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Information for Parents on U.S. Citizenship and DNA Testing

In order to transmit U.S. citizenship to a child born abroad, among other requirements, there must be a biological relationship between the child and a U.S. citizen parent or parents.  Genetic testing is a useful tool for verifying a stated biological relationship in the absence of sufficient other evidence to establish such relationship. Commonly tested relationships that may be used to establish paternity and/or maternity in citizenship claims arising from birth abroad to a U.S. citizen father or mother include father-child, mother-child, child and full brother or sister, child and half brother or sister, and avuncular relationships (child and paternal aunt/uncle/grandparent)., full. DNA testing is the only biological testing method currently accepted by the Department to establish a biological relationship. However, due to the expense, complexity, and logistical delays inherent in parentage testing, genetic testing generally should be used only in the absence of sufficient other evidence (documentation, photos, etc.) establishing the relationship..

When genetic testing appears warranted, a U.S. Consular Officer at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad may suggest passport or CRBA applicants undergo DNA testing to establish the validity of the relationship(s). Please note that such testing is entirely voluntary and that all costs of testing and related expenses must be borne by the applicant and paid to the laboratory in advance. In addition, submitting to testing does not guarantee the subsequent issuance of a passport or CRBA.

Below, you will find the process to follow if a Consular Officer has suggested DNA testing to establish the claimed biological relationship.

What Type of DNA Sample Method is Used?

Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) testing is the most accurate and widely available technology to test a biological relationship. The preferred specimen collection technique for DNA testing is by buccal (cheek or mouth cavity) swab. When buccal swabs are taken, cells are collected from the inside cheek or mouth using a long cotton swab. While there are different types of DNA tests, buccal cheek swabs are used rather than blood samples because they are easier to collect, non-invasive, painless, and easier to ship.

Accuracy of DNA Testing

DNA paternity and maternity (father-child/mother-child) testing reliability has advanced to the industry-accepted standard of 99.99 percent. The accuracy of a DNA test conducted with a cheek swab is equivalent to a test conducted using a blood test. Consular officers may only accept test results reporting a 99.99percent or greater degree of certainty with respect to paternity/maternity as sufficient to support a biological relationship between a parent and child in passport and CRBA cases.  When testing more distant relatives, a lower degree of probability of relationship to a U.S. citizen parent may be achieved, but it must also meet the requisite evidentiary standard  in order to establish the claimed relationship to a U.S. citizen parent.

DNA Sample Collection Process

Step 1: Locating an Accredited Facility

DNA sample collection must be in accordance with American Association of Blood Bank (AABB) and Department of State standards and procedures.  Sample collection abroad generally must occur at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country in which the parent(s) and/or child are located.  If the U.S. citizen parent or other relative to be tested is in the United States  the parent’s sample must be taken at an AABB accredited DNA testing facility or In foreign countries, samples of both children and parents or other relatives being tested must be under the supervision of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate as explained below.

If a DNA test is recommended the U.S. citizen parent (you) will initiate the process by selecting a laboratory where the DNA sample will be collected (if you or the relative to be tested are in the United States). The laboratory you select must be accredited by the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB). To find the laboratory in the United States nearest you, visit their list of Accredited Facilities. Note: The list of laboratories is based on the physical location of the lab’s headquarters. To find the most convenient location, you should be able to choose from the full list of AABB laboratories that conduct DNA testing. After you have located a facility, it is your responsibility to both set an appointment and pay the required fees. Under no circumstances should a third party be involved in the process of selecting a lab, scheduling the appointment, or any other process outlined in the next steps.

Step 2: Parent’s DNA Sample Collection in the United States

Parents (or other relatives being tested) must not directly receive test kits for themselves or their children.

At your appointment you will submit DNA by a buccal swab. After the sample is provided, the AABB collection site or clinic must submit the test kit (sample) directly to their main AABB lab testing site. The AABB testing site that you select should be instructed to forward the test kit along with a pre-addressed, pre-paid envelope, to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate or domestic passport agency at which the application for a Consular Report of Birth Abroad of a U.S. Citizen (CRBA) and/or U.S. passport for the child are pending.

Test Kits for sample collection overseas - Under no circumstances should you receive the DNA test kit for yourself, child or other relative. The AABB testing site that you select should be instructed to forward the test kit along with a pre-addressed, pre-paid envelope, to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you and/or your relative(s) will be tested.

The Passport/CRBA Applicant’s DNA Sampling Process

Step 3: The Embassy/Consulate Contacts the Applicant

Once the U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad receives a DNA kit from an accredited laboratory in the United States, they will contact the passport/CRBA applicant (or parent(s) of the applicant if the applicant is a minor) who needs to provide a DNA sample, and provide him or her with an appointment to come to the Embassy/Consulate.

Step 4: DNA Sampling Fees PRIOR to the Applicant’s Appointment

Before you or your family member’s appointment, payment for the sample collectionmust be arranged directly with the Embassy/Consulate local “panel” physician who will conduct the DNA sample collection. Upon payment, the panel physician will provide a  receipt that must be presented at the appointment at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you or your family member(s) do not bring the receipt to the appointment the DNA sample collection appointment will be rescheduled.

Step 5: Appear at the Embassy/Consulate for the Collection Appointment

In general, all DNA sample collection for passport/CRBA applicants and/or family members who are overseas must be done in the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate by a designated physician or medical technician and witnessed by Embassy or Consulate officers managing the process. The day of the DNA collection appointment, the applicant and/or family members must come to the U.S. Embassy/Consulate with the following documents:

  • A photocopy of the U.S. citizen parent’s ID.
  • The passport/CRBA applicant’s birth certificate
  • A photo of the applicant
  • A receipt from the panel physician showing payment for the DNA collection

After the collection has been taken, the Embassy will use the pre-paid and pre-addressed envelope to send the test kit back to accredited lab testing site in the United States.  Under no circumstances will the test kit be released to the applicant, his/her family members, lab technician, or other party for return to the AABB lab.

Receiving the Test Results and Next Steps

Once the analysis is complete, the AABB laboratory in the United States will send the results directly to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Once the Embassy or Consulate receives the results, the passport/CRBA applicant or his/her parents will be contacted in order to continue processing his or her passport/CRBA application to conclusion. Only results sent directly to the Embassy or Consulate by the AABB lab will be accepted. Submitting to DNA testing does not guarantee passport/CRBA issuance.

For copies of the results, the parent may contact the AABB laboratory directly. Please note that the Embassy/Consulate will not provide the parent or applicant with a copy of the laboratory results.


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