|There are a
significant number of United States citizens now living permanently or
semi-permanently in Mexico. According to the last Mexican census
in 2010, more than 738,000 people born in the US now reside in Mexico,
and this is still an approximate figure, as it may not include many ex-pats
who remain in Mexico without the proper paperwork. A closer estimation
of the number of American expats living in Mexico is believed to be nearer
to 2 million.
If a family member passes
away in Mexico and the family wishes to bring the body back to the US for
burial, it can be very distressing to have to deal with the Mexican authorities
and the red-tape that can surround moving the deceased back from Mexico
to the United States.
Although none of us really
want to think about it, it really is something you should familiarize yourself
with if you are an American living in Mexico, especially if you are a retiree,
suffering ill-health or a medical tourist. It is always advisable
to ensure you have repatriation insurance cover and to check what deductibles
loved one arrives back in the
US, you then have all the expense of the funeral.
for a body back to the United States can be expensive, international shipping
usually costs around $3,000 - $4,000 USD and that does not include the
airline shipping fee. This is the average professional fee for a
funeral home to collect the body, prepare it for shipping, complete all
the necessary consular documentation and escort the body to the airline.
Airlines fees can vary significantly, but to ship a body can often cost
more than a flight ticket, and you can expect a fee of between $800 - $1,200!
So your total costs for getting the body back to the US could amount to
$5,000 - $6,000 USD. Once your
If you have resided in Mexico
for some time, and/or if you speak fluent Spanish, you may have no concerns
about approaching funeral homes and the Mexican authorities to co-ordinate
arrangements. However, if your Spanish is not up to scratch, it can
be extremely daunting to have to suddenly deal with this task.
The U.S. Embassy in Mexico
and how they can help
The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City
will assist families of Americans who die within its Consular District.
This includes the Mexican states of Chiapas, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Estado
de Mexico, Hidalgo, Michoacan, Morelos, Oaxaca, Puebla, Queretaro, Tabasco,
Tlaxcala, Veracruz, and the city of Tampico, Tamaulipas.
For all other states in Mexico,
you would need to contact your nearest Consular Agency. A list of
all Consular agencies is available at the bottom of this page.
Firstly, it is important
to highlight here that the U.S. Embassy cannot arrange funeral services
or shipping for you. What they can do is help you locate a funeral
home to handle arrangements for you.
The next-of-kin is responsible
for all financial costs related to a funeral in Mexico, or funeral shipping
the body back to the United States. The U.S. Embassy may help you
with understanding the legalities of conducting a funeral service in Mexico.
The Embassy may also help
with notifying next-of-kin of the death within the family, advising on
claiming the deceased’s remains and the collecting of personal effects.
Legal Requirements for claiming
a loved ones body in Mexico
Mexican authorities often request
identification documents not only for the deceased, but also for the next-of-kin
who is collecting the body. Be prepared to provide passports, birth
certificates or marriage certificates.
When a U.S. citizen dies
in Mexico the U.S. Embassy or Consular Agent has to prepare a Report of
Death from the local Mexican death certificate. This is required
so that you can legally certify a death overseas and undertake any legal
proceedings for estate or insurance back in the U.S.
The issuing of the death
Similar to the United States,
once someone has passed away, a physician must certify the death, identify
the cause of the death and issue the preliminary death record, which is
called a ‘Certificado de Defuncion’.
A local Civil Registry judge
will use the certificado de defuncion to issue the official death certificate,
known as the ‘Acta de Defuncion’. Once this is issued the funeral
home can go ahead with a burial, cremation or arrange funeral shipping.
Time spans for arranging
a burial, cremation or to ship a body back to the U.S.
In accordance with Mexican health
authorities, a body should be buried, cremated or embalmed within 48 hours
after the death. If you wish to bury or cremate your loved one either
within 12 hours after death, or after 48 hours following death, then you
will require a permit from the Mexican health authorities.
Arranging a Burial in Mexico
If you decide to inter your
loved one in a grave in Mexico, be aware that the remains will only remain
interred indefinitely if the gravesite has a perpetual deed. If you
do not have this, remains are kept interred in the gravesite for a minimum
of 6 years.
Arranging a Cremation in
Cremation is becoming increasingly
popular in Mexico. If you wish to arrange a cremation in Mexico from
the U.S., you can provide a power of attorney that allows the funeral home
to complete the cremation permit on your behalf. This means that
you can arrange the disposition of the remains whilst still in the United
States, and then arrange for the ashes to be collected at a later date
or sent home.
If the deceased is to be
transported between states in Mexico for cremation, the body must be embalmed.
If the body is to be transported over 100 km then a special transit permit
is also required.
Is embalming required by
law in Mexico?
Not if the body is to be buried
or cremated within 48 hours. However, due to the high temperatures
and often lack of adequate refrigeration, many opt to go ahead with embalming
anyway. If you plan to transport the deceased back to the U.S. he/she
must be embalmed.
What documentation do I need
to repatriate the deceased to the U.S.?
To export human remains from
Mexico to the U.S. you will require: the death certificate, the embalming
certificate, details of the shipper and details of the final destination
of the remains. The U.S. Embassy will issue a ‘Consular Mortuary
Certificate’, which allows the remains to enter the United States.
Similarly if you wish to
export the deceased’s ashes, you will need: the death certificate, the
cremation permit and the cremation certificate from the crematorium or
funeral home. Some airports may request the Consular Mortuary Certificate,
and ashes can be transported in your hand luggage with most airlines.
Repatriation of Remains Insurance
As we mentioned earlier in this
article, if you are planning on traveling extensively in, or retiring to,
Mexico or are visiting Mexico for some medical treatment, you would be
well advised to ensure you do have the security and peace of mind of having
an adequate repatriation insurance plan. This is a wise thing to
have if you are residing temporarily in Mexico, and you can have a plan
that can facilitate repatriation in the event of illness or accident, and
repatriation of remains that facilitates the repatriation of your body
in the event that you die in Mexico. A robust insurance plan will
have a return of mortal remains benefit in addition to many other medical
treatment benefits such as hospital room and board, out-patient care, maternity
coverage and emergency room illness and accident coverage. Carefully
go through any policy and ensure you are adequately covered.
Further Resources to assist
you arrange a funeral or cremation in Mexico
Further information from
the U.S. Department of State Travel website can be found here:
A directory of all Consulates
and Consulate Agencies in Mexico can be found here:
A directory of English-speaking
funeral homes in Mexico can be found here:
Funerals homes cover
the following states and main cities in Mexico:
Aguascalientes, Baja California,
Baja California Sur, Los Cabos, La Paz, Loreto, Campeche, Campeche, Chiapas,
Chihuahua, Coahuila, Colima, Manzanillo, Distrito Federal, Durango, Estado
de México (Mexico State), Guanajuato, Leon, San Miguel de Allende,
Guerrero, Acapulco, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Puerto Vallarta, Guadalajara, Michoacán,
Morelia, Morelos, Nayarit, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Huatulco, Oaxaca
City, Puerto Escondido, Puebla, Querétaro, Quintana Roo, Cancun,
Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, San Luis Potosi, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tabasco, Tamaulipas,
Tlaxcala, Veracruz, Yucatán, Merida, Zacatecas