Skip Global Navigation to Main Content
Skip Breadcrumb Navigation
Death of a U.S. Citizen Abroad
 

The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City and its nine Consulates serve the families of Americans who die in Mexico. If you are requesting Embassy/Consulate services, please view our interactive map to locate your nearest American Citizens Services section.

Important Information - Read First

Remains that are not disposed of within the legal time limit and which remain unclaimed may be sent to a common grave for burial.

It is critical that families contract a funeral home to help them carry out funeral arrangements. The Embassy maintains a list of funeral homes operating within the Mexico City Consular District that have been used by U.S. citizens in Mexico.  Funeral services and preparations are carried out in accordance with the laws and facilities available in Mexico, but in some cases may fall short of 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 their loved one's passing.
  • Inform families about the Mexican legal requirements for claiming a loved one's remains.
  • Issue a Report of Death Abroad of an Amercian Citizen.
  • 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 decent to the United States for burial. In order to obtain this document, a representative from the funeral home will come to the Embassy with certain required documents.
  • Assist in shipping the decendent's personal effects to the United States

The next-of-kin is responsible for all costs of the funeral home, and/or shipment of remains or personal effects. It is also the responsibility of the family to carry out the funeral arrangements with assistance from the contracted funeral home.  Please be aware that Mexican authorities will often request identification documents for both the next-of-kin and the decedent, such as passports, birth certificates, or marriage certificates. 

The Embassy also prepares a Report of Death of a U.S. Citizen Abroad based on the local Mexican death certificate.  This document can be used in most legal proceedings in the United States as proof of death overseas.  To prepare this document, Embassy staff will need original evidence of U.S. citizenship of the decedent and the original Mexican death certificate.

The following information is provided to assist families with their initial decisions following the death of a loved one.  Costs are estimates only based on surveys of area funeral homes.  There are several religious institutions within Mexico City which offer a range of funeral services depending on the faith of the decedent, though options may be more limited in less populous areas. 

  • Certification Of Death

    Certification Of Death

    • Before human remains can be prepared as desired, a local physician or another person authorized by the Mexican secretary of health must certify the death of the person, determine the causes of his/her death, and issue a preliminary death record (Certificado de Defuncion).  A Civil Registry judge with jurisdiction over the place of death will use this record to issue the official death certificate (Acta de Defuncion) and the required authorization to proceed with burial or cremation.

  • Maximum Period Before Burial

    Maximum Period Before Burial

    • Remains should be buried, cremated, or embalmed within 48 hours after the death, unless otherwise authorized by the health authorities, the local district attorney’s office (Ministerio Publico) or a judicial authority.  For burial or cremation of remains prior to 12 hours or after 48 hours after death, a permit from the health authorities is required.  For example, health authorities will authorize a burial less than 12 hours after the death when the doctor who certifies the death recommends immediate burial for public health reasons.  Remains that are buried are kept indefinitely only if the gravesite is held in perpetuity.  If not, remains are kept in the grave a minimum of six years if the decedent was 15 years or older at the time of death, or five years if the decedent was younger than 15 years old. 

      Remains that are not disposed of within the legal time limit and which remain unclaimed may be sent to a common grave for burial.

  • Embalming

    Embalming

    • Embalming is the most popular method of remains preservation in our consular district.  Facilities and certified embalmers are widely available.  Embalming is usually done within 48 hours after the death. However, embalming can been done prior to 48 hours after death in areas with high temperatures and that lack refrigeration.  Every corpse to be transported from Mexico must be embalmed. 

      Mexican law allows the following methods of preservation and establishes that one of them should be applied when the remains will not be buried or cremated within 48 hours after the death:

      • Refrigeration in a locked chamber with a temperature below 0° C;
      • Embalming by an intravascular injection of antiseptic solutions;
      • Complete immersion of remains in a locked container with antiseptic solutions;
      • Any other procedure approved by the Secretary of Health
  • Cremation

    Cremation

    • Cremation is permitted under Mexican law and cremation facilities exist locally, though their quality may vary.  Where the next-of-kin cannot be present to request cremation, the next-of-kin can provide a power of attorney authorizing a local representative or the funeral home to take care of the necessary paperwork.  If the death occurred as a consequence of a crime, an accident or under suspicious circumstances, the district attorney (Ministerio Publico) must authorize the disposition of remains.  It is not uncommon that the Ministerio Publico does not authorize cremation in homicide cases.  

      If the remains are transported to another city for cremation, they must be embalmed; otherwise, the crematorium will not accept them.  In addition, the funeral homes must obtain a transit permit from the local health authorities to take a body from one city to another, if the body will be transported over 100 km.

  • Caskets and Containers

    Caskets and Containers

    • A variety of caskets are locally available on short notice, as are containers for human ashes.  Hermetically sealed caskets are also available.
  • Exportation of Remains

    Exportation of Remains

    • A health permit issued by the local health authorities is required to transport remains from one state to another within the Mexican territory or abroad, and the following documents are required to export human remains:

      • Official Death Certificate;
      • Embalming Certificate;
      • Transportation information (plane, ship or bus); and
      • Information on final destination for the remains.  

      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.  

      Remains to be transported out of the country must be embalmed or appropriately prepared, placed in a casket, then encased in a certified crate.  The transportation of remains by air, land or sea will be made in compartments isolated from those designated for passengers and/or merchandise.  

      There are 14 international airports in Embassy Mexico City’s consular district:  Acapulco, Bahias de Huatulco, Ciudad de Mexico, Leon, Morelia, Oaxaca, Puerto Escondido, Queretaro, Tampico, Tapachula, Toluca, Veracruz, Villahermosa and Zihuatanejo.  However, not all of them are able to ship remains internationally, mainly because of the size of the airplanes available.   

      The international airports in Acapulco, Mexico City, Leon, and Zihuatanejo are able to ship remains internationally, while the airport in Morelia occasionally provides this service.  When a body needs to be transported from other parts of the consular district, it must first be taken by land to an appropriate airport.   

      To export ashes, the following documents are required:

      • Official Death Certificate;
      • Cremation Permit from Civil Registry Office; and
      • Cremation Certificate from funeral home.  

      Some airports within the consular district may require the Consular Mortuary Certificate for the transport of ashes.  Ashes may be transported in the passenger compartment.

  • Costs

    Costs

    • The weight of a casket prepared for shipment varies between 120 to 300 kilograms.  The average size of a container is 2.26 m – 2.35 m x 70 cm x 70 cm.  The airlines determine the final cost of transportation based on special cargo rates, the actual weight, dimensions and distance.  Some airlines take 250 kilograms as a fixed base for rate calculation.  Depending on the final destination of the remains, the approximate cargo cost varies from USD$800 to $1200. 

      The following is a list of example total cargo cost  to ship remains from Mexico City to various U.S. destinations (all in USD): 

      Note:
      1 USD = $ 12 pesos for the approximate prices indicated here.  

      Chicago, IL               $ 800
      Houston, TX              $ 800
      Los Angeles, CA       $ 800
      San Francisco, CA     $ 800
      South Carolina          $1200
      Michigan                    $1000
      The airfare varies monthly based on variations in fuel cost.  

      Other costs (in USD) reported by funeral homes surveyed in the Embassy’s consular district:

       

       

      Minimum

      Maximum

      Local Burial

       

      $1500

      $7700

      Cremation

       

      $1200

      $5600

      Embalming

       

      $350   

      $500

      Metal casket

       

      $500 

      $3750

      Wood casket

       

      $700

      $4250

      Urn

       

      $125

      $850

      Wood container

       

      Free    

      $300

      Burial plot

       

      $800

      $3100

      Shipment of remains (without air cargo cost)

       

      $1500

      $1900

      Exhumation

       

      $400

      $700

  • Exhumation and Shipment

    Exhumation and Shipment

    • As indicated above, a body cannot be exhumed until six years after the death of decedents 15 years old or older at the time of death, or until five years after the death of decedents younger than 15 at the time of death.  After six years, exhumation is mandatory if the burial was paid with public funds, and the remains are then cremated.  In some cemeteries within the consular district, the remains can remain in the grave indefinitely when the grave was paid for with private funds.

      Upon a family’s request, a body may be exhumed before the six-year limit.  However, a local health permit must first be requested by presenting a death certificate and proof of burial, as well as a written statement indicating the reason for the exhumation and information on the final destination for the remains.

      Labor costs for exhumation have no fixed price, since they depend on the amount of work and time required for exhumation.  An exhumed body is usually placed into a plastic bag, then into a coffin, then into a metal box, and finally encased in a wooden crate for shipping.  Costs to ship remains would be similar to those listed above.

  • Autopsy

    Autopsy

    • An autopsy is mandatory in cases where the person might have died as a result of a crime, and only the district attorney (Ministerio Publico) handling the case can waive this requirement.  Other cases classified by the Mexican authorities as violent deaths, such as unaccompanied people found dead with no explanation, deaths resulting from an accident, trauma, fatal blow, etc., also require an autopsy.  

      As long as the deceased had not previously stated/written his/her opposition to an autopsy, the following is required for an autopsy:

      • Order from the district attorney’s office (Ministerio Publico), or from the judicial or health authorities;
      • Authorization from disponente originario (deceased); or
      • Authorization from disponentes secundarios (i.e., next-of-kin, health authorities, etc.).
  • Remarks

    Remarks

    • The National Transplant Center maintains a list of individuals who expressly consent to donate their organs upon their death for use in transplant surgeries.  Upon the death of an individual, the Center can issue the official document for these purposes.
  • Services for non-Americans

    Services for non-Americans

    • The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City can facilitate the entrance of remains of non-Americans to the United States by issuing a Consular Mortuary Certificate.  To request this document, the funeral home or the family of the deceased should provide the Embassy with

      • Official Death Certificate;
      • Embalming Certificate;
      • Transportation information (plane, ship or bus); and
      • Information on final destination for the remains.

      This service is available during regular business hours (Monday through Friday 8:30 to 5:00, except holidays).  The cost for this service is $60 USD.

Funeral Homes

  • Click here to see a list of funeral homes in Mexico City's Consular District.