The Role of DNA Testing in Family-Based Immigration

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An Overview of DNA Testing in Immigration

When petitioning family members for immigration to the United States, an applicant is required to present sufficient evidence of a relationship. This evidence can include birth certificates, marriage certificates, and adoption decrees. When credible evidence is unavailable, you may turn to DNA testing to establish a biological relationship.

DNA testing is a tool used to verify biological relationships for family-based petitions. Relationships that can be tested include maternity, paternity, half-siblingship, and full-siblingship. However, genetic analysis could be costly and cause further delays in processing an immigration petition. That is why exhausting all practical ways to establish your family relationship is important.

An immigration lawyer from Andrew T. Thomas, Attorneys at Law, could assist you in proving the existence of a relationship before going through DNA relationship testing procedures. In this article, we explain how genetic testing works and its role in the immigration process. If you want to know more, contact our law firm today.

Understanding DNA Testing

Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) testing is the most reliable and accessible method to check familial relationships. Samples are usually collected using a buccal swab, wherein cells are taken from the mouth or inside the cheek. This method of DNA collection is easier, non-invasive, and painless.

DNA testing’s reliability is at par with the industry standard of 99.5%. A test conducted with a cheek swab is the same as a test done using blood samples. Note that consular officers only accept test results with at least a 99.5% degree of certainty.

The Importance of DNA Testing in Family-Based Immigration

Many U.S. citizens or their spouses hope to transmit citizenship to their children born abroad. To do this, they must prove a genetical or gestational relationship with the child.

While documentary evidence is usually sufficient, DNA tests can help confirm genetic family relationships when evidence is unavailable or insufficient. Therefore, DNA evidence is not a requirement when applying for an immigrant visa.

Understanding the Results

Interpreting the DNA test results is relatively straightforward. Twenty-one (21) genetic markers are compared between the alleged parent and child to check if they match. The probability of paternity or maternity is shown in the report. There are two possible results:

  • The genetic relationship is confirmed if the probability is 99.99999%.

  • There is no genetic relationship if the probability is 0%.

The result is calculated using statistical analysis. The figure 99.99% means that the parent tested is 99.99% more likely than a random person to be the child’s biological parent.

If there really is no relationship between the petitioner and the child, you can still consider other options. These include:

  • Check if the child is eligible to become a stepchild.

  • Consider adopting the child.

  • Explore other visa options, such as a diversity visa.

Not all of these options may be applicable to your family due to eligibility requirements. You might want to consult an immigration lawyer to determine the next best step to avoid wasting time, money, and effort.

DNA Testing Process

The DNA test can only be started after getting a recommendation from the U.S. embassy or consulate. Below are the steps to conduct DNA testing.

1. Get instructions.

Receive instructions from the U.S. embassy or consulate.

2. Look for an accredited relationship testing laboratory.

Search for an American Association of Blood Banks (AABB) accredited laboratory. You cannot use a third party to contact the lab or make other arrangements. The list of accredited laboratories is found here. Contact the laboratory to schedule an appointment.

3. Petitioner’s DNA sample collection

Petitioners are not allowed to get the DNA test kit directly for themselves. You will submit DNA through a buccal swab during your appointment. After the sample is collected, the test kit will be forwarded directly to the main AABB lab testing site.

4. Visa applicant’s DNA sample collection

The US Embassy or consulate will contact the applicant once they receive a DNA test kit. An appointment will be set for the applicant to come to the consulate or embassy.

Payment must be settled before the applicant’s appointment with the authorized panel physician who will conduct the sampling. A receipt will be issued, which needs to be brought to the appointment. If you fail to bring the receipt, your sample collection schedule could be rescheduled.

5. Release of results.

The AABB laboratory will give the results directly to the U.S. embassy or consulate. The applicant will then be contacted to resume visa processing.

Practical Considerations and Challenges

DNA testing in immigrant visa applications is common, but it still generates some concerns that your family might need to know of.


DNA contains a wealth of information people consider sensitive, like race, health, and disease history. There is a risk of the government using this information for more than what it’s intended for.

Delays and errors

Collecting and sharing DNA information among several government agencies can lead to inaccuracies that originated from one source. These mistakes can subject the wrong person to profiling and surveillance. The risk is high for immigration records to be considered inaccurate and outdated. These could also further delay the processing of immigrant petitions.

Andrew T. Thomas, Attorneys at Law, Can Help You

DNA testing is one way to establish blood relationships when credible documents are lacking. Immigration officers take DNA test results into consideration when reviewing petitions. Still, establishing biological relationships doesn’t guarantee approval of the application. Despite facing opposition from advocacy groups for many reasons, parentage testing through DNA collection has been used for the past decade and will likely continue.

Family reunification in the country needs a lot of effort and commitment. There are several requirements, paperwork, and steps to follow. Often, missing information or mistakes can result in denial.

If you wish to sponsor a family member to the U.S., getting an immigration lawyer may significantly benefit you, especially in navigating complex immigration laws and procedures. Andrew T. Thomas, Attorneys at Law, provides personalized legal immigration advice and assistance.

We are well-versed in immigration cases, enabling us to assist thousands of families to get legal immigration status. Our personalized legal services and our passion for this field of law are what make us stand out.

Let our team review your case so we can inform you of your possible options. Schedule a free consultation with us today.