Updated on June 14, 2019
In the tragic event of the death of a family member overseas, the Consulate can assist by arranging transport/cremation/burial of the body of the deceased, and by producing the paperwork necessary for family members to settle the deceased’s estate in the U.S. Please see below for answers to some commonly asked questions about the death of an American citizen overseas.
Report of Death of an American Citizen Abroad
This document is issued by an American Embassy or Consulate to reflect the facts of the death abroad of an American citizen. The document is based upon the local death certificate. It is generally required by insurance companies and other entities in the U.S. before in determining the distribution of death benefits. Please follow the link below to the Department of State’s website for additional information on Reports of Death Abroad.
Reporting and Documenting a Death in Vietnam
When a U.S. citizen dies abroad, US consular officer assist families in handling arrangements with local authorities for preparation and disposition of the remains. In the event of shipment of remains, normal cases require five to seven working days before remains can be transported. Complicated cases involving a police investigation and/or an autopsy can take ten working days or longer.
The body of the deceased is taken to the nearest morgue or hospital pending funeral or shipment arrangements. In Ho Chi Minh City, this is usually the morgue at Cho Ray Hospital, Ho Chi Minh City Forensic Center or Franco-Vietnamese Hospital. Before burial or transportation can be arranged, the local police of the ward where the deceased was residing must be notified. If the American died at a hospital, the hospital will issue a report of death. When the death occurs at a private residence, a family member of the deceased must present the letter/declaration of death to be verified and sealed by the police of the ward in question. The Report of Death or the Statement/Declaration of Death is presented to the Justice Office of the District or Provincial People’s Committee to obtain the Vietnamese Death Certificate. The Immigration Department at 196 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Ward 6, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City must also be informed of the death of a foreign citizen.
Under Vietnamese law, the family should contact the Consulate to obtain a Diplomatic Note detailing the family’s request regarding the disposition of remains (burial/cremate/shipment). An autopsy is required for foreigners who die in Vietnam, if the death was of a suspicious nature. However, the family may request that an autopsy be waived. To do this, the Consulate must send a Diplomatic Note to the HCMC External Relations Office (ERO) stating the family’s wish to handle the disposition of remains, and stating that it has no objection to the waiver of autopsy. The Vietnamese authorities will then issue a permit for burial or cremation. If the body is to be shipped to the United States, the next of kin (or a legal representative) must obtain a Quarantine Permit for Exportation of Corpse from the Service of Health of Ho Chi Minh City. Local funeral services can help with this matter. The Consulate will then issue a Consular Mortuary Certificate, which will accompany the remains. Several other documents must also accompany the remains to the United States: 1) Declaration of Death (produced by the Service of Health); 2) Health Quarantine Certificate of Corpse, Bones and Body ash and 3) Record of Corps Embalming (Forensic Medical Center – Service of Health).
List of Undertakers in Ho Chi Minh City
The following HCMC undertakers (PDF 11KB) have assisted with funeral arrangements or shipment of remains in the past. Currently, only the funeral service providers noted claim to be able to handle funeral arrangement and shipment of remains to the United States. The U.S. Consulate General cannot vouch for the professional ability or integrity of any of these organizations.
Transporting Ashes or Remains from Vietnam to the United States
Costs – Burial and Cremation in Vietnam vs. Shipment of Remains to the United States
The cost for preparation and burial in Ho Chi Minh City is estimated to begin at approximately USD 6,000. This cost can be higher depends on the land area. The cost for cremation and disposition of ashes in Ho Chi Minh City is estimated to begin at approximately USD 3,500.
Should the next of kin decide to have the remains returned to the United States for burial, the costs are significantly higher due to the high cost of airfreight and embalming. The cost for preparation, embalming and air shipment of remains to the United States is estimated at USD 12,000 to USD 18,000 or more depending on the airline and cost for the services provided by the funeral company. The cost for preparation, cremation and air shipment of ashes to the United States is estimated at USD 3,500 to USD 8,000.
Procedures for Transporting Ashes or Remains from Vietnam to the United States
The procedures for requesting permission to transport the ashes or remains of a U.S. citizen back to the United States from Vietnam follows:
a) Fill out the quarantine permit application form (obtained at the International Quarantine Service).
b) Be prepared to present any documents pertaining to the remains, such as a Vietnamese Death Certificate, certification from the physician or hospital, and other evidence of the death in support of the request for the permit.
c) Bring the urn with the ashes to the International Quarantine Service for sealing (if applicable).
International Quarantine Service (Department of Health)
40 Nguyen Van Troi, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City
Tel : (028) 3844-0155 / (028) 3844-5306 / (028) 3844-0157
The issuance fee for the permit for transporting ashes and remains is 113,000 VND.
Guidelines for Handling the Death of American Citizen in Vietnam
The U.S. Consulate General provides assistance when a U.S. citizen dies in Vietnam. The following are some general guidelines for the legal representative of the deceased to handle a death case:
1. Obtain a Report of Death from the Vietnamese Government (e.g. from the hospital if the American citizen died in a hospital; otherwise the People’s Committee of the Ward where the U.S. citizen died.)
2. Submit the Report of Death to the American Citizen Services Unit (ACS) of the U.S. Consulate General along with the U.S. passport of the deceased and evidence of the legal representative (ID card of the legal representative, marriage license if the legal representative is the spouse of the deceased, birth certificate if the legal representative is the child of the deceased) in order to obtain a diplomatic note.
3. Deliver the diplomatic note to the Vietnamese External Relations Office to obtain a Transfer Letter.
4. Obtain the Vietnamese Extract of Death Certificate from the District or Provincial People’s Committee and have it translated into English (3 copies).
5. Finally, take the Vietnamese Extract of Death Certificate and the English translation to the U.S. Consulate General to obtain the U.S. Consular Report of Death Abroad.
Note: When you arrive at the U.S. Consulate and present the Report of Death from the Vietnamese government so we can begin processing the U.S. Consulate Report of Death Abroad, we will ask you to complete this form with information on the deceased. Please complete it in advance of arrival.
Contact information in Ho Chi Minh City:
U.S. Consulate General:
American Citizen Services (ACS) Unit
4 Le Duan, District 1, HCMC
Tel: (84-28) 3520-4200
HCMC External Relations Office:
6 Alexandre de Rhodes, District.1, HCMC
Tel: (84-28) 3822-4224
HCMC Immigration Office:
196 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Ward 6,
District 3, HCMC
Tel: (84-28) 3829-9398
What the Consular Section Cannot Do
- Investigate the cause of your relative’s death, or solicit the services of a private investigator on your behalf;
- Perform an autopsy. Autopsies are performed at the direction of the Vietnamese government, and are frequently required for foreigners who die a suspicious death in Vietnam or die of unknown causes. Please note that the Vietnamese government is not bound to share the results of an autopsy with family members. Autopsies are sometimes waived at the request of the family;
Provide a death certificate. Death certificates in Vietnam are the sole discretion of the Vietnamese government. We are able to issue a Report of Death Abroad; however, this document can only be issued once the local authorities have issued an official death certificate.