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When Someone Dies Abroad

When someone dies abroad, the death may seem more distressing because of the complications of being away from home and dealing with strangers, but you can get help from the British authorities in the UK and overseas.

If a close relative or friend dies while you're in the UK

If the death has been reported to the British Consulate in the country where the person died, they will ask the UK police to inform the next of kin.

If you hear of the death from anyone else, e.g. a tour operator, you should contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) on 020 7008 1500 (open 24 hours).

Consular staff in London will keep in touch with the family and the Consulate abroad until burial or cremation overseas or until the deceased has been brought back to the UK. They'll also tell the British Consul of your wishes for the funeral and take details of who'll be responsible for paying the costs involved, such as bringing the body back to the UK.

If the person dies while you're abroad with them

The British Consul will support you by offering practical advice and help with funeral arrangements and other formalities such as inquests.

If the person died while on a package holiday, the tour operator will be able to contact funeral directors and British Consular staff for you.

Registering the death where the person died

You will need to register the death according to local regulations and get a Death Certificate. The local police, British Consul or tour guide can advise you on how to do this.

You can also often register the death at the British Consulate as well. You don't have to do this, but if you do you can buy a UK-style death certificate, and the record will be sent to the General Register Office within 12 months. You will be able to get a copy of the record later from the General Register Office or from the British Consul in the country concerned.

If the person who died was a serving member of the British armed forces, their commanding officer can also request the registration.

It's not possible to register the death with the British authorities in a number of countries including: the Ascension Islands, Australia, Bermuda, Canada, Cayman Islands, Christmas Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Irish Republic, Nevis, New Zealand, St. Helena, South Africa, Turks & Cacos Islands, Virgin Islands (UK).

If the body is to be brought back to England or Wales and is to be cremated, this must be reported to the coroner since they need to issue a Certificate for Cremation (form 6).

For more information call the Coroner's Division on 020 340 6659/6660, open Monday to Friday 9.00 am to 5.00 pm.

To find your local coroner please see the Coroners' Society of England and Wales’ website.

Documents you'll need to register the death

When registering the death, you should take information about yourself and the deceased including:

  • full name
  • date of birth
  • passport number
  • where and when the passport was issued
  • details of the next of kin (if you're not their closest relative).

Bringing the body home

If you wish to bring the body back to the UK, British Consular staff will help by putting you in touch with an international funeral director. The body will need to be embalmed and placed in a zinc-lined coffin before it can be removed from the country. It may take some time to bring the body home, especially if a post-mortem examination is held.

Documents you will need

Before you can bring the body home, you'll need the following documents:

  • a certified English translation of the foreign death certificate from the country in which the person died
  • authorisation to remove the deceased's body from the country
  • a certificate of embalming.

The British Consul can help to arrange the above documentation.

Funeral costs

If the deceased's funeral costs are covered by travel insurance, contact the insurance company promptly. They'll be able to contact the funeral directors for you and make the necessary arrangements.

If the deceased's funeral costs are not covered by insurance, you'll be expected to pay all the costs including hospital bills and repatriation (bringing home) of the body and possessions.

Arranging the funeral in the UK

You'll need to take an authenticated translation of the death certificate to the register office in the area you intend to hold the funeral. The register will then issue a 'certificate of no liability to register'. This certificate is usually given to the funeral director to enable the funeral to go ahead. The certificate is not required if a coroner has issued a Certificate E for Cremation or an Order for Burial.

If you wish to have the body cremated you'll need a Cremation Order (or a form 6 if there was a post-mortem), before you start planning the funeral.

For more information call the Coroner's Division on 020 340 6659/6660, open Monday to Friday 9.00 am to 5.00 pm.

To find your local coroner please see the Coroners' Society of England and Wales’ website.

Having the funeral abroad

You can arrange for the burial or cremation in the country the person where died. The British Consulate can give you advice about this.

Deaths in disasters abroad

If the deceased has been killed in a disaster abroad, natural or otherwise, ask the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for help. They will provide support and advice. The main enquiry number is 020 7008 1500. They are open 24 hours a day.

The deceased will need to be identified and you may be asked for information about them including a physical description, name and address of the person's UK doctor or dentist. The police may also need a photograph and/or fingerprint samples from the deceased's house.

Page last updated: 21/01/2014