Someone has died overseas
It’s distressing when a family member or friend dies. When the death happens overseas it can be even more difficult. During this time, consular staff will do what we can to assist you. However, there are legal and practical limits to our help.
This page provides information about:
- what happens when an Australian has died overseas
- what to do if a family member has died
- what to do if a travelling companion has died
- what travel insurers can do to help you
- how to return remains to Australia
- how and when the Australian Government can help
When an Australian has died overseas
Authorities overseas must tell us if an Australian dies there. When we learn an Australian has died, we contact the police in Australia who'll notify the next of kin.
If a third party has told us about the death, or it's in the media, we'll always confirm this with local authorities before notifying the next of kin.
If you learn from the media or a third party that your family member has died overseas, contact:
- the nearest Australian embassy, high commission or consulate
- our 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 (outside Australia) or 1300 555 135 (in Australia)
We make every effort to ensure relatives don't first hear about a death from the media. It can't always be prevented. Consular officials can provide some guidance on what you'll need to do and what happens next. We can also provide advice on how to manage media enquiries.
What you need to do if a family member has died overseas
As the next of kin, you have responsibilities when an Australian dies overseas. This can be challenging and expensive.
If the deceased person had travel insurance, the travel insurer may help. You can liaise with the deceased person's travel insurer. They usually have established processes for dealing with death, and cover most expenses, including repatriation of remains.
- You may need to appoint a local funeral director.
- If you choose to repatriate remains, you may also need to appoint an Australian funeral director.
- In some cases, local conditions may require next of kin to make quick decisions.
- If there's an investigation into the death, you may need to liaise with local police.
- Local authorities may require an autopsy before they can issue a death certificate.
You don't need to travel to the country unless you wish to.
You don't have to register the death in Australia. If you want to, contact the registrar of births, deaths and marriages in your state or territory.
What you need to do if your travelling companion has died overseas
You must report the death of any Australian overseas to the nearest Australian embassy, high commission or consulate. Alternatively, call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305.
Tell us your travelling companion's:
- full name and date of birth
- passport number, place and date of issue
- details of an immediate family member or close friend
- travel insurance details
The local police will be involved if the death is unexpected and didn't happen in a hospital. We can help you to notify
The Consular Emergency Centre can also transfer you to a Lifeline telephone crisis operator for counselling.
How travel insurers can help when an Australian dies overseas
If the deceased person had travel insurance, the insurer can help. The insurer may take on most of the responsibility to navigate the local legal system, and facilitate the administrative processes.
Insurance companies can usually:
- cover costs
- provide a list of funeral directors in the foreign country
- provide advice on local funeral services
- take care of arrangements for a local funeral service or the return of the deceased to Australia
Travel insurance companies often have 24-hour helplines available from anywhere in the world. Contact them as soon as possible after someone has died.
Returning remains to Australia
You may wish to repatriate the deceased person's remains to Australia. The Australian Border Force has strict quarantine requirements for importing human remains or ashes to Australia.
Funeral directors overseas need to work with Australian funeral directors if you wish to return your loved one's remains to Australia. Funeral directors in both countries can work together to try to meet your wishes.
It can take several weeks to bring someone's remains home. This can be longer if there's an autopsy or coronial enquiry to determine cause of death.
How the Australian Government can help
We provide consular services through our headquarters in Canberra, and through Australian embassies, high commissions and consulates overseas.
Our knowledge and understanding of the local environment can often help. However, we must work within the legal and administrative processes of the foreign country.
Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.
What we can do
- We can help you to understand some of the administrative processes that apply in that country.
- We can provide a list of local funeral directors and lawyers.
- We can make the local funeral director aware of Australian quarantine regulations.
- We can give you a list of translators.
- We can give an estimate of cost for local burial, local cremation or transport back to Australia.
- We can advise on how to transfer funds from Australia to meet any costs.
- We can provide advice on managing media enquiries.
What we can't do
- We can't recommend a specific funeral director or lawyer.
- We can't investigate the death of an Australian citizen.
- We can't interpret or translate documents.
- We can't give legal advice, or get involved in legal matters.
- We can't pay for or organise a burial or cremation.
- We can't pay for, or organise, the deceased person's belongings to be returned to Australia.
- We can't pay any of the deceased person's outstanding debts.
- Read our death overseas fact sheet.
- See the Consular Services Charter to understand how and when we can help.
- Read our information about medical emergencies overseas.
- See our general advice for mature travellers.
- See our general advice about travelling for a medical procedure.
- Read about travel insurance.
- Read our information about death before you go overseas.
- See the Department of Human Services (DHS) advice on what to do following a death.
- The Australian Border Force has strict quarantine requirements for importing human remains or ashes to Australia.
- To register a death, contact the registrar of births, deaths and marriages in your state or territory.
- For 24 hour crisis support and counseling, contact Lifeline.
This brochure is designed to provide information to help you understand what consular staff in Australia and overseas can do to assist during this difficult time.
Death overseas is always a possibility. Even for people who are fit and healthy. Sometimes, things just go wrong.