Dealing with an Expat Death While Abroad

Coping with an expat’s death abroad and making the necessary arrangements raises additional complex issues compared to when a death occurs within the deceased home nation or territory. 

 For example, if the deceased is from the US, the first thing that needs to be done when a citizen dies while abroad is contact the US embassy or consulate. They should be able to provide the following help:

  • Assist in informing the next of kin or other contactable family members.
  • Liaise on the behalf of the overseas authorities regarding immediate wishes for dealing with the body.
  • Offer information on the cost of transporting the body and personal belongings back to the US.
  • Provide a list of local international funeral service providers.
  • Give advice on the cost of local burial or cremation.
  • Give basic information on the local legal system.
  • If the death has occurred under suspicious circumstances, provide list of local lawyers, interpreters and relevant support groups.

Registering the Death

 The death must be registered locally according to local regulations of the country where the overseas national has died. Documentation for the deceased, including confirmation of name, date and place of birth, passport details, etc., will need to be presented to the local register of the country in question before the formalities of issuing the death certificate can be completed. Also, registering the death with the relevant overseas embassy, which may not be a legal requirement, will further assist in minimizing the impact of the ordeal.


The deceased countries embassy should be able to advise on how to organize repatriation when one of their nationals dies while abroad as well as provide a list of specialist.

If the body is to be repatriated, delays may occur if a postmortem is required. In addition, it is a legal requirement that the local coroner is notified if the body is to be cremated upon repatriation.

The necessary documentation will also have to be in place before any international social or transportation services can proceed. Documentation may include authorization to release the body from the country, a certified translation of the foreign death certificate, as well as a certificate of embalming.