Death of a British Citizen Abroad
Please note: If the cause of death is unknown or was
violent, sudden or unnatural, then a coroner in the UK will need to set up an
Coping with a death is often difficult and is often more so when it happens abroad. Please find a leaflet from the British government on how to cope with death overseas.
Registration of the Death
The first thing that must be done is to register the death with the local authorities in the country that the person died
in. This is essential and must be completed quickly. Once this is done then you must inform the UK government by
registering the death with the UK.
Going back home
If you plan to bring remains back to the UK there are different rules, depending on whether the body will be brought home for burial/cremation or if the body has been cremated abroad and you wish to bring their ashes home. Please see below for details on both options.
If the body has been cremated abroad then the process of taking only the ashes back to the UK is much easier and less costly. When leaving a country bound for the UK with someone’s ashes you need the following documents:
- Certificate of cremation
- Death certificate
You should start by contacting the British embassy, consulate or high commission in the country you wish to depart from because every country has its own policies regarding departures with human remains and there are often different requirements. When you land in the UK you will need to fill out various customs forms.
Before you book your flights, please contact your airline to find out their policies, because you need to know whether you have to carry the ashes on board or store them with checked in luggage. For security purposes you may even need to transfer the remains in a non-metallic container so that they can be x-rayed.
Please note: If the person is cremated abroad then an autopsy cannot be carried out in the UK
Taking the body back home
To bring a body back home to the UK it will need to be embalmed and placed in a zinc-lined coffin before it is allowed to
leave the country where the person died. The whole process may take some time, especially if there is a post-mortem held.
Along with the special coffin requirements you will need the following documents:
- certificate of embalming
- proof you are authorised to move the body from the country, usually issued by the coroner (or equivalent) in the country where the person died
- a certified English translation of the death certificate, if the original is not in English
As always it is best to contact the British embassy, consulate or high commission in the country you wish to depart from, as policies may vary.
When the body is back in the UK
You will need to contact the register office where the funeral is planned to take place and take the death certificate to them.
You will already have registered the death abroad so you need to ask the register office for a ‘certificate of no liability to register’.
You will need to give this to the funeral director so the funeral can go ahead.
Please note: If the cause of death is unknown or was violent, sudden or unnatural, then a coroner in the UK will need to set up an inquest.