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Death of a U.S. Citizen
11 MINUTE READ
June 23, 2021

Overview

The Special Consular Services Unit (SCS) of the U.S. Citizen Services Section can assist family and friends in the event of the death of a U.S. citizen in Mexico. The SCS Unit can act as liaison in arranging the disposition of remains. The family or legal representative must pay all funeral home charges, shipping costs for the remains and personal effects (if applicable). We will work with any funeral home selected by the family to ensure proper documentation for shipment of remains to the United States. We maintain a list of funeral homes that are familiar with international shipping requirements.

Even if no assistance is needed in making funeral arrangements, the death of a U.S. citizen should be reported to the Embassy or Consulate so that a Report of Death of a U.S. citizen abroad can be issued. This document is necessary to settle legal and estate matters in the United States.

The Department of State has no funds to assist in the return of remains or ashes of U.S. citizens who die abroad. The diplomatic staff is unable to act as agents for U.S. citizens making funeral arrangements. We can help locate and notify the next-of-kin of their loved one’s passing. The next-of-kin or legal representative is responsible for all costs of the funeral home, and/or shipment of remains or personal effects.  It is also the responsibility of the family to carry out the funeral arrangements with assistance from the contracted funeral home.  Please be aware that Mexican authorities will often request identification documents for both the next-of-kin and the decedent, such as passports, birth certificates, or marriage certificates.

Upon issuance of a local (foreign) death certificate, the U.S. Embassy or consulates may prepare a Consular Report of the Death of a U.S. Citizen Abroad. Copies of that report are provided to the next-of-kin or legal representative and may be used in U.S. courts to settle estate matters. To prepare this document, consular staff will need original evidence of U.S. citizenship and identity of the decedent and the original Mexican death certificate. We can issue 10 copies of the Consular Report of Death of a U.S. Citizen at no cost.

Additional copies can be obtained by contacting the Department of State Passport Vital Records Section.  For more information go to: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/records-and-authentications/requesting-a-vital-record-as-a-u-s–citizen.html

Consular Report of Death of a U.S. Citizen Abroad

When a U.S. citizen dies abroad and the death is reported to the U.S. embassy or consulate, Consular Officers:

  • Confirm the death, identity, and U.S. citizenship of the deceased.
  • Attempt to locate and notify the next-of-kin.
  • Coordinate with the legal representative regarding the disposition of the remains and the personal effects of the deceased
  • Prepare documents for the disposition of the remains in accordance with instructions from the next-of-kin or legal representative.
  • Send signed copies of the Consular Report of Death of an U.S. Citizen Abroad to the next-of-kin or legal representative for possible use in settling estate matters in the United States.

Return of Remains of Deceased U.S. Citizens

When a U.S. citizen dies abroad, U.S. consular officers assist families in making arrangements with local authorities for preparation and disposition of the remains. Options available to a family depend upon local law and practice in the foreign country. U.S. and foreign law require some documents before remains can be sent from one country to another: Consular mortuary certificate, affidavit of local funeral director, and transit permit.  Additional documents may be required depending on the circumstances of the death. The consular officer will ensure that all required documents accompany the remains to the United States.

  • Consular Mortuary Certificate: The consular officer prepares the consular mortuary certificate, which ensures orderly shipment of remains and facilitates U.S. Customs clearance. The certificate is in English and confirms essential information concerning the cause of death.

CDC requirements for importing human remains depend upon if the body has been embalmed, cremated, or if the person died from a quarantinable communicable disease.

At this time, COVID-19 is a quarantinable communicable disease in the United States and the remains must meet the standards for importation found in 42 Code of Federal Regulations Part 71.55 and may be cleared, released, and authorized for entry into the United States only under the following conditions:

  • The remains are cremated; OR
  • The remains are properly embalmed and placed in a hermetically sealed casket; OR
  • The remains are accompanied by a permit issued by the CDC Director. The CDC permit (if applicable) must accompany the human remains at all times during shipment.
    • Permits for the importation of the remains of a person known or suspected to have died from a quarantinable communicable disease may be obtained through the CDC Division of Global Migration and Quarantine by calling the CDC Emergency Operations Center at 770-488-7100 or emailing dgmqpolicyoffice@cdc.gov.

Please see CDC’s guidance for additional information.

Additional Resources