• "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 - Opportunities and Challenges
Opportunities and Challenges

Opportunities

Challenges

Address Some of These Issues

Opportunities

DNA technology offers a powerful tool to answer parentage and other relationship questions conclusively. In a family-based immigration case, when primary or other secondary evidence is not sufficient or adequate, DNA testing is an ideal tool to prove the claimed biological relationships. Based on the fact that every person’s DNA is unique except for identical twins and that we all inherit half of our DNA from our mother and half from our father, DNA family relationship testing produces two types of results ─ exclusion (0% of probability of parentage) or inclusion (99% or higher probability of parentage). A DNA test is the most reliable test currently available to prove parentage and considered 100% accurate by the scientific community.

The USCIS and Department of State require that only AABB-accredited DNA testing laboratories be chosen to perform the DNA test when applicants opt for the test to prove their claimed relationship. AABB is the regulating and accrediting organization for the DNA relationship testing industry. It sets the gold standard for DNA testing procedures and guidelines. Its stringent accreditation program makes sure that the accredited laboratories maintain a very high quality assurance program throughout the testing process. Typically, only DNA testing results produced by AABB-accredited DNA laboratories are considered legally admissible.

Due to the accurate and conclusive nature of most relationship DNA tests, there are many discussions about making DNA testing results at least secondary evidence when family relationships need to be verified in immigration cases.

Challenges

There are only about 40 AABB-accredited DNA laboratories in the U. S. and there are many uninformed customers across the country. This situation creates an opportunity for unethical businesses to pose as accredited DNA laboratories and offer inaccurate and low quality testing services to those customers who need the results to solve a legal matter. The following list just indicates a few entities that are known to take advantage of the uninformed customers:

Non-accredited DNA laboratories

There are many non-accredited DNA testing laboratories that claim to be AABB-accredited and able to produce legally admissible DNA reports for immigration and other legal purposes. Since these laboratories are not accredited, they do not have to comply with the same stringent chain-of-custody requirements and laboratory procedures as the accredited ones. Lack of chain of custody or less stringent procedures can compromise accuracy and authenticity of the testing results.

The simple fact that a non-accredited laboratory claims to be accredited is too deceiving for anyone to trust its legitimacy or quality. In recent years, AABB has been combating laboratories that make liberal use of its logo and association without having AABB accreditation in their misleading advertising campaigns and promotional activities.

Resellers

As DNA paternity test becomes a household term, more and more businesses see an opportunity to put it on their service menu, acting as a broker to offer the testing services to their local markets. Unlike DNA testing laboratories, these businesses do not have any technical expertise in DNA technology and may not even be a laboratory at all. They also lack of the knowledge and experience to understand the nuances in the testing process for different types of tests, which can lead to invalid test results for the client’s intended purposes.

For example, a reseller may send its customers to be collected by a doctor without the U. S. consulate’s involvement in an immigration case. Resellers also add one more confusing layer between the clients and the testing laboratory, which could compromise chain-of-custody and increases the chance of misinformation and mistakes. Since many resellers mark up the testing fees to make a profit, it adds extra burden on the consumers who may have to delay or forgo this option to solve a critical matter in their life.

Legal Consultants

Legal consultants act as resellers sometimes because some of their clients rely on them for every matter in the immigration process. When the applicants receive the letter requesting them to take a relationship DNA test from the U. S. immigration office, they go to seek advice from their legal consultants immediately.

One thing worth mentioning is that many legal consultants are not immigration attorneys. They make profit by offering translation service, analyzing immigration documents, preparing forms, or anything that is related to immigration and offers an opportunity to make a profit.

Since they do not necessarily see many requests for DNA test, they are less specialized in offering this service to their clients than even resellers. They may cause a bigger disaster by taking the wrong route using a non-accredited DNA laboratory or arranging a sample collection with unqualified DNA specimen collectors. Typically, these legal consultants mark up the testing laboratory’s fees significantly, making their clients responsible for the additional financial burden. To make the situation even worse, they may choose an unaccredited, but cheaper laboratory to perform the test, which yields invalid results for any legal purposes.

Online direct- to-consumer kits

In recent years, the development of the Internet has made operating an online business extremely easy. The evidence of this phenomenon in the DNA relationship testing industry are the numerous online businesses that do not have a physical address and sell the DNA tests as a broker exclusively online.

Many of these online businesses concentrate on selling direct-to-consumer DNA kits at extremely low prices. Their promotional campaign is designed in such a way that the nature of the so-called in-home test is not fully communicated to the clients. Their selling points are typically about the convenience of the self-collect DNA specimen kit, low prices, and the possibility of testing unusual samples taken from the tested parties without their awareness.

In this type of in-home test, there is no proper chain-of-custody for the specimens, or proper identification of the tested parties, or correct collecting and packaging of the specimens. Often, these businesses will even issue DNA test reports with the names of the participants taken directly from the paperwork which was received with the home collection kit without ever verifying the true identity of the purported test subjects. Many laboratories offering this type of test are not accredited by any regulating body. AABB, which is the accreditation body for the DNA relationship testing industry, does not recognize in-home DNA testing. The in-home tests, which may be offered by an accredited DNA laboratory, are used for curiosity reasons and do not follow the same stringent chain-of-custody procedures. Simply put, there is no regulation of the in-home DNA testing industry. Therefore, courts and government agencies do not accept any in-home DNA test results.

Address some of these challenges

It will take many discussions, strong will, and continuous efforts by the industry, the consumer advocacy groups, and the government to regulate the DNA testing industry and provide sufficient information about the services and service providers so that potential consumers can make an informed decision.

However, there are some simple steps that the consumers and government agencies who request the tests can take to avoid confusion and find quality service providers.

First, the trusted accreditation organization AABB lists all accredited DNA laboratories on their website at http://www.aabb.org/Content/Accreditation/Parentage_Testing_Accreditation_Program/
AABB_Accredited_Parentage_Testing_Laboratories/

A simple click can help verify any claimed accreditation or association with AABB.

Many resellers may use language such as “our accredited laboratory” or “our reference laboratory” or simply “our AABB-accredited laboratory”. It is wise for the consumers to ask the official name of the testing laboratory, verify its accreditation on AABB’s website, and insist dealing with the testing laboratory directly.

For any government agency that coordinates DNA specimen collection for the customers, it is a good preventive measure to make sure that the collection kits and specimens are transported by courier service between the agency and the testing laboratory directly. No third party should be allowed to carry these critical items without the supervision of the agency or the laboratory staff.

In an immigration DNA case, it is good practice for the U. S. consulate or embassy to check if the kits and all related paperwork are from the testing laboratory. The consulate will only use designated panel physicians for specimen collection and send staff to witness the whole collection procedures, which will preferably take place at the consulate. After the collection is completed, the consulate will make sure that the specimens are sent to the testing laboratory via courier service immediately.

To help the customers make an informed decision, the requesting government agency can also distribute information about the intended testing process and the AABB-accredited laboratory list. Some simple instruction such as “the applicant must initiate the test directly with an AABB-accredited laboratory” or “testing results from a non-AABB-accredited laboratory will not be accepted” will help the customers take the right route from the very beginning in their search for a quality DNA laboratory.