What to do if someone dies while visiting a foreign country

If someone close to you dies while they are visiting a foreign country, there will be a number of things to arrange. The Dutch embassy, consulate or Ministry of Foreign Affairs can assist you.

Registering a death

It is important that you register the death of your travelling companion or family member with the local authorities in the country where they died. You might need to go to the municipal office to do this.

The local authorities will give you two documents which you will need to return the deceased person’s body to the Netherlands:

  • a death certificate
  • a laissez-passer (a special document allowing the transfer of the body)

If the person lived in the Netherlands, you must register the foreign death certificate with the municipality where they lived. Do this as soon as possible once you return to the Netherlands. The municipality will then update the Personal Records Database (BRP).

If the person did not live in the Netherlands, you must inform Dutch government agencies such as the Tax and Customs Administration, the Social Insurance Bank (SVB), the central office for exceptional medical insurance (CAK) and the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV). You must also inform any relevant pension funds. These organisations may require you to provide a copy of the person’s death certificate.

Documents from some countries need to be legalised before they can be used in the Netherlands. Sometimes they must also be translated by a sworn translator. Legalisation is usually done in the country where the document originates. Find out if your documents need to be legalised. 

If it is not possible to have the death certificate legalised, or if you do not have a death certificate, please contact us.

Help in obtaining a laissez-passer

If the local authorities will not give you a laissez-passer for deceased persons, the local Dutch embassy or consulate can help you. You will need to provide the following documents:

  • an extract from the register of deaths
  • a doctor’s certificate
  • a certificate stating that the rules for preparing the deceased person’s body for transport have been followed. This certificate can be issued by the undertaker or a government body.

Assistance from the embassy, consulate or Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The Dutch embassy, consulate, or Ministry of Foreign Affairs will assist the relatives as much as possible. They can also give advice, for example on how to apply for a death certificate.

What do I need to do to return the body to the Netherlands?

If the deceased person had travel insurance and funeral insurance, the insurance company’s emergency support centre will arrange for the body to be returned to the Netherlands. If necessary, the embassy or consulate will assist the support centre.

The travel insurance will cover the costs of returning the body to the Netherlands.

What if the deceased was not insured?

If the deceased person did not have travel insurance  but the relatives want the body to be returned to the Netherlands, they will need to cover the costs themselves.

The embassy or consulate cannot:

  • pay these costs
  • guarantee payment of the costs
  • provide a loan or prepayment for these costs.

But the embassy or consulate can help by contacting relatives in the Netherlands and asking them to provide financial assistance.

What if the relatives cannot cover the costs?

If the relatives cannot or do not wish to pay the costs, the body will be buried or cremated in the country where the person died. This will be done in accordance with local custom. The local authorities there will pay for the funeral.

Death following an accident or a crime

If the death was the result of an accident or crime, or if there are doubts about the cause of death, the Dutch embassy or consulate can ask for a copy of the medical report, the autopsy report or the police report. Relatives may be charged for this.

The embassy or consulate cannot carry out any kind of investigation. They have to respect local laws.

Converting a foreign death certificate into a Dutch one

You can have a foreign death certificate converted into a Dutch death certificate by the Foreign Documents Department of the municipality of The Hague.

This is not mandatory but it will make things easier in the future if you need an official copy of the death certificate. An official copy of a death certificate bears a stamp and the signature of a Registrar of Births, Deaths, Marriages and Registered Partnerships. This will save you having to request one from abroad. Instead, you can request an official copy online from the municipality of The Hague.

Find out how you can have foreign official documents converted into Dutch ones