Death of an American Citizen overseas
Special Consular Services
Death is a time of crisis for one’s family and friends no matter where it takes place. If a death occurs overseas, the experience can be even more traumatic, especially if the procedures involved are not clearly understood.
When reporting a death to us, please tell us, if possible, the decedent person’s name, date and place of birth, passport number, last known residence and the date, place and circumstances of death. If known, please also provide us with the name, address, and telephone number(s) of the next-of-kin and/or any relatives. We also find it helpful to know whether you and/or any family members have been in contact with Romanian police authorities.
When we hear of the death of an American citizen, we will determine as quickly as possible how to reach the decedent’s next-of-kin. We make it a priority to provide the next-of-kin with all available details surrounding their loved one’s death. Please understand that if a death occurs over a weekend, most Romanian offices, including certain police authorities, are closed. Therefore, in some cases, it might take until the next business day for us to provide the next-of-kin with additional information.
Deaths of American Citizens Residing in Romania
When an American citizen residing in Romania passes away, the Romanian authorities will immediately seek to ascertain whether the next-of-kin is also a Romanian resident. If so, the Romanian authorities will inform that person of the death and offer their assistance. The Romanian authorities will also seek to locate other family members and/or close friends living in Romania to inform them of the death. If the decedent’s next-of-kin lives in the United States and there are no relatives or friends in Romania who agree to notify the next-of-kin, the Romanian authorities will contact the Embassy and pass along all relevant information. The Embassy will, in turn, contact the next-of-kin at the earliest possible time to notify him/her of the death and offer information about making arrangements for the disposition of the decedent’s remains and estate.
Deaths of American Citizen Travelers
If the decedent American citizen is traveling alone, the Embassy will gather all information on the circumstances of the death and ensure that the personal effects are safeguarded until the next-of-kin can be reached. If a relative or friend is traveling with the decedent American, the Embassy will inquire whether the next-of-kin will authorize this person to act on their behalf. If the Embassy is unable to identify the next-of-kin or other appropriate legal representative, we will take charge of the personal effects of the decedent.
Disposition of Remains
Romanian law requires disposition of remains (either burial or cremation) within 96 hours unless the remains are to be shipped outside the country. In Romania, if a foreigner dies unexpectedly the state will require that an autopsy be performed to ascertain the cause of death. After the autopsy, the decedent is moved to the local morgue for advance preparation by a local funeral director. At this stage, the next-of-kin may choose either to bring the decedent’s full remains back to the United States, to have the decedent cremated and the ashes returned to the United States, or to arrange for local burial/cremation. The Embassy can provide information to the family or U.S.-based funeral directors about Romanian funeral directors who can appropriately prepare the decedent for return to the United States. Please note that funeral homes in Romania expect advance payment. Family members may request that the funeral home provide a written estimate of expenses before transferring the payment. The fastest and least expensive way to pay funeral fees is usually to wire the funds directly to the Romanian funeral home via Western Union or to complete an international bank transfer. The following paragraphs explain the disposition options available in Romania.
Burial in Romania
Should you decide to have the burial take place in Romania, the consular officer and local officials will take every possible care to follow your wishes as to ceremony and site of burial.
Return of Remains to the United States
For decedent American citizen tourists, the next-of-kin should consider checking to see if the decedent purchased a travel insurance policy. If such a policy exists, please contact the insurance company before making any arrangements. In these cases, the insurance company may pay for most or all of the costs to ship the remains and personal effects.
Preparation and air shipment are carried out in accordance with the laws of and facilities available in Romania, and in some cases the services fall short of those expected in the United States. In addition, local laws and procedures can make the return of remains to the United States a lengthy process. On average, 10 to 14 days should be expected for return although it can take significantly longer depending on the circumstances of death.
Click here for a link to the Transportation Security Agency outlining rules and regulations for transporting a crematory container on a flight to the U.S.
Report of Death of an American Citizen Abroad
Romanian authorities issue two key documents after the death of an individual. The first, the Death Certificate, lists the individual’s name and the time and place of death. A separate Medical Certificate/Autopsy Report lists the cause of death. The Embassy combines the information in these two Romanian-language documents and prepares in English a Consular Report of Death Abroad. The Consular Report of Death Abroad is the equivalent of a U.S. Death Certificate for resolving legal matters in the United States including estate and insurance proceedings. The Embassy will provide 20 copies of the Consular Report of Death Abroad to the decedent’s next-of-kin free of charge. Please note that it will take four to eight weeks to receive the Consular Report of Death Abroad in the United States. The Embassy will also cancel the decedent’s U.S. passport and return it to the next-of-kin and report the death to the appropriate government agencies if the decedent was receiving federal benefits. If additional copies are needed in the future, they can be obtained for a fee of $30 for the first copy and $20 for additional copies. For additional copies, please send a written request together with a check or money order made payable to the Department of State to the following address:
U.S. Department of State
Passport Services Correspondence Branch
1111 19th St., NW, Suite 510
Washington, D.C. 20522-1705
You may reach us at ACSBucharest@state.gov
The Embassy’s emergency duty officer can be reached after working hours by calling +(40-21) 200-3433
You may also contact the Department of State in Washington DC at (202) 647-6126.