U.S. Department of Justice
Immigration and Naturalization Service
425 I Street NW
Washington, DC 20536

HQADN 70/11

JUL14 2000




Michael D. Cronin
Acting Executive Associate Commissioner
Office of Programs

SUBJECT:    Guidance on Parentage Testing for Family-Based Immigrant Visa Petitions


The purpose of this memorandum is to provide guidance to Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) field offices on parentage testing to establish a claimed relationship for benefits under the Immigration and Nationality Act. Such testing may be appropriate to establish a parental relationship in support of a petition for a child, son, or daughter (Form I-130). The procedures discussed in this memorandum may also apply to establishing the biological parent of a foreign-born adopted child to support an orphan petition (Form I-600) or to establishing a parental relationship for citizenship cases (Form N-600). In addition, these procedures may be used to establish a parental relationship for refugee and asylum relative petitions (Form I-730). This memorandum has the concurrence of the Office of Policy and Planning and the Office of the General Counsel.

Authority to Require Parentage Testing

A petitioner must establish eligibility for a requested immigration benefit. An application or petition must be filed with any initial evidence required by regulation or by the form instructions. Any evidence submitted is considered part of the relating petition or application and may establish eligibility. 8 CFR 103.2(b)(1).

In the case of a petition for a child, son, or daughter, the petitioner must provide evidence of the claimed relationship. 8 CFR 204.2(d)(2). The initial evidence for a child, son, or daughter includes a birth certificate. When a birth certificate is unavailable, the petitioner must demonstrate that it is not available and submit secondary evidence, such as a baptismal certificate, or church or school records. If the petitioner demonstrates that both initial and secondary evidence is unavailable, two or more affidavits may be substituted. However, the unavailability of a birth certificate creates a presumption of ineligibility for the benefit, and any alternative evidence submitted must be evaluated for its authenticity and credibility. 8 CFR 103.2(b)(2)(i) and 204.2(d)(2)(v).

A director may also require that Blood Group Antigen or Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) blood parentage testing be conducted on the child, son, or daughter and putative mother and father to establish eligibility for a benefit. 8 CFR 204.2(d)(2)(vi). Statistical analysis of these tests provides a likelihood of parentage. These test results will often establish or disprove the claimed parental relationship. Since blood parentage testing can be a valuable tool to verify a relationship, it may generally be required when initial and secondary forms of evidence have proven insufficient to prove a claimed relationship. As a result of technological advances, field offices should be aware that Blood Group Antigen and HLA tests are no longer widely available for testing by laboratories, and are not considered to be as reliable as DNA tests.

Although a director may require blood parentage testing, he or she has no statutory or regulatory authority to require DNA testing. However, when initial and secondary forms of evidence have proven inconclusive and blood parentage testing does not clearly establish the claimed parental relationship, field offices may have no alternative to suggesting DNA testing as a means of establishing the relationship. The petitioner has the burden of proof when the evidence submitted has not satisfied his evidentiary threshold and the INS would otherwise deny the petition without more conclusive evidence such as that which DNA testing could provide. In such cases, field offices should inform the petitioner that: 1) DNA testing is absolutely voluntary; 2) the costs of DNA testing and related expenses (such as doctor's fees and the cost of transmitting testing materials and blood samples) must be borne exclusively by the petitioner; and 3) submitting to DNA testing is in no way a guarantee of the approval of the petition.

Field offices should keep in mind that no parentage testing, including DNA testing, is 100 percent conclusive. Therefore, due to the expense, complexity and logistical problems and sensitivity inherent in parentage testing, offices should be extremely cautious when requiring blood testing or suggesting DNA testing as a means of establishing a claimed parental relationship.

While blood testing is not and should not be a routine part of the adjudications process, it can be an extremely valuable tool in cases when it otherwise would be impossible to verify a relationship. Parentage blood tests involve laboratory procedures performed on blood samples or other genetic material obtained from the child and putative parent or parents. The statistical analysis of the blood test provides a likelihood of parentage if the putative parent is not excluded. The likelihood of parentage is greater with increased information. Increasing the number of genetic testing systems tested provides stronger results, while the absence of information diminishes the strength of results. Officers should be aware that parentage testing is an extremely fact-driven procedure. A laboratory may more accurately determine what tests to run based on specific facts. A more accurate answer will be provided by the laboratory if the Officer provides the laboratory with suspicions of fraud or other pertinent facts.

Minimum Standards

Parties tested: The most accurate results are received when the alleged mother, father and child available for testing. However, testing of only the mother and child or father and child are also acceptable.

Statistical probability: All tests must produce a 99.5% statistical probability for the conclusion of results to establish parentage. Laboratories can continue with a battery of tests until a 99.5% conclusion of parentage is established. After testing the samples from all parties, laboratories will produce a conclusion of parentage which will inform field offices which tests were administered and the conclusion for the results they obtained.

Preferred test: The preferred test is the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test drawn with a buccal swab or a PCR test based on a blood sample.

Please see below for a more detailed explanation of the parentage testing process and procedures.

Blood Testing

Blood consists of red and white blood cells, platelets and liquid plasma. Each component of the blood contains several antigens or "markers." The blood group antigens are structures on the surface of the blood cells that help to distinguish individuals within a population. The antigens, inherited from the parents, are controlled by genes on a pair of chromosomes. Each parent contributes one of each chromosome pair carrying the genes that determine the detectable properties of an offspring's blood. The presence of a specific antigen indicates a particular genetic composition or marker. Conclusions in parentage blood testing are based upon the principle that the child inherits genetic markers in his or her blood from each of his or her biological parents.

Conventional Blood Tests

There are four basic tests used in conventional blood testing: 1) basic red cell antigens (ABO, MN, CcDEe); 2) extended red cell antigens; 3) white cell antigens (HLA); 4) and red cell enzymes and serum proteins. The laboratory begins by conducting the first test. If parentage cannot be ruled out based on the results of the first test, the laboratory will conduct the second test. The process continues until either the putative parent can be entirely excluded or a good statistical probability is established that the relationship is bona fide.

DNA Testing

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) parentage testing provides an alternative to more conventional parentage blood testing methods. DNA testing can be especially useful in countries with limited medical and transportation facilities because, unlike HLA testing, it does not require the use of live human blood cells, which must be tested within just a few days, and are sometimes difficult to obtain. DNA parentage testing can often provide conclusive results even when not all parties are available for testing.

Officers should be aware that parentage testing technology changes rapidly. Whereas HLA blood testing was widely used until 1994, it is now rarely used. Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism (RFLP) tests which have been widely used since 1994 are now being phased out by laboratories in the U.S. The DNA test which is most recommended for use in parentage testing is the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test. Although DNA testing has traditionally been accomplished through blood testing, buccal (mouth or cheek cavity) swabs are an alternative to drawing blood for testing. Cells are drawn from the inside cheek using a long cotton swab. As opposed to blood testing, buccal swab testing does not require the assistance of a physician, and is non-invasive. Nevertheless, it is recommended that only a person specially trained to collect a tissue sampling perform the procedure in order to ensure the quantity is sufficient for testing.

Parentage Testing Procedures

The American Association of Blood Banks (AABB) accredits parentage-testing laboratories for a 2-year period.[1]   The current list of AABB accredited parentage testing laboratories is attached to this memorandum. Offices may accept parentage-testing results only from laboratories on this list. The current AABB list does not include any laboratories located overseas, however, the AABB does expect to begin accreditation of laboratories located overseas soon. Therefore, foreign offices should not accept test results from local parentage testing laboratories until the local laboratory has received accreditation from the AABB. The burden of proof is on the petitioner to show that the laboratory chosen is accredited by the AABB.

When a field office requires blood testing or suggests DNA testing, it should provide the petitioner with the list of AABB accredited laboratories. Field offices should be aware that the state designations on the list are for laboratory headquarters. Many laboratories have collection sites in many different states and locations. The petitioner must select a laboratory, contact the laboratory directly, and make the necessary arrangements for conducting the tests. To assure the integrity of the test results, all stages of parentage testing must be conducted under appropriate safeguards. These safeguards must include strict controls concerning: 1) protection of the chain of custody of blood or tissue samples; 2) identification of the parties to be tested, generally by photographing individuals being tested; and 3) correct presentation of test results.

Communication should be directly between the laboratory and the civil surgeon or panel physician or the field office. Under no circumstances should a third party, including the individuals being tested, be permitted to carry or transport blood or tissue samples or test results. Since the applicant bears full financial responsibility for testing, the Service has no objection to that person receiving a copy of the test results from the laboratory or panel physician. It is imperative that the same facility test both the alleged child and the alleged parent(s). Where the petitioner is physically present in the U.S., a U.S.-based lab must conduct the tests and relay the results. Instructions usually require the participation of a witness, identification taken from all (adult) parties involved, and photographs taken of all parties.

Analysis of Test Results

In all cases of parentage testing, laboratories should provide the statistical probability for the conclusion for the results they obtain. Offices should use the following interpretations of the plausibility of parentage to analyze test results. In general, AABB standards mandate 99 percent to be the minimum requirement for the proof of parentage. However, this statement does not mean that all test results 99 percent and higher should be accepted as conclusive proof of parentage, or that all test results below 99 percent exclude parentage. The type of parentage test performed, the genetic profile of the local population, and facts specific to the case will all affect the percentage that an office should require to establish a parental relationship. Field offices should provide laboratories with non-genetic evidence which may affect the lab's assumptions in performing the testing, analysis of the results or the number of genetic markers tested.


Plausibility of Parentage (Percent) Interpretation
99.80 - 99.90 Practically Proved
99.1 - 99.80 Extremely Likely
95 - 99 Very Likely
90 - 95 Likely
80 - 90 Undecided
Less than 80 Not Useful

Please note that in societies where interfamily marriage is common, close relatives will share many genetic markers and the test results of an aunt, uncle, or grandparent of a beneficiary may appear to establish the claimed parental relationship. The statistics used in paternity testing are designed for evaluating an alleged father as compared to unrelated men. Unlike the random population where persons may share genetic markers by chance, related men will share genetic markers by descent. First degree relatives, such as father, brother or son, will share 50% of their genetic material on average. Therefore, directors should consult with local physicians and parentage testing laboratories, and consider local fraud patterns, to determine the appropriate tests and particular test results to reliably establish the parental relationship in questionable cases. Officers should ask labs to calculate both a father-child and uncle-child or sibling relationship in these cases and should examine reports provided by the laboratory to ensure that sufficient testing was done to distinguish between family members. Officers should feel free to contact the laboratory for clarification if the lab's findings are inconclusive. Labs are able to conduct tests on additional genetic markers if necessary to resolve inconclusive cases.


Questions regarding the appropriate parentage test to use to establish a claimed relationship or analysis of the test results may be directed to the parentage-testing laboratory selected by the petitioner. Questions regarding this policy should be directed to Anne Gyemant, Residence and Status Branch, Adjudications Division at 202-514-4754.

[1] The accreditation standards were developed by the committee on parentage testing of the AABB under a grant from the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement of the Department of Health and Human Services and with the assistance of special consultants and representatives from the American Bar Association, American Medical Association, American Society of Clinical Pathologists, American Society for Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics and the College of American Pathologists.