Death of a U.S. Citizen

The Bureau of Consular Affairs will locate and inform the next-of-kin of the U.S. citizen’s death and provides information on how to make arrangements for local burial or return of the remains to the United States. The disposition of remains is subject to U.S. law, local laws of the country where the individual died, U.S. and foreign customs requirements, and the foreign country facilities, which are often vastly different from those in the United States.

The Bureau of Consular Affairs assists the next-of-kin to convey instructions to the appropriate offices within the foreign country, and provides information to the family on how to transmit the necessary private funds to cover the costs overseas. The Department of State has no funds to assist in the return of remains or ashes of U.S. citizens who die abroad. Upon issuance of a local death certificate, the nearest embassy or consulate may prepare a Consular Report of the Death of an American Abroad. Copies of that report are provided to the next-of-kin or legal representative and may be used in U.S. courts to settle estate matters.

A U.S. consular officer overseas has statutory responsibility for the personal estate of a U.S. citizen who dies abroad if the deceased has no legal representative or next-of-kin in the country where the death occurred, subject to local law.  In that situation the consular officer takes possession of personal effects, such as jewelry, personal documents and papers, and clothing.

The officer prepares an inventory of the personal effects and then carries out instructions from the legal representative or next-of-kin concerning the effects.  For more information on the Consular Report of the Death of an American Abroad, and other services that a consular officer can help you with when a loved one passes away overseas, see the links below.

Additional Resources

U.S. citizens of the Muslim faith who die in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are permitted to be buried locally, or may have their remains shipped to the U.S. or other location.  Non-Muslim, U.S. citizens are generally prohibited from being buried in Saudi Arabia except in emergency circumstances.

 

DISCLAIMER:  The U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia assumes no responsibility or liability for the professional ability or reputation of, or the quality of services provided by the Riyadh mortuary facility.

Muslim tradition dictates that burial must occur before the next sundown following the time of death.  However, no law governing this practice exists in Saudi Arabia.  There is no cemetery within the Riyadh consular district which permits non-Muslims to be buried.

The major mortuary in Riyadh is: King Saud Medical Complex (Shumaisi Hospital)

Address:
Al-Kabari Street, Shumaisi Area,
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Phone: 011 435-5555

The major mortuary in Jeddah is: King Abdulaziz Hospital Complex

Address:
Almahjar Street
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Phone: 012-637-7661

The major mortuary in Dhahran is: Dammam Central Hospital

Address:
5451 King Khaled St, Ghirnatah
Dammam, Saudi Arabia
Phone: 013 815 5777

The remains of Americans who have died in the Riyadh Province must be embalmed at the mortuary at King Saud Medical Complex (Shumaisi Hospital).  Embalming is required prior to any shipment outside of Saudi Arabia.  The mortuary at King Saud Medical Complex does not meet normal American standards, but the preparation of remains does satisfy the standards necessary for international shipment.  The Shumaisi Hospital charges 3,000 SR ($800 USD) for the embalmment of remains.  The price includes a wooden, metal-lined coffin suitable for international shipment.  Upon request, the mortuary will also place the remains in any suitable casket which is provided.

Cremation is contrary to Islamic law and is forbidden in Saudi Arabia.

Caskets provided by King Saud Medical Complex meet international standards and are handled as ordinary freight.  Shipping companies do require that the body be placed in a metal lined casket that meets the “standard for shipment” criteria.

Requirements for the exportation of remains are:

  • Must be embalmed;
  • Enclosure of remains must be in accordance with paragraph #2 above;
  • Proper authorization for transport of remains must be granted from the local police office if in the Riyadh Governorate or the Governor’s Office (Imarah) in other provinces;
  • A death notification from the Forensic Medical Office/Morgue (In Riyadh, this is the King Saud Medical Complex);
  • A copy of the police report is required if the death occurred anywhere except in a hospital;
  • A medical report of death;
  • An embalming certificate must be issued from the Forensic Medical Office/Morgue (King Saud Medical Complex);
  • A letter from the Forensic Medical Office/Morgue (King Saud Medical Complex) to the appropriate airline confirming shipping arrangements;
  • Death certificate from the Ministry of Interior’s Civil Affairs Office;
  • A valid exit visa stamped on the deceased’s passport; and,
  • U.S. Consular Mortuary Certificate issued by the U.S. Embassy

All Arabic documents must be accompanied with an English translation certified by the American Embassy.  Airlines require five (5) certified copies of all documents relating to the death, and a letter from the Forensic Medical Office/Morgue.  Because obtaining the necessary papers and translations is a complex and bureaucratic undertaking, the Embassy does provide extensive procedural guidance.

The following costs have been converted from the cost in local currency at the rate of exchange of 3.75 SR to one dollar, effective on June 24, 2014:

   (a)    Embalming (including casket)              3,000 (SR)           800 (USD)

The average weight of an export type casket with human remains is 120 kilograms.

RIYADH TO:              RATE/KG         TOTAL SR        TOTAL USD

New York                      33.00SR           3.960.00            $1,056
Chicago                        37.00SR            4.440.00           $1,184
Los Angeles                  39.00SR           4.680.00            $1,248
Dallas                            38.00SR           4.560.00            $1,216
Washington D.C            33.00SR           3.960.00            $1,056
Honolulu                        46.05SR           5,526.00            $1,473

(NOTE:  Rates are based on current tariff and subject to change without prior notice)

Handling Charges (Includes: Handling and Custom clearance, booking, pick-up and delivery to airport) SR 2000.00 ($534)

List of Cargo companies:

Four Winds S.A Ltd
P.O. Box 8654
Riyadh 11492, Saudi Arabia
Tel: 011-4544080
Fax: 011-4546656

East & West Express
P.O. Box 8077
Riyadh 11482, Saudi Arabia
Tel: 011-4720393
Fax: 011-4720480

Al-Tayyar Cargo Services
P.O. Box 52660
Riyadh 11573, Saudi Arabia
Tel: 011-4643334
Fax: 011-465-2267

Exhumation and shipment of remains is a complex issue in Saudi Arabia and rarely authorized because of religious reasons.  Special permission must be obtained from the Governor’s Office and then endorsed by the Islamic Court before an exhumation can take place.

Autopsies are only performed in cases of foul play or suspicion of murder.

Companies operating in Saudi Arabia are responsible for the welfare of their employees and their dependents.  Responsibility includes ensuring the proper disposition of remains in accordance with Saudi customs and law.  While the Embassy does assist with some aspects of the shipment and/or burial of the remains, normally the deceased’s sponsor or representative bears primary responsibility for performing the routine requirements for shipment or internment.

For a detailed explanation of the steps for repatriation see below.  For a detailed explanation of the steps for local burial click here.

When an American citizen dies in Saudi Arabia, the employer (or sponsor) is responsible for handling the administrative arrangements on behalf of the next of kin.  To facilitate the repatriation of the remains, which is required for non-Muslims, the sponsor will need to obtain all the appropriate documentation required by the Saudi authorities and airlines.  It generally takes about ten working days for the sponsor to complete the repatriation process, but could take longer.

The procedure is as follows:

  • The sponsor must send a representative to the Governor’s Office , which  provide the sponsor with five envelopes addressed to the morgue, the passport office for the exit visa, the cargo office and the customs office.
  • The sponsor must get a letter of no-objection from the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh or Consulate in Jeddah or Dhahran, which is issued upon the request of the next of kin.
  • The sponsor takes the letter from the Governor’s Office plus the no-objection letter from the Embassy or Consulate to the nearest police station of the deceased residence.  At that time the police will give permission to move the remains.
  • Upon receipt of permission from the police station, the sponsor will transport the body from the hospital to the central morgue in Riyadh, Jeddah or Dhahran.
  • The sponsor then obtains a document from the Civil Status Office called “Death of an Alien Certificate.”
  • The next of kin identifies a funeral home in the U.S., which will receive the remains.
  • The sponsor coordinates with a travel agency for all travel arrangements in order to transport the remains from the morgue to the designated funeral home in the U.S.
  • The sponsor arranges to receive the medical report from the hospital and the police report, if any, from the police station previously visited.
  • The sponsor is required to have the death certificate, burial permission, letter from the Governor’s Office, and the embalming certificate translated into English.  In addition, the medical report and any police report, should also be translated into English.
  • The sponsor obtains the exit visa for the remains from the passport office.
  • The sponsor brings 10 copies and translations of the following documents to the Consulate for authentication:
    • The death certificate
    • Burial permission
    • Embalming Certificate
    • The Governor’s Office letter
    • The Medical Report
    • Exit visa on the deceased’s passport

The Embassy or Consulate will provide the employer’s representative with seven authenticated copies to be presented to Saudia Cargo. These seven copies are requested by the King Khalid International Airport (KKIA) Cargo section in order to provide you with the authorization to receive the body 6-12 hours before the departure date/time.

The Embassy will also prepare the Consular Report of Death of a U.S. Citizen Abroad, which serves as the death certificate for U.S. legal purposes. One original of this document should be given to the escort and another should be affixed to the casket. In total, the Embassy or Consulate will provide 20 copies of the Consular Report of Death of a U.S. Citizen Abroad.