Travel.State.Gov > Legal Resources > Legal Resources > U.S. Citizenship Laws and Policy > Information for Parents on U.S. Citizenship and DNA Testing
To transmit U.S. citizenship at birth to a child born abroad, the U.S. citizen parent(s) or their spouse must establish a genetic or gestational relationship with the child. The connection required between the child and parent depends on the section of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) through which the child is deriving citizenship. See the Child Born Abroad page for more information.
Genetic testing helps verify a genetic – 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 testing method we accept to establish a genetic 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 genetic relationship.
When we need additional evidence of a genetic 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.
Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) testing is the most accurate and widely available technology to test a genetic 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.
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 99.99 percent or greater degree of certainty with respect to paternity/maternity as sufficient to support a genetic 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.
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.
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.