Reporting and Documenting a Death in Vietnam

When a U.S. citizen dies abroad, the U.S. Embassy or Consulate can 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.  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 local Vietnamese Immigration Office must also be informed of the death of a foreign citizen.  Their contact information is available here.

Under Vietnamese law, the family should contact the Embassy or 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 Embassy or Consulate must send a Diplomatic Note to Vietnamese authorities 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 Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. Local funeral services in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City can help with this matter.  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).