Death of a U.S. Citizen

General

One of the most essential tasks of the Department of State and of U.S. embassies and consulates abroad is to provide assistance to families of U.S. citizens who die abroad. When an American dies abroad, a consular officer prepares the necessary paperwork for the disposition of the remains, whether shipment to the U.S. or burial in Bermuda.  Costs for preparing and returning the body to the U.S. can be high and must be paid by the family.  Please go to Bermuda Funeral Homes for a complete listing of local funeral homes.

What to Expect When an American Citizen Dies in Bermuda

The Funeral Director will secure all necessary documents for repatriating the remains.  Bermuda’s requirements are outlined below, along with an estimate of the amount of time that may be required:

  1. Bermuda requires an autopsy when a non resident dies while in Bermuda.  Autopsies are not performed during the weekends, and may take up to 4-5 working days.
  2. Following the autopsy, the Coroner determines the cause of death, usually within one working day.*
  3. Bermuda’s Registrar General issues a Bermuda death certificate, usually within one working day.*
  4. The Bermuda Police Service issues a transit permit authorizing the release of remains for local burial or shipment overseas,  usually within one day.*
  5. The mortuary embalms and prepares the remains for shipment, typically one day .
  6. The U.S. Consulate notarizes the Consular Mortuary Certificate as soon as it is prepared by the Funeral Director. This certificate accompanies the body in transit and is required by U.S. Customs officials.
  7. The U.S. Consulate prepares the Consular Report of Death Abroad (CRDA).  This document is based on the Bermuda death certificate.   The Consulate sends copies by courier to the next of kin within approximately one week following issuance of the Bermuda death certificate. The CRDA is used for settling the deceased’s estate in the U.S.

Note:  Steps marked with an * may be accomplished within the same business day.

Reports of Death

The consul prepares a Report of Death based on the Bermuda death certificate; this report is then forwarded to the next of kin for use in estate and insurance matters.  The consular “Report of Death of an American Citizen Abroad” provides the essential facts concerning the death of a U.S. citizen, disposition of remains, and custody of the personal effects of a deceased citizen. This form is generally used in legal proceedings in the United States in lieu of the foreign death certificate. The report of death is based on the foreign death certificate and cannot be completed until the foreign death certificate has been issued. This process can sometimes take from four to six weeks or longer after the date of the death, depending on how long it takes local authorities to complete the local form. U.S. embassies and consulates work with local authorities to see that this time is as short as possible. Bermuda requires autopsies in all cases.

Copies of the Reports of Death

The U.S. consular officer will send the family up to 20 certified copies of the report of death at the time the initial report is issued. These are provided at no fee. Additional copies can be obtained subsequently by contacting the Department of State, Passport Services, Correspondence Branch, 1111 19th Street, N.W., Suite 510, Washington, D.C. 20522-1705, tel (202) 955-0307. Submit a signed, written request including all pertinent facts along with requester’s return address and telephone number. There is a $30 fee for a certified copy of reports of death, and a $20 fee for each additional copy provided at the same time.

Mortuary Certificates

A U.S. Consular Mortuary Certificate is required to ensure orderly shipment of remains and to facilitate U.S. Customs clearance. The certificate is in English and confirms essential information concerning the cause of death. The U.S. consular officer will prepare the certificate and ensure that the foreign death certificate (if available), Affidavit of the Foreign Funeral Director, and Transit Permit, together with the Consular Mortuary Certificate, accompany the remains to the United States. The Affidavit of Foreign Funeral Director and Transit Permit are part of the mortuary certificate. This document is executed by the local (foreign) funeral director. This affidavit attests to the fact that the casket contains only the remains of the deceased and the necessary clothing and packing materials. The affidavit may also state that the remains have been embalmed or otherwise prepared. In addition, the U.S. consular officer ensures that a transit permit accompanies the remains. The transit permit is issued by local health authorities at the port of embarkation.  To book an online appointment to process a consular mortuary certificate – click here.

U.S. Entry Requirements for Quarantine and Customs

In general, if remains have been embalmed, the documentation which accompanies the consular mortuary certificate will satisfy U.S. public health requirements. If the foreign death certificate is not available at the time the remains are returned, the Consular Mortuary Certificate will include reference to the fact that the deceased did not die from a quarantineable disease and that the remains have been embalmed. The affidavit of the funeral director which is attached to the Consular Mortuary Certificate complies with the U.S. Customs requirement that the casket and the packing container for the casket contain only the remains. If the remains are not accompanied by a passenger, a bill of lading must be issued by the airline carrier company to cover the transport. The customs house permit for entry to the United States is obtained by the airline carrier at the point of departure.

For more information regarding the deaths of Americans abroad please contact the U.S. Consulate.