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The Updated Home Office Policy for DNA Testing - How best to navigate the process

Written by
Nicky Harding, DNA Legal
Date of Publication:
21 January 2020

Completing your Home Office Immigration Visa or Passport application can be a complicated, stressful and time-consuming exercise often requiring additional documentation or verification of your identity, or even confirmation of a familial relationship. One simple solution often volunteered to confirm a biological family relationship for an applicant, is a Home Office Accredited DNA test. The Home Office cannot insist that a DNA test be undertaken, but they will often recommend that it is in support of the application.

The purpose of this post is to provide some clarity about the process of selecting an accredited laboratory to undertake testing and to also guide you through some of the hurdles you might face during the process.

The inclusion of a DNA test with a Visa or Passport application provides formal scientific and irrefutable confirmation of a biological relationship with the UK sponsor. Any company or laboratory providing Home Office accredited (ISO/IEC17025) DNA tests must have a full chain of custody in place where samples are collected in accordance with the Home Office collection standards, ensuring the identity of each person has been verified with official photographic ID. The Home Office must not require that a DNA test is provided - this inclusion must always be voluntary, and will be considered along with any evidence included within the application.

A list of Home Office approved Laboratories can be found on the gov.uk website https://www.gov.uk/get-dna-test.

The DNA test requires that a buccal swab (cells from the inside of the cheek are gathered by rubbing a cotton bud in a circular motion inside the cheek) be collected from the person and their immediate relation - such as child and both of their biological parents or other immediate family members, depending on the nature of the relationship the person is seeking to prove.

To prove paternity, usually samples from both parents and the child are provided, as this produces more accurate results, although there may be circumstances where this is not always possible, then another relationship might need to be tested. For certain laboratories that test for a larger range of DNA Markers, testing a single parent only will not reduce accuracy, so be sure to ask about this when making enquiries. Other biological relationships that can be tested include siblings, cousins, aunt / uncle and grandparents. To ensure the laboratory is able to scientifically provide definitive confirmation of the biological relationship, it is always helpful to prepare as much information about the relationships as possible, for example when testing siblings are they full siblings sharing both parents, or half siblings sharing only their mother or their father? When it is required that a more complex familial relationship is to be tested, it is important to produce as much information about the family lineage as possible with your instruction. An example of this would be when testing an aunt against a nephew - ideally the laboratory would benefit from knowing if the aunt is the maternal or paternal aunt of the nephew and / or if the aunt is the full or half sibling of the nephew's parent. The more information provided at the point of instruction, the less delay there is likely to be in receiving your results. This will also increase the laboratories ability to interpret the DNA markers to confirm the relationship being tested.

Most accredited testing providers will have approved clinics across the UK and in a variety of locations overseas. Before proceeding with testing ensure a clinic is available in the correct country, also note it may be necessary to travel some distance to the clinic. Clinic appointment costs will vary between countries and providers, so establishing the full cost of testing including your appointments is important at the start when making initial enquiries.

Once your clinic appointment is booked every person providing DNA samples must also produce a photographic document, that includes their name, to the witness to confirm their identity, such as:

• passport
• biometric residence permit
• identity card
• Proof of Age Standards Scheme (PASS) card
• National Entitlement Card (NEC)
• photo driving licence

If photographic ID is not provided at sample collection, then there is a risk that the DNA evidence will be rejected by the Home Office. Recent updates to the Home Office policy suggest that the requirement for photographic ID to be included is becoming more stringent.

In some cases, it will not be possible to produce photographic ID at your sample collection appointment due to circumstances such as Asylum or Refugee status (which often means that individuals are not in possession of ID) the application may be at risk of rejection and therefore it is recommended that you seek advice and guidance from your Legal representative.

Once the DNA samples have been collected and arrive at the laboratory results will generally be available within 2-3 days for paternity / maternity testing and approximately 6 days for more complex familial relationships. It is important to ensure enough time for the results to be provided is accounted for within the application process – so that hearing and submission deadlines are not missed. Once in receipt of your results, a Home Office accredited report will be presented along with copies of the documentation collected at the clinic verifying identities.

The DNA test will be a stress-free process if the above guidance is taken into consideration and the corresponding information is provided at the earliest opportunity to the testing provider.

The link to the updated Home Office Publication to use for reference during an application if required is as follows: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/dna-policy.