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Deaths overseas

The Foreign Office has a network of consular officers overseas with whom members of the Consular Directorate, based in London liaise.

Their role is to offer information and support to British Nationals who find themselves in difficulty oversees.

The following information is guidance for families of British Nationals who die overseas. Because laws and local customs vary widely from country to country, this guidance is necessarily general.

If you have any questions contained in this information, and are overseas, please ask the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) staff. If you are in the UK and require information, you can contact the Foreign Office direct in London.

Deaths abroad from natural causes

If your loved one or a friend was travelling with a tour company they will often contact the next of kin directly. If the death of a British National abroad is reported to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, they will ask the police to notify the next of kin as soon as possible. However if the next of kin is not in the United Kingdom, consular staff in the country where they reside will do this.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office will attempt to contact the next of kin as quickly as possible. The intention is that they are the first to know about the death and to avoid, for example, the situation whereby the family learn of the incident by way of by a media report. It cannot be guaranteed that will be possible.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office will only communicate directly with the next of kin or their nominated representative, in relation to the details of the deceased’s repatriation, the funeral arrangements or with the outstanding personal belongings.

To help the Foreign and Commonwealth Office provide information as efficiently and securely as possible, families should appoint a representative (usually the next of kin) who they can deal with as the case continues. As far as possible they will make sure that they will be able to contact the same member of the Foreign Office staff.

Consular staff in London can pass on information or messages to those consular staff engaged overseas regarding the wishes of the next of kin, about dealing with their loved one’s body.

Post mortems overseas

Please be aware, it is possible that the local authorities in the country where your loved one died may carry out a Post Mortem. As is the case in this country, they will not require authority from of the next of kin.

You must be aware that it is normal practice in certain countries for some organs to be removed during the Post Mortem and possibly retained outside the body, again without the next of kin being consulted.

Consular staff will be able to inform you whether this is the case in your situation and answer any questions with regard to local customs and procedure.

Local burial or cremation

If your wishes are to have your loved one buried or cremated abroad then you must first ascertain whether the authorities allow this service for foreigners. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office can advise you about this and also on the costs involved, and in transporting the body and personal belongings back to the United Kingdom.

Please be aware, in some countries there are no facilities for the long-term storage of the deceased and if a death occurs, international certificates, that enable the body to be repatriated, will not be issued.

You may have no choice about the local funeral arrangements or repatriation arrangements. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office consular staff will advise you if this is likely to be the case in your situation.

Costs and expenses

Whilst the Foreign and Commonwealth Office can not settle any debts, pay burial, cremation or repatriation expenses - they can assist by helping transfer money from friends and relatives in the UK to pay for any necessary costs.

They can also provide you with a list of local and international funeral directors. If an English speaking firm is not available, their staff can help you with the arrangements

Death registration

All deaths must be registered in the country where the person died.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office will advise you how to do this. You will need documents both about you and the person who has died, the full name, date of birth and their passport number.

In foreign countries local authorities need to be informed if the deceased suffered from any serious infectious condition (such as hepatitis or HIV) for Health and Safety reasons, so that they can take precautions against infection.

You do not have to register a death at the British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate, but it is a good idea to do so because you can receive a UK death certificate and a permanent copy of it will always be available in English in the UK.

In certain countries, British Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates cannot issue death certificates however the local ones are suitable for British purposes. These countries are Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Republic of Ireland, South Africa and Zimbabwe