other supporting roles earned them special immigrant visas for themselves and their families.

Mahmood has been mired in the dangerous process of applying for the visa for more than two years. But on April 6, 2017, Mahmood found out that his application had been approved.

“It was the best day of my life,” said Mahmood, but he is still treading very carefully; his family in Iraq is still at risk.

With his parents’ encouragement, in 2008 Mahmood got a job in the laundry department on a U.S. military base in the Kirkuk province.

As Mahmood’s language skills improved, Army Col. Mark Leahey encouraged him to become a military translator, a job that would allow him to apply for a special immigrant visa.

Mahmood became a tactical translator first in the Kirkuk province, then in Diyala province.  He lived on an American base and translated reports about attacks.

When the United States began drawing down its forces in Iraq, Mahmood moved back to his family home and worked on finishing his degree.

And, he waited. Finally, his application was approved, and within two months, Mahmood landed in Washington, D.C. He stayed with Leahey at his home in New Hampshire, and eventually settled in Portland.

He hopes to become a teacher.

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