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DNA testing can provide undeniable proof of blood relationships between family members and this tool is now used in some immigration cases to help applicants prove that the family members applying for visas really are their relatives. Applicants can undergo paternity, maternity or kinship tests to substantiate their claims – paternity tests for fathers and children, maternity for mothers and children and kinships for other family relationships, such as aunts and nieces.

In this guide, we will look at the purpose of these tests, the steps that the sponsors and beneficiaries need to take, important considerations that can affect the process and what to expect from the results.

Why are these tests necessary?

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The US Embassy or the Department of Homeland Security, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services may ask for applicants to submit to an immigration DNA test if there are issues with the application. In some cases, documentation may be enough but, in cases where there is doubt, DNA testing provides the most accurate way of determining biological links. These tests are voluntary but, because a family member will not be able to proceed with an immigration case unless they can legally authenticate, they are often necessary.

Providing DNA samples in the US as a sponsor

There are often two sides in an immigration application process – the sponsor, the family member in America that is looking to bring relatives to the US, and the beneficiary, those family members looking to emigrate. If a DNA test is required, the sponsor will need to provide a DNA sample that can be used to verify their claim. There are many sites across the US where applicants can make appointments for a DNA test – there is no at-home testing kit for this procedure to avoid illegitimate results and applicants tampering with the sample – and wherever sponsors go to be tested, it must be accredited by the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB). The test is a straightforward procedure of either a blood draw or a buccal swab, which means taking a sample from inside the cheek. The results will then be sent away for analysis.

Providing DNA samples for the beneficiaries abroad

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Once a sponsor’s sample has been taken, case managers will then arrange for the testing of the beneficiary. An appointment will be held at the US Embassy or Consulate where a similar testing procedure will take place, provided that the appointment has been paid for and all other checks have been made. It is then up to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate to send the results to the lab using a pre-paid, pre-addressed envelope provided by the applicant. With this second sample, the lab can now compare the results and determine the relationship between the subjects.

Important points to remember when applying for an immigration DNA test

Because of these costs, the logistical issues that can arise from getting to an embassy or testing center and the potential delays on results, DNA tests should be seen as a last resort. In cases where they cannot be avoided, there are important factors to keep in mind. These DNA tests cannot be imposed on applicants, but the voluntary nature does mean that applicants are liable to produce the right documents and to pay for the tests in advance. A receipt of payment is required to proceed, and these tests are not cheap at $275 per person. When applying, the agency will ask for the names and contact information of all involved, government documents and a credit card for payment. Immigration paperwork is required when providing a sample, especially the case number.

What to expect after the DNA test

Despite the urgency of cases, the internal processes and the promise of swift delivery to the lab, the time frame for receiving results can vary depending on the situation and the nature of the test. Also, there is no guarantee of a successful application following this test. Results may require an accuracy level of 99.5% or more in order to be considered valid. Applicants will be informed by the Embassy on the status of their application following the results in order to continue the process, although they cannot be given details of the lab results. Should the sponsor or beneficiary wish to see the full results, they will need to contact the lab.

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