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Death of a U.S. Citizen
19 MINUTE READ
February 21, 2018

We understand that the difficulty of losing a family member or friend may be compounded by logistical and communication problems when the loss occurs overseas. The U.S. Embassy in Bogota can provide assistance following the death of a U.S. citizen.

The Embassy can assist in the following ways:

  • Locating and notifying the next-of-kin of a U.S. citizen’s death.
  • Providing information to families about Colombian requirements for navigating this process.
  • Issuing a Report of Death of a U.S. Citizen Abroad. This document is based on the Colombian records and may be used in most legal proceedings in the United States as proof of death overseas.
  • Issuing a Consular Mortuary Certificate. The Consular Mortuary Certificate is one of the documents that the funeral home will need in order to transport the decedent’s remains to the United States for burial or cremation. The funeral home will work with the Embassy to obtain this document.
  • Helping prepare the shipment of the decedent’s personal effects to the United States.

The family is responsible for contacting and contracting with a local funeral home in Colombia to help carry out funeral arrangements and/or the repatriation of remains to the United States. The Embassy cannot act as an agent for a U.S. citizen making funeral arrangements and is not responsible for any related costs.

Please see the list below of funeral homes operating in Colombia. Keep in mind that this list is very short and there are other options available. The U.S. Embassy does not recommend any funeral home in particular.

Funeral services and preparations are carried out in accordance with the laws and facilities available in Colombia, and for this reason some services may differ from what is available or standard in the U.S. Costs for funeral services and repatriation can vary greatly depending on the services chosen. We recommend the family contact and obtain quotes from several funeral homes in order to make an informed decision.

  • To confirm the relationship between the decedent and the person purporting to be the next-of-kin, Colombian authorities will often request identification documents for both the decedent and the next-of-kin, such as passports, birth certificates, and/or marriage certificates.

The following information is provided to assist families with their decision-making process following the death of a loved one:

Request a Consular Report of Death Abroad – Colombia

Our office issues Form DS-2060 (Report of Death of a U.S. Citizen Abroad) for all reported deaths of U.S. citizens in Colombia. It serves as the official notice of the death and is evidence of citizenship. It is often used in legal proceedings in connection with estate matters.

To obtain a Report of Death of a U.S. Citizen Abroad (DS-2060), please submit the following documents to the American Citizens Services Unit at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota:

  • One copy of the “Certificado de Defunción Antecedente para el Registro Civil de Defunción” (Colombian Medical Death Certificate) issued by a doctor at the hospital or place of death.
  • Two copies of the notary issued “Registro Civil de Defunción” (Colombian Civil Death Registry).
  • If possible, a U.S. passport of the deceased or other proof of citizenship. If the original passport or other document cannot be submitted, copies are allowed. (Original documents will be cancelled and returned.)
  • Request form for the Report of Death of a U.S. Citizen Abroad (DS-2060). Click here. (PDF 118 KB)

You may deliver these documents digitally, by certified mail, or in person to the U.S. Embassy in Bogota or the U.S. Consular Agency in Barranquilla.

We suggest sending them digitally, please send high quality scanned PDFs to the American Citizen Services Unit at ACSBOGOTA@STATE.GOV, noting clearly in your subject line that you are requesting a Report of Death of a U.S. Citizen Abroad and the name of the deceased.

If by mail, please send all documentation by to the following address

U.S. Embassy Bogota
Consular Section
American Citizen Services
Carrera 45 No. 24B – 27
Bogotá, D.C. 111321

During COVID-19 we do not suggest dropping off documents in person, however, if necessary, please send an email to ACSBOGOTA@STATE.GOV 72 hours before you intend to come to the Embassy, so that we can ensure you are able to enter. The Embassy’s address is Calle 24 BIS No. 48 – 50 Bogota. In Barranquilla, please email conagencybarranquilla@state.gov for an appointment.

Please check here for U.S. and Colombian holidays during which the Embassy will be closed.

Please note that the Report of Death of a U.S. Citizen Abroad takes approximately four to six weeks to be issued after we have received ALL the required information and documents.

Death Certificate and Civil Registry by Colombian authorities

In cases of a death by natural causes, a licensed physician certifies the death with the Colombian Medical Death Certificate (Certificado de Defunción Antecedente para el Registro Civil de Defunción). With this certificate a notary will then enter the report of death in the Colombian National Civil Registry (Registraduría Nacional del Estado Civil) and use this record to issue the official Colombian Civil Death Registration (Registro Civil de Defunción). The Secretary of Health (Secretaría de Salud) will issue authorization for cremation or burial. In Colombia notaries act similarly to the vital statistics offices in the U.S. They issue and maintain these records, and all certificates (Registro Civil) issued by them are original “copies” of the documents (birth, marriage, and death).

Note: In Colombia no official document contains the cause of death.

In cases where manner of death cannot be immediately determined, the Colombian Attorney General’s Office (Fiscalía) requests that the Colombian coroner’s offices (Instituto Nacional de Medicina Legal y Ciencias Forenses) determine the cause of death. While these processes are underway, Fiscalía” will authorize the issuance of the “Registro Civil de Defunción”.

Autopsy

Autopsies are not mandatory in every case. They are required when the death might be the result of violence or a crime, when the deceased is found unaccompanied with no obvious explanation, or when the death has resulted from an accident, fatal trauma, apparent overdose, or other unnatural causes. The Attorney General’s Office (Fiscalía) will determine the necessity of this procedure.

It should be noted that the autopsy report is NOT a public document. Colombian authorities are not obligated to provide any reports as they are part of the judicial process. The autopsy report’s primary use is to determine whether the “Fiscalía” files charges in connection with the death. Upon request, it may take up to one year for the “Fiscalía” to authorize the autopsy’s release.

Identification of remains

By Colombian law, the Coroner’s Office (Instituto Nacional de Medicina Legal y Ciencias Forenses) requires identification based on scientific data (e.g., fingerprints, dental records, or DNA) and does not allow for visual identification. In the U.S. fingerprints taken for military service, background checks, police records, or other purposes may be used for identification. If fingerprints are not available, the family may need to help secure the most recent dental records available.

Cremation

Cremation is the most common and economically viable option for the disposition of remains in Colombia.

If the death occurred under circumstances that require further investigation (including most drug-related deaths) Colombian law regards the remains as evidence in possible future criminal prosecution (even if prosecution is not likely). In those cases, the next-of-kin can request the cremation, if they are not in Colombia, they must provide a power of attorney authorizing a local representative or funeral home to make the request. The approval of the cremation is determined by the Prosecutor (Fiscal) in charge of the investigation. Approval of cremation by the Fiscal is rare; however, families who have lost a relative under these circumstances can return the embalmed remains to the United States and then carry out final arrangements there. Click here for PDF template.(PDF 67 KB)

Identification of Remains

Whenever a death occurs and an investigation is required, the Attorney General’s Office (Fiscalía) will confiscate some personal belongings like passports, IDs, wallet, phones, among others. To retrieve those items the “Fiscalía” will require a power of attorney from the next of kin if they are not in Colombia, authorizing another a third party. Click here for PDF template. (PDF 66 KB)

The Embassy can sometimes retrieve the aforementioned, if there is outreach planned for that area/city. Outreach has not been approved during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Note: The Embassy does not have the logistical capacity to secure Household Goods or property.

Repatriation of remains

When the family is considering repatriation of embalmed (non-cremated) remains, the next of kin should discuss this issue with potential funeral homes. Some Colombian funeral homes are associated with a U.S.-based counterpart in order to receive and transport remains. When this is not the case, the family should contract with a U.S.-based funeral home.

The following documents are required to export embalmed human remains:

  • Mortuary certificate information form. Click here.
  • Colombian Civil Death Registry (Registro Civil de Defunción).
  • Colombian Medical Death Certificate (Certificado de Defunción Antecedente para Registro Civil).
  • Embalming Certificate (“Certificado de embalsamamiento”).
  • Undertaker’s Certificate (“Certificado de la funeraria”).
  • Consular Mortuary Certificate (issued by U.S. Embassy).
  • Photocopy of the decedent’s ID.

NOTE: This process is completed by the funeral home by reaching out to the Embassy at ACSBOGOTA@STATE.GOV.

Costs

Throughout this process, please keep in mind the costs or the following services and items:

  • Cremation;
  • Embalming;
  • Casket (metal or wood);
  • Urn;
  • *Local burial – public or private;
  • Transportation of remains (courier service or personal delivery);

* Note: Depending on the location in Colombia, public burial is done in plots or crypts. They are leased for 4 years, after which the remains must be exhumed. Please verify the options with the funeral home.

Funeral directory

The U.S. Embassy Bogota, Colombia assumes no responsibility or liability for the professional ability, reputation of, or the quality of services provided by the following

persons or firms. Inclusion on this list is in no way an endorsement by the Department of State or the U.S. Embassy. Names are listed alphabetically, and the order in which they appear has no other significance. The information in the list on services provided and language ability are provided directly by the companies.

If you would like your company included on this list, send a message to ACSBOGOTA@STATE.GOV

  • Funeraria Gaviria www.gaviriafuneraria.com
  • Funeraria Lorduy S.A. www.funerarialorduy.com
  • Funeraria San Vicente S.A. www.funerariasanvicente.com
  • Plenitud Protección S.A. www.plenitud.com.co