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Bringing a child to the U.S. with little or no proof of parentage

On Behalf of | Jan 2, 2024 | Family Immigration

One of the many advantages of becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen or even a legal permanent resident with a green card is that you can typically bring your children (whether they’re minors or adults) to the U.S. on a family-based visa. But what if there’s no documentation to prove that they’re your child?

This issue is more common, of course, for fathers than for mothers. There are a number of cases where this can happen. Maybe you and the mother were never married and you aren’t listed on your child’s birth certificate. Perhaps the mother believed that someone else was the father or it was just easier to name someone else as the father. They might be in a country where the infrastructure has been largely decimated or have already left their home country and are living somewhere else. 

Whatever the situation, if you’ve had little or no relationship with your child or just have no documentation showing your parentage, that doesn’t mean you can’t choose to give them a better life by helping them immigrate to the U.S. They and/or their other parent or guardian would need to want that as well.

What are your options?

First, determine what kind of documentation (if any) there is to provide evidence of your relationship. Even if there aren’t official documents, do you have letters, emails, evidence of payments or even photos of you with your child? That may be enough for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

If it’s not, you can ask the USCIS to let you both take a DNA test. The testing needs to be done at approved, accredited locations in the U.S. and the country your child is in. While it’s a very simple, painless test (generally just a swab of the inside of the mouth), it’s not inexpensive. It also takes some time to process. Acceptable results for parent/child biological relationships are generally a 99.5% certainty.

Note that you may also be able to use DNA testing to prove other close family relationships. For example, if you wanted to bring a parent or sibling to the U.S. but have no documentation of the relationship, those biological relationships can be proven through DNA.

Whatever your unique situation is, the best first step is to get experienced legal guidance. This can help you navigate the process as smoothly as possible and avoid unnecessary missteps and delays in bringing a close family member to the U.S.