If a death takes place abroad it must be registered according to the law of that country. The death should also be reported to the British Consul who may be able to arrange for the death to be registered in the UK as well.
Every effort should be made to have the deceased buried as soon as possible in the country where the death took place.
Returning a body to the UK is expensive. If the death was on a package holiday the tour operator should be able to help with arrangements.
When a body is returned to the UK, the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages for the district where the funeral is to take place must be told and will need to issue a certificate before burial can take place.
If the death was not due to natural causes the Coroner for the district will also need to be told and an inquest may need to take place. In Northern Ireland a Coroner can also arrange a post mortem or an inquest if the family requests it.
When a death occurs abroad, the appropriate civil registration procedure must be followed and this will then permit a death certificate to be issued. It is this document, appropriate to the country where the death took place, which is produced to the Register of Births and Deaths.
However, such a death registration does not mean that the death is recorded in the United Kingdom. There is no legal obligation to register the death of a British national with the British authorities; nevertheless there are advantages in that, once registered, a British form of death certificate is available.
It is often possible, when a death occurs whilst abroad, for the next of kin to liaise with the office of the High Commissioner when in a Commonwealth country or the Consul’s office in other countries and for the death certificate and any other appropriate documentation to be presented to that Government official, who will instigate the initial inquiries for registration and issue the British death certificate which will be registered at the General Register Office in the U.K. Following the registration by the registering officer at either the High Commission or the Consulate, a return is made to the Registrar General. This return is made on an annual basis.
If the death has not been dealt with through the High Commission or Consulate in the country where it occurred, it is still possible for it to be registered in the consular register of deaths held by the British Embassy or the Consulate and for that record of death to be held, in due course, at the General Register Office.
If the death is to be registered in the appropriate consular register of deaths, then an application form67 must be completed and the registration officer must be satisfied as to the national status of the deceased. The following documents must be provided and should accompany the application.
- The civil death certificate issued by the local authorities;
- Evidence of the deceased’s claim to British nationality (a full birth certificate or of registration as a British national).
The Application form for Consular Death Registration requires details of the person whose death is to be registered, including:
- Full name (and maiden name if appropriate) and sex;
- Date and place of birth;
- Date of death;
- Address in full of usual residence at time of death;
- Address in full of place of death; and information about the informant (applicant).
The original documents must be sent – photocopies of documents are not acceptable – by recorded or special delivery mail. It is recommended that such documents are accompanied by a pre-paid recorded or special delivery envelope otherwise they will be returned by normal first class post. All documents are dealt with only through the post.
The consular fee for a death registration and provision of one certified copy is £90.00, with additional copies costing £35.00 each. A cheque or postal order for the appropriate amount should be made payable to “The Foreign and Commonwealth Office”.
As the British Embassy or Consulate in the country where the death occurred will carry out the registration, it will therefore take approximately one month from receipt of the properly documented application before the consular death certificate is received.