Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy can be of valuable service and
assistance when a loved one dies in the Dominican Republic. We
hope that the following information will aid the family members of
deceased U.S. citizens in understanding how the process works and what we
can do to help at this difficult and emotional time:
General: When the Consular Section learns that a U.S. citizen has died in the Dominican Republic and no family members are present, the U.S. Citizens Services (ACS) Unit immediately attempts to notify the family. (If family members are present and learn of the death before we do, they should contact us as soon as possible at (809) 567-7775. Whether or not family members are present, the Consular Section can assist in making arrangements for the disposition of the remains, based on the wishes of the next-of-kin. It is important to remember, however, that no U.S. government funds are available to cover or defray any of the expenses involved. We also issue a Consular Report of Death Abroad, which is an official document that can be used to settle all legal matters relating to the deceased's estate and insurance. The completed Report of Death is official and acceptable in any U.S. jurisdiction.
If the deceased was receiving Federal Benefits from the U.S. Government such as Social Security or Veterans' benefits, the next-of-kin should also be in touch with the Federal Benefits Unit (FBU) at the number provided above. More information about completing Social Security formalities is available at: http://www.ssa.gov/.
What Happens First?
One of the most important and first decisions the family needs to make is
whether to bury their loved one locally or have the remains returned
to the United States. If the family opts for local burial, the
funeral home here will arrange the service and burial according to
the family's wishes. If, on the other hand, the family prefers
to send the remains to the United States, they should be aware that
costs for preparing and returning a body to the U.S. may be high and
must be paid by the family. Dominican law requires that
autopsies be performed prior to shipment-of-remains in all cases of
accidental or sudden death.
Embalming: Elaborate embalming in compliance with U.S. standards is available in the Dominican Republic, but is performed by only a small number of certified morticians in Santo Domingo.
Cremation: Cremation was not performed in the Dominican Republic until April 2003, when one Santo Domingo funeral home started to practice this procedure.
Exportation of Remains: Returning a body to the U.S. is a complex and expensive process. The family should provide the local funeral home with the name and telephone number of the funeral home in the U.S. where the remains are to be received, whereupon the two funeral homes will coordinate the rest of the process. All the documents and permits required to ship bodies are usually obtained and prepared by the local funeral home. The family of the deceased is responsible for all costs associated with this process.
Exhumation and Shipment: Under Dominican law, exhumation of interred remains is permitted after at least five years have passed. However, the Attorney General may, under certain circumstances, grant exemptions to this restriction. Exhumed remains may be exported to the U.S. or other countries following the same procedures outlined above.
The below estimates were provided by the funeral homes in January 2013, and are subject to change without notice. Clients should be aware that extra charges may apply, such as documentation fees, and that transportation charges often vary according to the weight of the deceased. Family should contact the funeral home for further information prior to making their final selection.
Required Documents: In order to prepare a Consular Report of Death Abroad, the Consular Section needs the original local death certificate as well as documentation of the person's identity and U.S. citizenship (e.g., the U.S. passport or the U.S. birth certificate when a passport is not available). Also, the next-of-kin needs to fill out a DS-2060 form - (PDF- 42 Kb) provided by our office.
How Long Does this Process Take?
Ideally, local burial can take place within 48 hours after the death. Arranging shipment of remains to the U.S. generally takes from 2 to 5 days. Many factors can contribute to delays in shipment, however, including if the death took place on a weekend when government offices were closed or if relatives cannot be contacted. The need for an autopsy can delay issuance of the Report of Death by a month or more; however, this will not usually delay shipment of the remains. Next-of-kin can pick up the completed Report of Death from our office or we can send it to them via regular mail or courier.