US rolls out tool for Afghans in US to reunify with family members

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By Kylie Atwood, CNN

(CNN) -- The US State Department rolled out a tool for Afghans in the US under parolee status to begin the process of reunifying with their family members on Thursday, a State Department spokesperson told CNN.

During the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021 many Afghans fled the country on evacuation flights, fearful of the Taliban takeover. Due to the chaotic rush out of the country, which proved deadly for many Afghans, many families were separated from their loved ones.

With this new form tens of thousands of Afghans who came to the US around that time are eligible to apply for reunification with their immediate relatives. This specifically includes an Afghan's spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21, according to the State Department.

"In November, the Department of State announced the launch of a new resource for individuals in the United States who are seeking to reunify with their family members, depending on their immigration status or method of entry to the United States. Today, we launch Form DS-4317 for parolees to file to seek family reunification, including those subsequently granted temporary protected status," the department spokesperson said.

The new form has been posted by the State Department.

Until now these Afghans in the US did not have a legal way to bring their family members into the country to join them.

"The purpose of these reunification resources, including the parolee form is to help those families that are still separated," the spokesperson said.

The announcement was welcomed by an organization that supports Afghans settling in the US.

"This impacts every Afghan the US brought here under parole status who still has family in Afghanistan eligible for reunification. Afghans who fit that description should complete the form now and Afghans in other categories should visit the family reunification landing page and follow the instructions there," said Shawn VanDiver, a Navy veteran and founder of #AfghanEvac.

"It took longer to get this done than anyone would have liked, but #AfghanEvac is proud to have worked tirelessly with the State Department to bridge the gap in the interim through our grassroots efforts," VanDiver added.

It is unclear how long it will take for family reunifications to happen once the Afghans fill out these forms, but VanDiver told CNN that it is proof that interagency efforts can come to fruition.

One primary concern going ahead is the departure flights from Afghanistan that enable relocation to begin. While those flights have resumed this month -- after being halted during the World Cup last year in Qatar -- there are concerns among those involved in the effort that the flights could be halted by the Taliban in the future.

This story has been updated with additional details.

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