DNA Testing for U.S. Immigration

DNA Testing for U.S. Immigration

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted March 26, 2008 in DNA and the Law

statue libertyAllan Wernick of New York Daily News answers an anonymous question about the use of DNA testing for U.S. immigration.

Q I am a U.S. citizen. I want to petition for my father, but his name isn’t on my birth certificate. Must we have a DNA test to prove our relationship?

Name Withheld, Brooklyn

A A DNA test is the best way to prove a father-child relationship. Properly done DNA tests are 99.9% accurate in determining fatherhood. However, the test is expensive. An alternative is providing “secondary evidence.” Examples of secondary evidence are affidavits from your mother or a friend or relative who has knowledge of your relationship, an affidavit from someone present when you were born, or a copy of a page from a family Bible or other document recording your birth.

Sometimes using secondary evidence causes delays. What would I do? If your father is in the United States and interviewing for permanent residence here, try proving your relationship without the DNA test. If he will be applying at a U.S. consul abroad, getting the test before he goes to his interview may be worth it. A U.S. consular officer may question your relationship even if the USCIS has already approved your petition. If that happens, your father could get stuck abroad for a long time. Of course, if money is not an issue for you, go ahead and do the test. That way you can be sure that no one will question your relationship.

Wernick refers readers to the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs – DNA and Parentage Blood Testing. The document explains the different types of parentage testing, including nuclear DNA testing and mitochondrial DNA testing. There’s also a discussion of parentage blood testing that analyzes basic red cell antigens, extended red cell antigens, red cell enzymes and serum proteins, and white cell enzymes. I’m assuming parentage blood testing is less expensive than DNA testing or there’s no reason why applicants would not opt for the more straightforward DNA tests.

Note that for legal purposes, those $99 at-home paternity tests won’t suffice because they are undocumented and DNA samples are collected at home and mailed by the participants. When DNA test results are required by a court of law or for immigration purposes, a chain-of-custody DNA test is needed in which an uninvolved third party would vouch for the identification of the parties being tested, including photographs and fingerprints. DNA samples are clearly documented and tracked throughout the process. For more information, see these top 5 commonly asked questions about chain-of-custody DNA testing from DNA Diagnostics Center*.

*I have no direct affiliation with this testing company.



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Comment by jhay

Another good use of DNA testing technologies.

Others though, would say this is Uncle Sam’s newest trick to tighten his borders.

Comment by uk immigration Subscribed to comments via email

I think much more extensive use of DNA testing should be used in immigration – in the UK as well as the states.
In a sense, for authorities not to use such an accurate tool could be regarded as negligent.
Whilst cost might be used as a barrier, I think the ability to speed up legitimate applications and flag suspicious ones would more than pay for itself.


[...] worldwide that will give people any results they want for whatever purposes they need it for, e.g., immigration. Not to mention people like Simon Mullane, a British businessman who made-up paternity test results [...]


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