Immigration DNA Testing: Opening Borders with Technology


DNA testing now plays a central role in the investigation of crimes and has become the test of choice for establishing paternity. Recent years have witnessed the introduction of immigration DNA testing into the often long and difficult process of obtaining citizenship.

When potential immigrants apply for entry into and long-term stay in the United States, the applications normally require sponsorship by a relative or employer. In the case of relatives, a full range of documentation is required to back up relationship claims. Unmarried children of U.S. citizens and parents of adult U.S. citizens receive preference for immigrant visas. Other family relationships may be considered if there are available slots during any given year.

Sometimes the documents submitted during the process are either not sufficient or are inconclusive in some way. In those cases, immigration DNA testing may be required. U.S. authorities rely on immigration DNA testing because it provides accurate and conclusive results. Biological relationships can be confirmed without doubt. Traditional paternity blood tests are not nearly as accurate as DNA testing, so even though blood tests may be included in the application package, they are not conclusive by themselves. Immigration DNA testing may require different types of tests, including tests for paternity, maternity, siblingship and grandparentage.

Immigration DNA testing may also be used in connection with obtaining derivative U.S. citizenship. If a child is born to U.S. citizens abroad, the child is eligible for derivative U.S. citizenship based on their blood relationship to one or both parents. However, there may difficulties with obtaining the required documentation, especially in countries with undeveloped records systems. The person making application–either the parents or the adult child–must prove the existence of the relationship, and immigration DNA testing may be the only way.

For derivative citizenship, immigration DNA testing can be done overseas or in the U.S, but the laboratory is required to send the results directly to the U.S. Embassy. Any U.S. immigration DNA testing must be done in accordance with AABB (American Association of Blood Banks) guidelines.

Immigration DNA testing must be done under controlled conditions to ensure that chain of custody rules are satisfied. DNA samples can be cells collected using a buccal swab on the inside of the mouth, blood samples or even tissue samples from deceased relatives. In most cases, expenses for immigration DNA testing must be paid for by whoever is making application.

The immigration process is often long and complicated. The conclusive proof of relationship provided by immigration DNA testing may help quicken the procedure by reducing the need to verify documents.