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.

Finding out about the death

If the person dies abroad while you're at home and the death has been reported to the British Consulate in the country where the person died, they will ask the police to tell the next of kin.

If you hear of the death from anyone else, for example a tour operator, you should contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

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.

Find a British embassy, high commission or consulate abroad.

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 also be able to get a copy of the Death Certificate 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

If the body is to be brought back to be cremated, this must be reported to the coroner since they need to issue a Certificate for Cremation.

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

Find out about registering a death in Northern Ireland.

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.

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 you to get the documents above. Advice on translation services can also be sought from relevant British Consulates.

Funeral costs

If the deceased's funeral costs are covered by travel insurance, you should contact the insurance company as soon as possible. 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 belongings.

Arranging the funeral

You'll need to take an authenticated translation of the death certificate to the register office in the area where you plan 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 allow the funeral to go ahead. The certificate is not required if a coroner has issued a Certificate for Cremation or an Order for Burial.

For more information contact the Coroners Service for Northern Ireland

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

Find out more about arranging a funeral.

Deaths in disasters abroad

If the deceased has been killed in a disaster abroad, ask the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for help. Its staff will provide support and advice. 

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.

Travelling on an Irish passport

If the person who has died was travelling on an Irish passport, you should contact the Irish consulate or embassy in the country where the death has happened.

Find out more on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website.

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