DOS Allows DNA test as Evidence of Sibling Relationship

The Department of State (DOS) will now allow the use of DNA testing as evidence of a bona fide relationship between biological siblings. This change comes in response to an appeal decision, Matter of Ruzuku, that mandated the Department of Homeland Security to accept sibling to sibling DNA evidence to prove family ties.

In Matter of Ruzuku, USCIS was not convinced about the sibling relationship which was accompanied with an undated family photograph, affidavit from two persons asserting they are relatives who have knowledge of sibling relationship, and birth certificates issued more than 25 years after birth. In response, the petitioner arranged for sibling-to-sibling DNA testing with an accredited facility. The DNA report concluded that the petitioner and the beneficiary were very likely (99.8114%) siblings.  The USCIS Director declined to give persuasive weight to any of the evidence by itself and did not indicate if she assessed all evidence in totality. The petitioner appealed and the Board of Immigration Appeals held though sibling-to-sibling DNA test results alone would not be sufficient to establish a relationship, it combined with other evidence should be considered in totality.

Consular officers overseas will now be able to accept DNA tests as “probative evidence” for determining the existence of a sibling relationship. Proving a bona fide sibling relationship is necessary in order for a foreign national sibling to be sponsored by their US citizen sibling. Previously, DOS only permitted DNA testing to prove a bona fide relationship between parent and child. Given the cost, consular officers only use DNA evidence if there is a noticeable absence of true relationship between family members. If there is a case with sufficient evidence of a bona fide relationship between the US citizen and foreign national sibling, a DNA test will not be necessary.

99.5 Percent Certainty

 If a consular officer accepts DNA as evidence of a bona fide relationship between siblings, to be consider “probative evidence” the test results must provide “99.5 percent or greater degree of certainty” of a biological relationship. Half siblings are considered with the same 99.5 percent degree of certainty qualification, but with consideration for the single parent genetic relationship. If the DNA test produces a result lower than 99.5 certainty, the DOS will not automatically deny the case. The Department of State orders consular officers to consider the whole of the evidence provided to prove the bona fide relationship between siblings due to the possibility of scientific error within the tests.

Sponsoring a loved one can be an extremely tiresome process, but the new regulation may ease applicant’s burden of proof for establishing a bona fide family relationship.