Establishing a biological and legal relationship to the child: To establish that a child born abroad acquired derivative U.S. citizenship, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) requires that a blood and a legal relationship exist between the child and the U.S. citizen parent. Volume 22 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Section 51.40 provides that the burden of proof is upon the applicant to establish a claim to U.S. citizenship. When primary and secondary documentary evidence are deemed insufficient to establish such a claim, parentage blood testing is an option available to applicants. The Department appreciates that this situation may be troubling to parents, but under the circumstances, it appears that there is no other way to establish the child’s claim to U.S. citizenship. Parents are, of course, free to submit any additional evidence they believe pertinent. If such tests establish that fact, the Department of State would expedite issuance of a consular Report of Birth of a U.S. Citizen Abroad and a U.S. passport, provided applicable requirements of the Immigration and Nationality Act concerning birth out of wedlock and establishment of a legal relationship (acknowledgment of paternity and legitimization prior to the child’s 18th birthday) have been met.
Arranging for Testing: Testing can be conducted in the United States or at a laboratory overseas. The laboratory conducting the tests should send the test results and an interpretation of the data to the U.S. Embassy directly. If parents choose to have DNA or parentage blood tests conducted in the United States, the drawing of the blood samples and the conduct of the tests must be in accordance with the joint AMA-ABA Guidelines and the guidelines set forth by the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB), 8101 Glenbrook Road, Bethesda, MD 20814, http://www.aabb.org.
What Type of Samples are Collected: Blood samples are usually collected for parentage testing. Testing can also be done using cells from the inside of the mouth which are collected with a cotton swab (buccal swab). Tissue samples collected from deceased individuals may also be used for testing. In order to assure the integrity of the results, all stages of DNA and parentage blood testing must be conducted under appropriate safeguards. These safeguards must include strict controls concerning protection of the chain of custody of blood or tissue samples, identification of the parties to be tested (generally including photographing and even fingerprinting of the individuals tested), and correct preparation of the test results.
Expenses: All expenses must be borne by the U.S. citizen parent(s), including shipping costs, and must be paid in advance.
Selecting a Laboratory: The laboratory must be one on the Department of State’s list of AABB accredited laboratories, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Directory: Genetic Testing Laboratories or otherwise present copies of its credentials to the Department for consideration. Lists of laboratories are available from the Department of State, Overseas Citizens Services or from U.S. embassies and consulates upon request.
Tests Conducted in the United States: If parents choose to have DNA or parentage blood tests conducted in the United States, the drawing of the blood samples and the conduct of the tests must be in accordance with the joint AMA-ABA Guidelines (http://www.abanet.org/family/home.html) and the guidelines set forth by the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB). The laboratory will provide tubes, packing materials and instructions which should be forwarded to the American embassy or consulate abroad. The U.S. embassy or consulate can make arrangements for blood samples to be drawn from parents residing abroad and the child in the presence of a physician/technician selected by the U.S. embassy or consulate following the instructions to draw the samples provided by the laboratory, and for shipment of the samples to the accredited laboratory. The laboratory must be one on the Department of State’s list of AABB accredited laboratories or otherwise present copies of its credentials to the Department for consideration.
Tests Conducted Abroad: If parents decide to submit to DNA or parentage blood testing to be conducted by a foreign facility or a facility not on list of accredited laboratories, the laboratory must submit its credentials and testing criteria to the U.S. embassy or consulate to ensure that it is comparable to the professional standards of the AABB and the joint AMA/ABA guidelines. Procedures for drawing and shipping the blood samples would be as described above, following specific instructions of the testing laboratory, under the auspices of a physician/technician selected by the U.S. embassy or consulate.
Nuclear DNA Testing: Within the cell nucleus, there is nuclear DNA. The nuclear DNA contains sequences which make up what is called chromosomes. One half of the nuclear DNA is inherited from the mother and the other half is inherited from the father. Nuclear DNA parentage testing provides an alternative to more conventional parentage blood testing methods. One factor which makes nuclear DNA testing useful in international cases is that the DNA tests do not require the use of live blood samples. This makes it possible to ship the samples from extreme distances. A number of laboratories claim to have an expertise in conducting DNA testing. Currently, the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB) is expanding its parentage testing certification and inspection program. This program includes standards and procedures for DNA testing as well as the more traditional parentage blood testing procedures. DNA parentage testing can achieve an even higher exclusion rate/plausibility of parentage ratio than conventional parentage blood testing.
Mitochondrial DNA: Within the cell cytoplasm there are organelles called mitochondria. The mictochondria contain mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) which is the type of DNA analyzed in order to identify deceased remains. Mitochondrial DNA is inherited from the mother, not from the father.
Parentage Blood Testing: Basic blood testing of the ABO, Rh and MN groupings does not constitute parentage blood testing. Parentage blood testing discloses the presence of specific antigens to indicate a particular genetic composition or « marker ». The statistical analysis of the blood test results provides a likelihood of paternity if the putative parent is not excluded. Any parentage blood testing of a child, mother and father should involve a hierarchy of systems to establish the relative chance of paternity based on the probability of exclusion. That means that if a putative parent is not excluded by the basic red cell antigen test, further testing of the sample will be conducted until the putative parent is excluded or a likelihood of parentage can be calculated with an inclusion rate considered valid under the AMA/ABA Guidelines. Parentage blood tests include the basic red cell antigens, extended red cell antigens, red cell enzymes and serum proteins, and white cell enzymes. If the test results are inconclusive, the complete series of testing may be necessary, including testing of white cell antigens (Human Leukocyte Antigens or HLA). Electrophoresis testing of the red cell enzymes and serum proteins and HLA testing are highly sophisticated procedures which generally can be conducted only at a laboratory involved in organ transplant donor identification.
Test Results: In all phases of testing, communication must be directly between the laboratory and the U.S. embassy or consulate. All test results must be delivered by the laboratory to the U.S. embassy or consulate in a manner which precludes tampering. Under no circumstances should any other party, including those being tested, be permitted to carry or transport blood or tissue samples or test results. Since the applicant is bearing full financial responsibility for testing, however, the Department of State has no objection to that person receiving a copy of the results from the laboratory.
Questions: Questions may be directed to the Department of State, Overseas Citizens Services at 202-647-5225.
The above information was copied from The Bureau of Consular Affairs at http://travel.state.gov/dna.html (April 2001)