If You Die in a Foreign Land What Then?

Should a resident of South Africa or a permanent resident from there die in a foreign land, then the death will be registered in the host country and a certificate of death is given to confirm the death.

The Embassy of South Africa or mission must be informed immediately and the procedures of the country must be enforced in a bid to ensure that the laws of the land regarding death of a non national are adhered to.

Two documents will be mandatory to validate the death and the identity of the deceased, the individual’s passport and the certificate of death. The embassy has a responsibility to notify the family and also the undertaker as to what has to be done in accordance with the law of the land or ruling legislation.

Shipping the Body of a South African Resident

Die in a foreign land

The undertaker and The Embassy of South Africa become responsible for making arrangements for the body to be returned to South Africa, the family and friends do not necessarily have to make these arrangements.

However if a family member does die in a foreign land the family and friends of the deceased are involved in the authorisation of returning the body to South Africa but as the procedure is very expensive they might choose an easier and more cost effective mechanism. These may include cremating the body and only facilitating the transportation of the ashes. This will be done in relation to the laws of South Africa.

A Non-South African resident dying in South Africa

If a foreigner dies in South Africa, the death is registered locally and a death certificate has to be given by the Department of Home Affairs. Any procedures that come after the death have to be observed in accordance with the gazetted laws.

The Embassy or mission of the individual that has been reported dead must be timely informed and two important documents will be required. These include the passport of the individual and the certificate of death as tangible evidence of the death and country of origin.

Shipping the body of a Non-South African

This is organized by the undertaker in South Africa and the country of the deceased. The procedure will be accompanied by the consent of the family because of the expenses involved in the transportation of the body.

In an instance where cutting costs is preferred, then the family can consider cremation of the body and only the ashes will be sent to the home country or alternatively interred in South Africa. The law has to be adhered to all the way and in the event of an unnatural cause of death an autopsy can be initiated to authenticate the underlying motive of death.

If a Family member does die in a Foreign land – laws must be observed 

Please note that some basic requirements have to be observed in South Africa amongst the ones stipulated above. When shipping the body internationally, the body has to be embalmed (this is the science of averting decomposition), the coffin also has to be zinc-lined in case the person died of a communicable or an infectious disease. There must be a family undertaker who will be in charge of the body when it arrives. One downside to this procedure is zinc-lined coffins are a cost burden to the bereaved family because zinc is a heavy metal and airfare is determined by the weight of a commodity.

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