When a UK Citizen Dies Abroad

Dealing with a death overseas can be challenging unless you get professional help. The first thing to do is register the death with the local authorities in the country where they died.

DEATH ABROAD: Many countries also allow you to register a death with authorities in the United Kingdom.

The deceased person may have been getting a pension or welfare benefits. If so, you should contact the International Pension Centre for further assistance.

The UK-based Tell Us Once death notification service applies if the person died:

  • In a Commonwealth country.
  • In one of the European Economic Area countries (or Switzerland).

Note: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office can help if a family member or a friend dies abroad. The FCO have guidance for bereaved families who are coping with death abroad. British consular staff deal with accidental death and death in a hospital. They also handle manslaughter and murder abroad.

The United Kingdom rules for bringing home someone’s remains differ depending on whether:

  • You bring the body back to the UK for a burial or a cremation.
  • You have the dead person cremated overseas and then bring their ashes back to the UK.

Bringing a Body back to the United Kingdom

The rules to bring a body back home include:

  • Getting the death certificate certified to an English translation.
  • Getting permission to take the body out of the country where the person died. In most cases, a coroner (or an equivalent) will issue the permission.
  • Informing a coroner in England if it was a violent or an unnatural death.

Note: Try to get help from a British embassy, high commission, or a consulate in the country where they died.

Contacting a UK Register Office

You will need to find a register office when the body is back in the United Kingdom. Take the death certificate to a register office in the same area where the funeral will take place.

You should have already registered the death abroad. Thus, the registrar will provide a ‘certificate of no liability to register‘. The funeral director will need this before the funeral can go ahead.

But, you can arrange a funeral yourself – without the services of a funeral director. In this case, the registrar will need the certificate after the funeral has finished. You must hand over the certificate within 96 hours of the funeral.

If the Death involves a Coroner

As a rule, in England or Wales a coroner will hold an inquest if the cause of death is unknown. The same applies if the death was unnatural, sudden, or violent.

You will need a special certificate from the coroner to carry out a cremation of the body in the UK. The name of this form is the ‘Cremation 6‘.

Bringing Ashes back to the United Kingdom

As a rule, you will need to show two documents when you leave a country with human ashes. Be prepared to produce:

  • The ‘death certificate‘ issued in the country where they died.
  • The ‘certificate of cremation‘ issued in the country where they died.

The rules vary on departing with human ashes in different countries. You may need to get additional documents.

Contact the British consulate or one of the worldwide organisations for further advice. A standard customs form needs filling in once you arrive back in the United Kingdom.

Airlines have differing rules on checked-in and hand luggage items. You should check whether you can carry the ashes as hand luggage or would they need to get checked-in as luggage.

The airline can request that you to put the ashes in a non-metallic container. This is so they can x-ray the ashes for security reasons.

Note: These rules on deaths abroad apply to England and to Wales. The process differs if someone dies outside Scotland or Northern Ireland. Do not get a body cremated overseas if you want a coroner to conduct an inquest into the death in the United Kingdom.


After a Death: Find out how to register a death, deal with a coroner, and arrange a funeral.
Tell Us Once Service: A simple way of reporting a death to most government organisations in one go.
Benefits and Taxes: Check which government organisations you should notify if someone dies.
If a Child or Baby Dies: You may need to report the death of a child or baby to other organisations.

Checklist of things to do when a UK Citizen Dies Abroad