Death of a U.S. Citizen

The Bureau of Consular Affairs will locate and inform the next-of-kin of the U.S. citizen’s death and provides information on how to make arrangements for local burial or return of the remains to the United States. The disposition of remains is subject to U.S. law, local laws of the country where the individual died, U.S. and foreign customs requirements, and the foreign country facilities, which are often vastly different from those in the United States.

The Bureau of Consular Affairs assists the next-of-kin to convey instructions to the appropriate offices within the foreign country, and provides information to the family on how to transmit the necessary private funds to cover the costs overseas. The Department of State has no funds to assist in the return of remains or ashes of U.S. citizens who die abroad. Upon issuance of a local death certificate, the nearest embassy or consulate may prepare a Consular Report of the Death of an American Abroad. Copies of that report are provided to the next-of-kin or legal representative and may be used in U.S. courts to settle estate matters.

A U.S. consular officer overseas has statutory responsibility for the personal estate of a U.S. citizen who dies abroad if the deceased has no legal representative or next-of-kin in the country where the death occurred, subject to local law.  In that situation the consular officer takes possession of personal effects, such as jewelry, personal documents and papers, and clothing.

The officer prepares an inventory of the personal effects and then carries out instructions from the legal representative or next-of-kin concerning the effects.  For more information on the Consular Report of the Death of an American Abroad, and other services that a consular officer can help you with when a loved one passes away overseas, see the links below.

  • Confirm the death, identity and U.S. citizenship of the deceased.
  • Notify the next-of-kin if they do not already know about the death.
  • Provide information about disposition of the remains and the effects of the deceased.
  • Provide guidance on forwarding funds to cover costs.
  • Serve as provisional conservator of the estate, if there is no legal representative in the country.
  • Prepare documents for disposition of the remains in accordance with instructions from the next-of-kin or legal representative.
  • Oversee the performance of disposition of the remains and distribution of the effects of the deceased.
  • Send signed copies of the Consular Report of Death of an U.S. Citizen Abroad to the next-of-kin or legal representative for use in settling estate matters in the U.S.

A Foreign Death Certificate:

  • Is issued by the local authority, often the registrar of deaths.
  • Is written in the local language and prepared according to local laws.
  • May not be accepted in the U.S. for insurance and estate purposes.

A Consular Report of Death of a U.S. Citizen Abroad is:

  • Issued by a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
  • Provides essential facts about the death, disposition of remains, and custody of the estate of the deceased American.
  • Generally used in legal proceedings in U.S. as proof of death.
  • Based on the foreign death certificate, and cannot be completed until the death certificate is issued (can be up to 4-6 weeks, depending on the country).
  • Consular Officer will send the family up to 20 certified copies at the time of death at no fee.
  • Additional copies can be received by contacting:
    Department of State
    Passport Vital Records Section
    44132 Mercure Cir.
    PO Box 1213
    Sterling, VA 20166-1213
    Tel. (202) 485-8300
  • You must submit a notarized written request to the above address, with the following information:
    • Full name of the deceased
    • Date and place of death
    • A copy of requester’s valid identification
    • Your return address and telephone number
    • Signature of requester
    • Appropriate fees, payable to the “Department of State” by check or money order
  • There is a $50 fee for each additional certified copy of a Report of Death.
  • Overnight Delivery: Send your request to our office using overnight delivery for quicker service. To have your records returned to you using overnight delivery, include an additional $20.66 with your request or a pre-paid envelope for the delivery service provider of your choice.

(1)  Maximum period before burial. BiH law does not impose any specific time limit for burial.  It only requires that the body be refrigerated.  Embalming is rarely performed in BiH.

(2)  Embalming. Although almost never requested by Bosnian citizens, embalming can be performed in Bosnia and Herzegovina if the family of the deceased U.S. citizen wishes.  The Institute of Forensic Medicine of the Sarajevo University’s Medical School is the only institution that embalms the deceased.  If an autopsy is requested, embalming must be done immediately after the autopsy.  In any case, it should be performed as soon after death as possible.  Please note that the quality of embalming will likely be very far from U.S. standards.

Note:  Without embalming, an open-casket ceremony is still possible if the remains are shipped to the U.S. within a week. However, the U.S. local funeral director should examine the remains first and advise the family about the possibility of viewing the remains.

(3)  Cremation. Bosnia and Herzegovina does not have a crematorium.  The nearest crematorium is in Zagreb, Croatia or in Novi Sad, Serbia.  This requires export of remains from BiH and transport by road to Croatia or Serbia.

(4)  Caskets and containers. Zinc caskets required to export remains may be purchased locally, as well as wooden caskets with shipping bags necessary for air transport.  The prices of coffins range from $500 to $2,000 (zinc casket included).  The cost of an air-transport bag and packing of the coffin (placement in the bag) is $180.  The soldering of the zinc casket costs $80, and disinfection of the zinc casket at the time of soldering is $20.  Dressing of the deceased in the clothes in which he/she will be buried costs $32. Name plates for the coffin cost $ 7.  Therefore, the total cost of a medium-quality coffin and preparation for shipment (without embalming) is from $1,100 to USD 2,500.

(5)  Exportation of remains.  Air export requirements are that the zinc casket must be sealed by soldering, and then placed in a wooden coffin.  The wooden coffin must be placed in an air transport bag and sealed.  The act of sealing of the casket must be witnessed by the representatives of the Health Department and Customs.  After the sealing, the Health Department issues the exit permit, i.e. “laissez-passer for corpse”, which is the key document for export of remains from Bosnia and Herzegovina.  These administrative fees amount to about $100.

(6)  Various prices.  The price of local burial without embalming is approximately BAM 1,400 (approximately $ 830) (including a middle-quality coffin).  The cost of a grave site is approximately BAM 3,400 (approximately $2,000)

– Embalming:  approximately $500

– Use of refrigerated chamber for one day:  approximately $30

– Road transport within BiH:  about $1 per kilometer

– Transport within Sarajevo Canton (Hospital-Funeral Home-Airport): $60

– Export permit (administrative costs):  $100

Air cargo prices.  The weight of the remains is most often between 100 and 150 kg (220 to 330 lbs).  Air cargo price is calculated per kilogram, and varies depending on the destination in the U.S.  The total cost of air shipment to the U.S. ranges from $3,500 to $6,500.

Responsibility for decisions regarding disposition of remains and the costs, rests with the next-of-kin or legal representative of the deceased. The embassy is not able to provide any financial assistance but can facilitate the transfer of funds from the United States.

Most Bosnian undertakers or funeral homes require payment in advance. Money can be transferred from the U.S. using private companies, such as Western Union, or via the Department of State’s OCS/TRUST system or directly transferred to a local funeral home bank account in BiH. Information on money transfers through the Department of State is available http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/emergencies/money/money_1224.html .

(7)  Exhumed remains:  In order to obtain a permit for exhumation, a written request and death certificate must be submitted.  The funeral home will forward the request to the Sanitation Department, which gives the final approval.  They will also ensure the presence of the police if required in a particular case. The procedure of preparation and shipment of the exhumed remains is the same as stated above.  The total cost of an exhumation service is about $400, and the same administrative fees apply as stated above.

(8)  Autopsy:  The local prosecutor determines whether an autopsy is necessary.  The Institute of Forensic Medicine of the University of Sarajevo’s Medical School is the main institute that performs autopsies.  There are also qualified pathologists in other major hospitals in BiH, such as in Banja Luka, Mostar and Tuzla.

(9) Local Customs:  Funerals and memorial services are conducted in accordance with the customs and traditions of the religions represented in the country.  There is also a big population of atheists, so funerals without any religious service are also common.


Funeral homes and related services available in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Funeral Home „Pokop” Sarajevo  (main state-owned company-all denominations)
Mula Mustafe Baseskije 96, Sarajevo
Director:  Alma Pinjic; Chief of operations: Sefik Vatres
Tel.:  (033) 535-170; Fax: (033) 535-164
Morgue:  (003) 664-686
Web page:  http://www.pokop.ba/

Funeral Home “Bakije”  (Muslim only)
Tel:  (033) 533 763; 233 062; 447 122; 233 062
Cell phone:  (061) 131 788; (061) 150 146
E-mail:  info@bakije.com
Web page: http://www.bakije.com/

Funeral Home “Jedileri” (Muslim only)
Bistrik 8, Sarajevo
Tel:  (033) 712-800;
Fax: (033) 712-801;
Cell phone: 061 490-592

Hrvatsko pogrebno društvo “Sveti Anto” (Croat Funeral Home “St. Anthony”— Catholic only)
Hamze Hume 4, Sarajevo
Tel:  (033) 200-887

Srpsko pgorebno društvo “Sveti Marko” (Serb Funeral Home “St. Mark”—Orthodox only)
Mula Mustafe Baseskije 58, Sarajevo
Tel:  (033) 534-804

Ukop Martinovic  (Funeral Home Martinovic— Catholic only)
Joze Penave 1-3, Ilidza, Sarajevo
Tel:  (033) 468-380

City Funeral Home “Bijeli Brijeg” (primarily Catholic)
Bijeli brijeg bb, 88000 Mostar
Tel/fax: (036) 327-485
Web page: http://www.mrtvacnica-mostar.com/index.html

Funeral Home “Gradsko groblje” (all denominations)
Skolska 1, 72000 Zenica
Tel: (032) 401-496

Funeral Home “Komemorativni centar” (all denominations)
Kojšino 31, 75000 Tuzla
Tel.: +387 (0)35 360-910, 330-111
Fax: +387 (0)35 264-270
Web page: http://komemorativni-centar.ba/

Gradsko groblje Banja Luka (Main state-owned funeral home; all denominations; you need to arrange a religious service separately, in direct contact with the religious institution)
Tel.: +387 (0)51  214-107; +387 (0)51  214 -060
Rade Radica bb, Vrbanja, Banja Luka
Web page: http://www.ggroblje.com/index.php/usluge/pogrebne-usluge

Funeral Home Sveti Marko (all denominations)
Karadjordjeva 2, 71123 Istocno Sarajevo
Tel:  +387 (0)57 373-159
Tel/Fax: (0)57 321-310
E-mail: svetimarko_is@teol.net
Web page:  http://kpsvetimarko.com/o-preduzecu.html

Funeral home “Flor” (all denominations)
78240 Čelinac, Republika Srpska, Bosna i Hercegovina
Tel/Fax: +387 51 560 100, +387 51 560 101, +387 51 560 102
Branch Banja Luka
Address: Aleja Sv. Save 46, Telefon: +387 51 214 700; +387 65 495-409
Branch Sarajevo-Lukavica
Address: Vojvode Putnika 96, Telefon: +387 57 342 501
e-mail: flor@teol.net
Web page: http://flordoo.com/v3/index.php/kontakt