Death of a U.S. Citizen

Notification and Report to the Embassy/Consulate General

The Embassy or Consulate General is usually notified of the death of a U.S. citizen by a relative, traveling companion, travel agency, the Public Security Bureau (PSB), or the Foreign Affairs Office (Waiban).  The Embassy or Consulate General is responsible for providing the official notification to the next of kin and working with the next of kin on the disposition of the deceased U.S. citizen’s remains and property.

Even if no U.S. government assistance is required, relatives or friends should report the death of a U.S. citizen to the Embassy or Consulate General, regardless of whether s/he was a resident or tourist in China. The Embassy or Consulate General will issue several copies of an original Consular Report of Death Abroad (CRODA), a document which serves as the official U.S. government report of death for U.S. citizens who pass away overseas. The document is needed to settle legal and estate matters in the United States.

The 24 hour emergency telephone number is 010-8531-4000.

Checking Chinese Visa Requirements 

Sometimes tour leaders arrange for visitors to have a group visa to enter China. If the deceased and the next of kin were with a tour group, the next of kin must arrange to have their visa changed to an individual visitor visa. Tour leaders should assist the next of kin to change their visas before the group moves on.  Please make sure that the tour leader also leaves the passport of the deceased with the next of kin or an approved agent.

Basic Steps for Dealing with the Death of an American Citizen Abroad

The next of kin should present valid document(s) to prove the kinship with the deceased. Otherwise s/he should fill out and have notarized an “Affidavit for the Surviving Spouse or Next of Kin” (PDF 61.7 KB) to allow him/her to make decisions on arrangements and disposition of the remains. If the next of kin is in China, they can take care of arrangements themselves. If not, they will need to give power of attorney to a relative, friend or a funeral home in China to take care of the funeral arrangements. The Embassy/Consulate General is unable to act as an agent for U.S. citizens in making funeral arrangements.

Typically, families will contact a funeral home to help them carry out their funeral arrangements. The Embassy or Consulate General can help provide a guide with more details on disposition of remains and associated costs.

If the death occurred outside of the hospital, the next of kin or their legal representative will need to obtain a local official death certificate from the hospital or local police. After the local death certificate is issued, the next of kin is required to bring the death certificate and the deceased’s passport to the local Entry and Exit Administration of Public Security Bureau (PSB) to cancel the Chinese visa.

When a death occurs outside a hospital, the police forensic authority should conduct a mandatory fundamental examination of the remains to rule out the possibility of criminal action. The examination normally takes at least 15 working days. The result of the examination report is general and vague. If the family needs a more detailed cause of death than that listed in this report, a request may be submitted to the police authority for an autopsy for a fee. The autopsy processing time varies from several weeks to several months, depending on the number of items required.

 Please follow these steps:

  1. If necessary, fill out and have notarized a Power of Attorney, if necessary, granting someone in China the legal authority to take care of all arrangements.
  2. Obtain a death certificate/report from the hospital or from the police.
  3. If documents of kinship, such as marriage certificate, cannot be presented, fill out and have notarized an “Affidavit for the Surviving Spouse or Next of Kin” (PDF 61.7 KB) which can be done in the U.S. or at the closest U.S. Embassy/Consulate.
  4. Work with a local funeral home to make arrangements for the disposition of remains.
  5. Go to the local Entry and Exit Bureau (EEB) to cancel the deceased’s Chinese visa.
  6. Obtain a Consular Report of Death Abroad at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate General. This can be done by the next of kin or their legal representative, including a funeral home.

Obtaining a Consular Report of Death Abroad

A Consular Report of Death of an American Citizen Abroad (CRODA) is a document prepared by the U.S. Embassy/Consulate General in English, based on a death certificate issued by a competent authority in China. It can be used in U.S. courts and other institutions to settle estate matters. Individuals should apply for the report at the Embassy/Consulate General that has jurisdiction over the area in which the death occurred. In most cases, the following items will be required in order to issue the report of death:

  • The original death certificate from the local hospital, with cause of death listed. (Note: some funeral homes require the hospital death certificate to be notarized with a Chinese notary public before cremation, or before shipping remains back to the United States).
  • The cremation report from the funeral home (or other documentation relating to the disposition of remains if cremation is not applicable).
  • The American citizen’s U.S. passport.
  • The American citizen’s social security number.
  • The deceased’s last addresses in both China and the United States.
  • The names of any individuals who lived with or were traveling with the deceased at the time the death occurred.

The Embassy/Consulate General will provide the next of kin with several copies of the Report of Death of an American Citizen Abroad free of charge.

Additional copies can be obtained subsequently by submitting signed, written request including all pertinent facts along with requester’s return address and telephone number from the Department of State, Passport Services, Correspondence Branch, 1111 19th Street, N.W., Suite 510, Washington, D.C. 20522-1705, Tel: (202) 955-0307. For the most up to date contact information, please visit the Family Issues section of the State Department’s Travel Website: http://travel.state.gov/.

Documentation Required to Ship Cremated Remains

A Consular Mortuary Certificate is not required for the shipment of ashes. For the shipment of ashes, the cancelled passport, the Consular Report of Death Abroad, a translated Chinese death certificate, and a cremation certificate, which states that the body has been cremated in accordance with local law and that the urn contains only the remains of the deceased, must accompany the remains. The family is strongly recommended to confirm with the relevant airlines with regard to its requirement and procedure of shipping/bringing cremated human ashes in advance.