Mohammed “Jay” Younus Yousafzoy started translating for American military forces stationed in Afghanistan in 2011, at the age of 17.
Two years later, U.S. Marine Mike Hudson hired him.
And he said it became one of the most important relationships of his life.
Yousafzoy, now 24, reportedly arrived in the United States last Wednesday with the help of a special class of visa made available to interpreters and others like him who assisted the U.S. military.
Hudson said he will be living and his family in their suburban Houston home as he acclimates to American life.
“When I saw him, I thought ‘I have a family now. I don’t have to worry,” Yousafzoy said in an interview describing the moment he stepped off the plane and saw his old boss.
However, he said not everyone gets as lucky as Yousafzoy did:
Since being approved in 2009, the special visa he used to come to the U.S. comes with up a considerable wait time.
According to the Houston Chronicle, a special immigrant visa takes 900 days on average to process.
And, for people living in volatile war zones, 900 days can be a very long time:
“Every day is of the essence, so any delay like that could be the death sentence for one of our clients,” Henrike Dessaules with the International Refugee Assistance Project said in an interview.
When Yousafzoy’s visa application first encountered a delay in 2013, Hudson said he feared it could be a death sentence; after working together during their time in Afghanistan, coordinating with everyone, from local farmers to cops, they say a friendship developed.
“Other interpreters I worked with before – none of them are alive,” Hudson said in an interview. “I didn’t want to see that happen again.”
About two years later, on his next deployment, Hudson secured another assignment for Yousafzoy, and they continued work on obtaining his visa.
Officials approved his application this October, while Yousafzoy made his way to Texas.
He said he chose the state for its diverse reputation, the heat and because of his friends.
According to the Chronicle, when the visa came through, he said his goodbyes to his parents and sibling and boarded the international flight to the U.S.
Now, he lives with Hudson, Hudson’s wife Cristela and their daughter Yullina.
He said he will be spending the coming weeks to familiarize himself with American society, where he will receive a social security card, driver’s license, and he said he plans to return to school.
“I’m sure I’ll have some thoughts soon,” he said. “But, now, I don’t … Everything is new.”