Death of a U.S. Citizen

The difficulty of losing a loved one may be compounded by logistical and communication problems when the loss occurs overseas. The U.S. Embassy in Bogota can provide assistance in some key areas following the passing of a U.S. citizen.

However, it is critical that families contract a funeral home to help them carry out funeral arrangements and/or repatriation of remains to the U.S.  The Embassy maintains a list of funeral homes operating within major cities in Colombia.

Funeral services and preparations are carried out in accordance with the laws and facilities available in Colombia and, in some cases, services may be different from those expected in the U.S.

Even though the Embassy staff is unable to act as agents for American citizens making funeral arrangements, Embassy staff can:

  • Help locate and notify the next-of-kin of a U.S. citizen’s passing.
  • Inform families about Colombian legal requirements for claiming a loved one’s remains.
  • Issue a Consular Report of Death Abroad for a deceased U.S. citizen.  This document is based on the Colombian death certificate and may be used in most legal proceedings in the United States as proof of death overseas.
  • Issue 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. A representative from the funeral home will work with the Embassy to obtain this document.
  • Assist in shipping the decedent’s personal effects to the United States.

The next-of-kin is responsible for all costs relating to the funeral home and/or shipment of remains or personal effects.

  • The next-of-kin is also responsible for carrying out the funeral arrangements with substantial assistance from the contracted funeral home.
  • Please be aware that in order 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.
  • Costs for funeral services and repatriation can vary greatly depending on the services chosen.  Please see below for estimated costs based on recent services from Colombian funeral homes.

The following information is provided to assist families with their initial decisions following the death of a loved one:

Our office completes Form DS-2060 (Report of Death of an American Citizen Abroad) for all deaths of Americans.  This is an administrative report that provides the essential facts concerning the death of a citizen of the United States. It is also 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 Consular Report of Death Abroad (CRODA) of an American Citizen, you must submit by physical mail or in person: two authenticated copies of the Colombian Death Registration issued by the Notary and the original U.S. Passport of the deceased.  The passport will be canceled and return to you upon request. 

Additionally, we need the following information along with the documents you will send through physical mail or bring in person: 

  1. Name of the deceased as it appears on the American document
  2. Temporary Colombian of address of the deceased
  3. U.S address of the deceased         
  4. Place and address where the death occurred (clinic, home, etc.)        
  5. Social Security number of the deceased        
  6. Full name of the person that lived or traveled with the deceased to Colombia
  7. Cause of death
  8. Was the deceased buried or cremated (if buried, how long before it is exhumed)
  9. Full name of the person in charge of personal belongings of the deceased
  10. Full name, address and telephone number of the person that will receive the Death Certificate and the relationship to the deceased.

You may send the documentation by certified mail to the following address or stop by to drop it off in person:

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

If you wish to drop off the documents, you may do so from Monday through Friday between 3:00pm and 4:00pm.

Please take into consideration that the Consular Report of Death Abroad of an American Citizen takes approximately four weeks to be issued after we have received ALL the required information and documents.

In cases of natural passing, a licensed physician who cared for the decedent prior to death may usually certify the death.  A notary will then enter the report of death in the Colombian Civil Registry (Registro Civil) and use this record to issue the official Colombian death certificate (Registro Civil de Defunción).  The Secretary of Health (Secretario de Salud) will issue authorization for cremation or burial.

However, in cases of accidental, violent or undetermined cause of death (including most drug-related deaths), Colombia’s medical authorities (Medicina Legal) will attempt to determine the cause of death and the Colombian Prosecutor’s Office (Fiscalia) will then issue a report (Acta de Levantamiento). The medical authorities will use this document to issue a preliminary autopsy report (Certificado de Defuncion). The funeral home will provide a notary with the preliminary report so that the death may be included in the Civil Registry. The funeral home may then request the official Colombian death certificate (Registro Civil de Defuncion) from the notary.  The Secretary of Health (Secretario de Salud) will provide the required authorization to proceed with burial or cremation.

It should be noted that the autopsy report is NOT a public document that is routinely provided to the next of kin of deceased foreigners, or to the Embassy.  Its primary purpose is to determine whether criminal charges should be filed in connection with the death.  Colombian authorities are not obligated to provide any reports since generally they are part of a legal investigation process.  Upon request, it may take up to one year for the Prosecutor to authorize final delivery of the autopsy report to the family.

An autopsy is mandatory in certain cases, including where the decedent is believed to have died as a result of violence or crime.  Other cases that require an autopsy include when unaccompanied people are found dead with no apparent explanation, deaths resulting from accident, trauma, a fatal blow or apparent overdose, etc. Only the prosecutor handling the case may waive this requirement.

The medical authorities will retain remains for up to six months to allow for identification. Please be aware that Colombian law requires identification based on scientific data (e.g. fingerprints, dental records, or DNA) and does not usually allow for sight identification by a person who knew the deceased.

Cremation is the most common and economic option for disposition of remains in Colombia. If the next-of-kin cannot be present to request cremation, he or she must provide a power of attorney authorizing a local representative or funeral home to make the request. If the death occurred under accidental, violent or undetermined circumstances (including most drug-related deaths) due to Colombian law regarding evidence in possible future criminal prosecution (even if prosecution is not likely) cremation will usually not be approved; however, exportation of embalmed remains will usually be allowed.  Some families who have lost a loved one under these circumstances have returned the embalmed remains and then carried out the decedent’s wishes to be cremated after reaching the U.S.

Facilities and certified embalmers are widely available throughout Colombia. Embalming is usually done as soon as possible after identification and release from the medical authorities and as soon as the funeral home is provided with authorization from the next-of-kin.  All non-cremated remains to be transported out of Colombia must be embalmed and accompanied by an embalmer’s certificate.

A variety of caskets are locally available on short notice, as are containers for cremated remains. Hermetically sealed caskets are also available.

Some Colombian funeral homes are more experienced than others with international shipment of embalmed (non-cremated) remains.  If the family is considering exportation of remains, the next of kin should discuss this issue when questioning potential funeral homes.  It’s highly advisable to hire a US-based funeral home to receive, transport and review the remains upon arrival in the U.S.

The following documents are required to export embalmed human remains:

  • Official Colombian Death Certificate
  • Embalming Certificate
  • Undertaker’s Certificate
  • Mortuary Certificate (issued by U.S. Embassy)
  • Authorization from the Secretary of Health.

The U.S. Embassy ensures these documents are complete when they issue the Consular Mortuary Certificate, which facilitates the entrance of the remains to the U.S.

To export cremated remains, the following documents are required (no Consular Mortuary Certificate is required):

  • Official Death Certificate
  • Cremation Certificate
  • Authorization from the Secretary of Health.

These are approximate costs for funeral services (in USD) reported by funeral homes surveyed in Colombia:

 

Minimum Maximum
Local Burial $750 $1,700
Cremation $150 $1,000
Embalming $150 $750
Metal Casket $150 $350
Wood Casket $400 $2,500
Urn $50 $250
Wood container $425 $550
Burial plot – Public $250 Note: All Colombian burial plots are for a maximum of four years, after which all remains must be exhumed and removed.
Burial plot – Private $1,800 Note: All Colombian burial plots are for a maximum of four years, after which all remains must be exhumed and removed.
Shipment of remains (without air cargo cost/ticket) – Varies depending on weight and size of cargo. $2,500 $3,000
Exhumation –required after four years $100 $900

The U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Colombia, assumes no responsibility or liability for the professional ability or reputation of, or the quality of services provided by, the following persons or firms.  Professional credentials and areas of expertise are provided directly by the funeral directors, morticians and other service providers.

The U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Colombia, assumes no responsibility or liability for the professional ability or reputation of, or the quality of services provided by, the following persons or firms.  Professional credentials and areas of expertise are provided directly by the funeral directors, morticians and other service providers.

BOGOTA

Funeraria Gaviria
Address: Calle 98 No. 17 A 20
Tel: 011-571-6211666
Fax: 011-571-6440320/21
Cell: 311-208-9949
Contact: Claudia Castillo Cruz

Funeraria Cristo Rey
Address: Calle 98 No. 18 –20
Tel: 011-571-610-3512
Tel: 011-571- 2567615
Cell: 312-351-00-41 (24 hours)
Website: www.prever.com.co

Funeraria Capillas De La Fe
Address: Carrera 11 No. 69-11
Tel: 011-571-3450188
Fax: 011-571-3100426
Cell: 310-880-6171 (24 Hours)
Cell: 313-3338109
Contact: Maria Helena Sanchez

Funeral International Group
Address: Calle 72 A No. 20-70
Toll Free: 018000916966
Cel: 350-662-4624
International Toll Free: 1-800-550-6842
Email: repatriation@g7ms.com / info@g7ms.com / cc@g7ms.com
Website: www.g7ms.com
This funeral home provides services throughout the country. It also has offices in New York.

La Aurora Funerales y Capillas S.A.
Address: Calle 72 A #20-70
Toll Free: 018000916966
Tel: 011-57-1-255-4216
Cel: 310-828-8002
International Toll Free: 1-800-550-6842
Email: servicios@funeraleslaaurora.com / sandralrubio@funeraleslaaurora.com
Contact: Sandra Rubio
Website: www.funeraleslaaurora.com
Branch in Caldas and eje cafetero, Meta, Boyacá, Tolima, Guania, Vichada

BARRANQUILLA

Jardines de la Eternidad
Address: Carrera 52 No. 74-112, Km. 5
Autopista de Puerto Colombia
Tel: 011-575-3869090, Ext. 4005

Jardines del Recuerdo
Address: Calle 53 No. 50-57
Cementerio Km. 5 Antigua Via Puerto Colombia
Tel: 011-575-3706365

CALI

Funerales del Valle
Address: Avenida Vasquez Cobo No. 24 N 32
Tel: (011-572) 6616830/6608478
Cell: (011-572) -310-408-2331/ 310-843-7761 (24 Hours)
Email: juanherrera@funeralesdelvalle.com
Website: www.funeralesdelvalle.com

CARTAGENA

Funeraria Lorduy
Address: Pie del Cerro Calle 30 No. 18-24
Tel: 011-575- 6661141
Cell: 315-8800006
Website: www.funerarialorduy.com

MEDELLIN

Funeraria San Vicente S.A.
Address: Carrera 51 D No 61-20 Av Juan Del Corral, Medellín
Contact: Hector Abraham Bernal Daza
Tel: 011-574-4788624
Cell: 312-384-9257
Cell: 301-214-4059
Email: direcciondeservicios@funerariasanvicente.com
Website: www.funerariasanvicente.com

Funeraria La Piedad
Address: Carrera 79 AA No. 44-67
Medellin, Colombia
Tel: 011-574-2518900
Toll Free: 01-8000-518910
Website: www.prever.com.co
The above funeral home provides all types of mortuary services and have experience in preparation and shipment of remains to the United States and other countries.  They also have refrigerated morgues.

MANIZALEZ

La Aurora Funerales y Capillas S.A.
Address: Calle 72 A #20-70
Toll Free: 018000916966
Tel: 011-57-1-255-4216
Cel: 310-828-8002
International Toll Free: 1-800-550-6842
Email: servicios@funeraleslaaurora.com / sandralrubio@funeraleslaaurora.com
Contact: Sandra Rubio
Website: www.funeraleslaaurora.com
Branch in Caldas and eje cafetero, Meta, Boyacá, Tolima, Guania, Vichada