DNA testing

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) accepts DNA test results for immigration and citizenship applications as evidence of a genetic link between a parent and a child or between brothers and sisters.

IRCC recognizes DNA results only from laboratories accredited by the Standards Council of Canada (SCC).

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When to do DNA testing

An applicant may be given the option of undergoing DNA testing in cases in which documentary evidence has been examined and there are still doubts about the authenticity of a parent-child genetic relationship or when it is not possible to obtain satisfactory relationship documents. A DNA test to prove a genetic relationship should be suggested by IRCC only as a last resort.

How DNA is collected

DNA sample collection for IRCC purposes is a non-invasive process. A saliva sample is taken from each person being tested and the samples are sent to an accredited laboratory, which extracts DNA from them, compares their genetic profiles and determines if they match.

Who must provide DNA samples

DNA tests to establish a parent-child relationship must involve samples of genetic material from both parents and from the child or children. DNA tests to establish a genetic relationship with a sponsored relative must involve samples of genetic material from both the sponsor and the sponsored relative.

For citizenship purposes, it is only necessary to establish one parent-child relationship with a Canadian citizen parent. However, it is preferable to take samples of genetic material from both parents as it facilitates the testing process.

A relative or family member’s DNA can be useful to DNA test results for immigration purposes, even if that person is not specifically involved with the sponsorship application. In such cases, the processing office needs to be satisfied that the person is a blood relative of the sponsor and that the person’s DNA sample is collected in accordance with these guidelines.

DNA testing scenarios

The following gives examples of when DNA samples may be requested and who should be tested:

For a paternity test between a child (overseas) and the sponsor (living in Canada)

Who to test:

  • the child
  • both the mother and father

As it is more labour-intensive for the laboratory to do a paternity test on the father alone, it is preferable to also have DNA test results from the mother.

If the alleged father is the sponsor and a paternity report is requested, the DNA laboratory automatically requests a sample from the mother. A separate maternity report is not required unless it is strongly suspected that the mother is not the biological mother and she is also being sponsored. While conducting the paternity test, the DNA laboratory determines if the alleged mother is excluded or not, and will issue a covering letter advising of any negative relationship results between the alleged mother and any of the children.

Determining if siblings are full- or half-siblings

Who to test:

  • the siblings
  • the parents (or, if the parents are deceased, the parents’ siblings)

If the alleged parents of the siblings are deceased, it is useful to have samples from the parents’ relatives. If they are available to be tested, the DNA testing company may request samples from the parents’ relatives to determine the sibling relationship, and migration offices should collect these.

Informing the applicant about the DNA testing process

For both immigration and citizenship applications, IRCC will issue a DNA letter to the applicant informing them of the option to provide DNA test results. The applicant will then contact an SCC-accredited laboratory directly and give them a copy of the DNA letter.

The DNA letter informs the applicant of the following:

  • the decision to undergo a DNA test is entirely their own
  • they will have to cover all costs related to the DNA test, regardless of the result (that is, all costs including sample-taking, courier costs for shipping, the laboratory analysis of all DNA samples and the final report submitted directly from the laboratory to IRCC and the applicant)
  • IRCC only recognizes DNA test results from laboratories accredited by the SCC. It is the applicant’s responsibility to choose one of these laboratories. Tests from laboratories that are not SCC-accredited will not be accepted
  • the applicant must provide 2 passport photos and 2 pieces of valid identification documents to establish their identity, one of which must be a government-issued photo ID
  • the applicant must sign a release and consent form (provided by the laboratory) so that laboratories may send the test results to IRCC
  • the government assumes no responsibility for the results of the DNA analysis

DNA sample collection procedures

The applicant will contact the laboratory directly and give them a copy of the DNA letter from IRCC.

Tests within Canada: What the laboratory does

The laboratory chosen by the applicant will arrange an appointment to collect a DNA sample. The laboratory must follow IRCC and SCC procedures for the collection and submission of DNA samples.

The sample collection site must be administered by an SCC-accredited laboratory.

At the time of the DNA sample collection, applicants must provide the following:

  • 2 passport photos, in accordance with IRCC specifications, which must be included in the documentation shipped with the DNA sample
  • 2 pieces of identification to establish their identity. One of them must be a government-issued photo ID, such as a provincial/territorial driver’s licence, permanent resident card or Canadian passport
    Note: A photocopy of the identity documents must be included in the package shipped with the DNA sample.
  • a signed release and consent form provided by the laboratory, authorizing them to send the DNA test results and photocopies of the identity documents to IRCC

Requirements for the collection and shipment of samples

The SCC-accredited laboratory must ensure the integrity of the DNA testing and shipment procedures. At the time the DNA sample is collected, a representative for the laboratory will ask for the necessary documentation from the applicant and will do the following:

  • verify the identity of the person providing the DNA sample
  • make a photocopy of the applicant’s 2 pieces of identification
  • ensure the release and consent form is signed by the applicant
  • match the identification provided at the time of the DNA sample collection with the applicant’s information provided in the DNA letter or other material issued by IRCC
  • verify that the DNA sample kit has not been tampered with
  • collect the DNA sample according to the instructions included in the DNA sample kit
  • complete the chain of custody document for the DNA sample. The chain of custody record must identify the full name of the employee who collected and packaged the DNA sample as well as the legal name of the sample collection facility
  • package the DNA sample and documentation according to the instructions included in the DNA sample kit
  • send the package directly to the laboratory conducting the DNA test by the fastest, most reliable means possible. Ideally, no more than 7 days should elapse between the collection of the DNA sample and receipt of the package by the laboratory

Note: In citizenship cases, in the event the Canadian parent does not want to go ahead with the DNA test, the IRCC office should destroy the DNA letter and the first page of the proof application along with the proof of the parent’s Canadian citizenship.

Tests outside Canada: What the laboratory does

The laboratory chosen by the applicant will send a tamper-proof DNA sample kit (including instructions) to the migration office (for an immigration application) or the consular mission (for a citizenship application). The DNA sample kit contains everything necessary to take, package and ship a DNA sample, including instructions regarding witnessing the sample taking.

Requirements for witnessing the collection of samples

The migration office must ensure the integrity of the DNA testing procedures. DNA testing is used when there is uncertainty about a claimed relationship, so any possibility of fraud must be eliminated.

A migration officer or migration office staff member must be present when the DNA sample is collected for immigration or citizenship purposes, and must do the following:

  • ensure the persons providing the DNA samples are the persons identified in the DNA sample kit and in the identification provided at the time of the sample collection
  • verify that the DNA sample kit has not been tampered with and complete the chain of custody documents for the DNA sample (or witness their completion)
  • package the DNA sample and documentation according to the instructions included in the DNA sample kit
  • send the package to the laboratory by the fastest, most reliable means possible. Ideally, no more than 7 days should elapse between the collection of the DNA sample and receipt of the package by the laboratory. Private courier services, paid for by the applicant, can normally deliver samples within this timeframe

Reporting DNA test results

The laboratory must conduct the DNA test as soon as all samples and necessary documentation have been submitted. The results must be sent directly from the laboratory that conducted the DNA test to the applicant and the appropriate IRCC office, preferably via mail or courier.

Delivering DNA test results by email carries the risk of unauthorized access by third parties. Should a laboratory choose to communicate DNA test results by email, it must ensure the transmission of information is done in a secure manner.

Note: The laboratory is solely responsible for the protection of clients’ personal information and assumes all liability for:

  • privacy or security breaches
  • negligence
  • any other liability that may result from the handling of such information via email

If a laboratory intends to deliver test results by email, it must inform the client through the release and consent form and outline the specific risks. The laboratory must agree to provide IRCC with satisfactory proof of a signed release and consent at the time it delivers the DNA test results to IRCC. Laboratories must also implement appropriate measures to protect clients’ personal information. An example of ensuring the transmission of information is done in a secure manner may include sending the test results through a 2-step process: in a password-protected email, with the password sent in a separate email. The laboratory will promptly advise IRCC if it changes the existing measures or implements new measures to deliver DNA test results and protect clients’ personal information.

The Government of Canada is not responsible for any of the following:

  • losses or damages incurred due to unauthorized third-party access to the DNA test results
  • misuse of the results or other personal information
  • issues related to the mode of communication used to disseminate DNA test results, including:
    • restrictions
    • delay
    • malfunction
    • any other issues

IRCC will not accept test results from laboratories that have had their accreditation suspended by the SCC. IRCC does not recognize DNA test results where the records indicate that a suspended or unaccredited laboratory was involved in any part of the DNA testing process, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • sample collection
  • sample storage
  • sample packaging
  • sample extraction
  • sample analysis
  • reporting of DNA test results

Test results will only be accepted from laboratories that have valid accreditation from the SCC.

If a client does not sign a release and client consent form or withdraws consent to release their information, the laboratory will write to IRCC to say that information cannot be released. In such cases, officers are required to make a decision on the application based on the information on file.

Parentage test results must have an accuracy of 99.8% or higher. Test results below these levels are not acceptable as proof of relationship.

DNA testing for citizenship purposes for clients outside Canada

The following provides additional procedures for DNA testing for citizenship purposes depending on the location of the applicant and their parents.

Client outside Canada (and not in U.S.)

Client and Canadian citizen parents live outside Canada (and not in U.S.)

The Case Processing Centre in Sydney (CPC-S), Nova Scotia will:

  • send the DNA letter to the consular office abroad (except in the U.S.) for distribution to the applicant, accompanied by:
    • a copy of the first page of the proof application (CIT 0001), including the applicant’s photo and personal information
    • the Canadian parent’s proof of citizenship

Client is outside Canada and Canadian citizen parent lives in Canada

The CPC-S will:

  • send the DNA letter directly to the applicant or minor child’s parent in Canada, copying the appropriate consular office, and include:
    • a copy of the first page of the proof application (CIT 0001), including the child’s photo and personal information
    • the Canadian parent’s proof of citizenship

If the consular office and migration office are located in the same city, the consular officer can arrange appointments to collect DNA samples with the migration office.

If the consular and migration offices are not in the same city, when the laboratory asks the consular office to arrange an appointment for DNA sample collection, the consular officer will contact the manager of the migration office that serves the child’s country of residence to refer the case for DNA collection (accompanied by a copy of the first page of the proof application and the Canadian parent’s proof of citizenship). The migration office will then contact the client to arrange for a DNA sample to be collected according to the procedures outlined above.

Note: The consular officer must not be present during the collection of the DNA sample. An IRCC officer or migration office staff member must be present when the DNA sample is collected for immigration or citizenship purposes.

Client is in the U.S.

The CPC-S will send the DNA letter and documents directly to the migration office in the U.S. responsible for the geographic area in which the client resides.

The migration office will follow the process for DNA collection outlined under “Requirements for witnessing the collection of samples” above.

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