Information on DNA Testing

To transmit U.S. citizenship at birth to a child born abroad, the U.S. citizen parent or parents must establish a biological relationship with the child. Genetic testing helps verify a biological – but not gestational – relationship in the absence of sufficient evidence to establish such a relationship. Relationships that may be used to establish paternity 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 relationships between a child and a paternal aunt, uncle, or grandparent.  

DNA testing is the only biological testing method we accept to establish a biological relationship. Due to high costs, complexity, and logistical delays, genetic testing is generally used only in the absence of sufficient evidence (documentation, photos, etc.) establishing the biological relationship.

When we need additional evidence of a biological relationship, we may suggest that applicants for a U.S. passport, Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA), or immigrant visa do DNA testing to establish the relationship(s). DNA testing is voluntary and the applicant must pay all costs for testing and related expenses to the testing facility or laboratory in advance. In addition, DNA sample collection and testing does not guarantee issuance of a U.S. passport, CRBA, or immigrant visa.

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.

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DNA Testing Process

  • You should only begin DNA testing after a recommendation from a U.S. embassy or consulate, or a domestic passport agency or center.
  • Applicants and petitioners should follow the instructions provided by the U.S. embassy and consulate or domestic passport agency or center, and an AABB (formerly known as the American Association of Blood Banks) accredited lab.
  • The applicant or petitioner must directly contact an AABB-accredited lab to begin the testing process.
  • Do not use a third party to choose the lab or to make other arrangements.  
  • To find an accredited laboratory, visit the AABB’s list of Accredited Facilities. The list of laboratories is based on the physical location of the lab’s headquarters.
  • Applicants and petitioners should be able to choose from the full list of AABB laboratories that conduct DNA testing.
  • Each lab will provide instructions for where to go for DNA sample collection.
  • Most labs have collection partners and facilities throughout the United States. 

 

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DNA Sample Collection Inside the United States

Parents, or other relatives being tested, must not directly receive DNA test kits for themselves or their children. The AABB-accredited lab will inform the applicant or petitioner where to go for DNA sample collection. At the appointment, the applicant or petitioner will submit a buccal swab and identification. The AABB collection site or clinic must submit the DNA sample and copies of proof of identification directly to the AABB-accredited lab for testing.  The applicant or petitioner must ask the lab to forward test results directly to the U.S. embassy or consulate, or domestic passport agency or center.

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DNA Sample Collection Outside the United States

DNA sample collection at a U.S. embassy or consulate will only be conducted for pending U.S. passport, CRBA, or immigrant visa cases. For samples to be collected overseas outside an AABB-accredited lab, the lab must send the DNA test kit directly to the applicable U.S. embassy or consulate.  Parents, or other relatives being tested, must not directly receive test kits for themselves or their children.  Once the U.S. embassy or consulate receives a DNA kit from an accredited laboratory, they will schedule an appointment for DNA sample collection by an authorized panel physician or designee.

At the appointment, the applicant will submit a buccal swab and identification.  The U.S. embassy or consulate will submit the test kit with the DNA sample and copies of proof of identification directly to the AABB-accredited lab for testing. The test kit will not be released to the applicant, his or her family members, lab technician, or other party for return to the AABB-accredited lab.

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Receiving Test Results and Next Steps

  • The AABB-accredited laboratory must send the test results directly to the U.S. embassy or consulate, or domestic passport agency or center where the application for a U.S. passport, CRBA, or immigrant visa is pending.
  • The Department will only accept test results the AABB-accredited lab sends directly to us.
  • After receiving the test results, the Department will contact the applicant, or his or her parents, to continue processing the application.
  • Submitting to DNA sample collection and testing does not guarantee you will receive a U.S. passport, CRBA, or immigrant visa.
  • An applicant or petitioner should contact the AABB-accredited laboratory if he or she wants to receive copies of his or her DNA test results.