• "The laboratory you select must be accredited by the American Association of Blood Banks(AABB)... Under no circumstances should a third party be involved in the process of selecting a lab, scheduling the appointment, or any other process outlined in the next steps."

    U.S. Department of State
  • "Please be aware that many non-accredited businesses advertise on the Internet as being AABB-accredited. It is important to note that these "resellers" - who are not AABB-accredited - will claim to use an accredited lab for their testing. For the purpose of this request, samples collected from and comparative tests arranged through "resellers" will not be accepted. "

    USCIS - California Service Center
  • "The test must be performed directly through an AABB-accredited facility. Please visit the AABB website (ww.aabb.org) to find an accredited lab, which will also coordinate the testing of the claimed relative - if they reside overseas. Please be aware that many non-accredited businesses advertise on the Internet as being AABB-accredited. "

    USCIS - California Service Center
Home - DNA Test for Immigration - Chain of Custody
Chain of Custody

Chain of custody refers to the chronological documentation that shows the seizure, custody, control, transfer, analysis, and disposal of evidence. The whole purpose of this procedure is to prevent tampering and to establish the legal status of evidence.
In a legally admissible DNA testing situation, Chain of Custody entails proper identification of the tested parties, completion of the consent forms and chain of custody documents by the collector and tested parties, and proper collection, shipping, and handling of the specimens throughout the entire testing process. All these steps have to be documented with a paper trail that suggests no tampering of the specimens or the documents has taken place. In addition, everyone involved in the testing process from the specimen collector to the DNA analyst should be an impartial third party who has no interest in the outcome of the test and documents his involvement in the process truthfully.

More specifically, the chain-of-custody procedures in a legally admissible DNA test include:

  1. Identification of the tested parties at the time of collection, which includes verifying IDs and taking pictures of tested parties;
  2. Obtaining consent from adult tested parties and legal guardians for all minor tested parties;
  3. Collection of specimens from the tested parties performed by a trained third-party professional who will document his involvement truthfully;
  4. Proper labeling and packaging of specimens by the collector;
  5. Shipping specimens by courier services directly to the laboratory;
  6. Receipt of specimens by the DNA laboratory and proper login of specimens;
  7. Transfer and testing of specimens within the DNA laboratory;
  8. Truthful documentation of every step in the testing process by staff handling and testing specimens;
  9. Storage of specimens;
  10. Reporting of results with case specific chain-of-custody documents.

AABB (formerly known as American Association of Blood Banks), the regulating and accreditation organization for the DNA family relationship testing industry, requires that its accredited laboratories follow these strict chain-of-custody procedures. Only chain-of-custody DNA testing results are legally admissible and accepted by government authorities such as child support agencies or  the immigration authorities as legal evidence.

Recently, the Department of State and USCIS have tightened its internal guidelines regarding the DNA collection process that takes place at the overseas U.S. embassies and consulates when a DNA test is requested for immigration purposes. The guidelines emphasize that the transportation of collection kits and samples takes place between the requesting embassy or consulate and the testing laboratory directly and that the collection is performed by a designated panel physician under the supervision of a consulate officer at the embassy or consulate. These guidelines reflect strict compliance with the chain-of-custody requirements so that the testing results can be considered as legal evidence when the consulate officers verify the claimed family relationship.

Some states including New York have laws that prohibit their residents from taking a DNA paternity test without following the strict chain-of-custody procedures. Therefore, no legitimate DNA testing laboratory will offer an in-home or curiosity DNA test to the residents in these states.