Death of a U.S. Citizen

When a U.S. citizen dies in Panama, the American Citizen Services Unit (ACS) of the US Embassy assists the family and friends in the following ways: 

  • We attempt to locate and inform the next-of-kin of the U.S. citizen’s death.
  • We provide information on how to make arrangements for local burial or for return of the remains to the United States.

Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.

A U.S. consular officer overseas has statutory responsibility for the personal effects of a U.S. citizen if the deceased has no legal representative or next-of-kin in the country where the death occurred, subject to local law.  The consular officer prepares an inventory of the personal effects and then carries out instructions from the legal representative or next-of-kin concerning the effects.  In that situation, the consular officer takes possession of personal effects, such as jewelry, personal documents and papers, and clothing.

The Embassy is responsible for the preparation of a Consular Report of Death Abroad, which assists the next-of-kin with legal matters that may arise as a result of the death. When a death of an American Citizen occurs in Panama, it is important to notify the ACS Unit as soon as possible.  An American Duty Officer can be contacted 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling (507) 317-5000.

CONSULAR REPORT OF DEATH OF A UNITED STATES OF AMERICA CITIZEN

For every American citizen who dies in Panama, the Embassy prepares a Consular Report of Death of an American Citizen Abroad. This certificate is based on the Panama death certificate and is valid for use in the United States. The ACS unit can issue up to 20 copies of the report that will be sent to the Next of Kin.

In order to begin the Consular Report of Death Abroad certificate, e-mail us at panama-acs@state.gov with scanned copies of the following documents:

  1. Naturalization Certificate of the deceased (if this is available)
  2. U.S. passport of the deceased
  3. Evidence of the next-of-Kin relationship. For example, a marriage certificate if there is a living spouse or a birth certificate for a child. Policy defines the next-of-kin in this order: a) spouse; b) adult children; c) parents; and d) siblings.
  4. Death Certificate
  5. Completion of REPORT OF DEATH OF A U.S. CITIZEN OR U.S. NON-CITIZEN NATIONAL ABROAD FORM.

To obtain a Panama Death Certificate, you can go to The Panamanian Civil Registry main office in Ancon, which is open from Monday to Friday 7:00 am -3:00 pm, or a funeral home can assist you in obtaining this certificate.

DISPOSITION OF REMAINS REPORT

When a U.S. citizen dies in Panama, we stand ready to assist with the notification of the next-of-kin (NOK) of the deceased, help with burial or transportation arrangements, provide contact information of local funeral homes and offices, explain the procedure for obtaining a Panamanian death certificate from local authorities and produce an official record of the death which can be used in the United States. We can assist family members in returning the deceased’s remains to the United States. However, costs may be high and must be paid by the family. We can also act to protect the property and personal estate of a deceased U.S. citizen until such property can be turned over to the NOK.

The information is updated tri-annually. The next update is scheduled for July 2022.

Embassy of the United States of America
Panama City, Panama
Consular Section – American Citizen Services (ACS) Unit

Serving the U.S. Citizen Community in Panama
Tel: (507) 317-5700   Fax: (507) 317-5303
Web Site: https://pa.usembassy.gov/
E-mail: panama-acs@state.gov

The U.S. Embassy in Panama has jurisdiction for the entire country of Panama.

We strongly recommend that U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Panama enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates, and makes it easier for the U.S. embassy to contact enrolled U.S. citizens in an emergency.

We also recommend that U.S. citizens regularly monitor the State Department’s Consular Affairs website, where they can find current Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and the Worldwide Caution. Please read the Country Specific Information and the Travel Alert Warning for Panama. For additional information, you should refer to “Traveler’s Checklist” on the State Department’s website.

DISCLAIMER:  The U.S. Embassy in Panama assumes no responsibility or liability for the professional ability or reputation of, or the quality of services provided by, the following persons or firms.  Names are listed alphabetically, and the order in which they appear has no other significance.  Professional credentials and areas of expertise are provided directly by the funeral directors, morticians, and other service providers.

General Information

All major funeral homes provide for the collection and transportation of the deceased, embalming, cremation, wake or religious service and transportation of remains to cemetery or airport (shipping cost charges are extra).  For an additional fee, the funeral home will complete all of the documentation required by local authorities.

Funeraria Alvarado
Across the street from Hospital Santo Tomas or in Jardín de Paz Cemetery
Panama City, Panama
Tel. (507) 390-2552, 390-2727
Cellphone: (507) 6672-1074

Funeraria Da Silva, S.A. (Olivierre)
8th Street, Amador Guerrero Ave, #7114,
Colon Province, Republic of Panama
Tel. (507) 441-2263, 441-2855
Cellphone: (507) 6613-9054

Funerales Panameños La Auxiliadora
Calle 43, Bella Vista
Panama City, Panama
Tel. (507) 227-3117, 227-3018, 227-3458

1. Information on arrangement of disposition of remains

Panamanian law requires the disposition of remains within one month after death. However, many factors can affect how much time will be needed to prepare your loved one’s remains for return to the United States. Because of these many variables, it is best not to make unchangeable plans for ceremonies the funeral home you are working with can provide a firm timetable. Here are some estimates of the time various steps of the process may take:

  • The police may withhold permission to cremate or embalm for as long as necessary if they believe the death may be the result of a crime which they need to investigate. This investigation may in some instances require an autopsy, which by itself may require one or more days. The final autopsy report prepared by the Legal Medicine and Forensic Institute can take a couple of months but this will not interfere with the return of remains for burial.
  • Embalming or cremation may take several days depending on the location of the remains and the schedule of the mortuary company.
  • Cremated remains prepared by funeral home may be taken by the next-of-kin on a commercial flight. Embalmed remains must be transported as cargo, and require processing by the ground handling company employed by all airlines serving Panama.
  • Embalmed remains must be turned over to a licensed mortician at the airport in the U.S. If your hometown mortician is unable to meet a flight, the shipment must be delayed so that it arrives in the U.S. at a time when your hometown mortician can meet the incoming flight.
  • In some cases, no space may be available on outgoing flights for embalmed remains, leading to delays.

2. Embalming

Embalming is available locally, and done according to U.S. Standards. A transfer of human cadavers, outside Panama requires embalming, which costs between $1,500.00 to $2,500.00. The remains are normally embalmed within twelve (12) hours of arrival in a funeral home. There are approximately eight qualified embalmers in Panama.

3. Cremation

For the cremation of human corpses, the authorization or written will of the person or of the next-of-kin is necessary. Cremation can only be carried out in crematoriums duly authorized that comply with the existing regulatory requirements.

4. Caskets and Containers

Local and foreign caskets are available locally.  To ensure adequate conditions for international transport through border areas, port terminals or airports, it is necessary for the casket or urn to be packed with materials that prevent the filtration of liquids and the generation of bad odors.

5. Exportation of remains

For the transfer of human remains outside the national territory, the following documents will be required:

  • Authenticated death certificate, issued by the Civil Registry
  • Authenticated copy of the doctor’s report about cause of death by the Civil Registry
  • Burial permit issued by the Civil Registry
  • Permit issued by the Panamanian authorities in the region where the individual was buried in the case of exhumation
  • Certificate of the company that provided the service, in case of cremation
  • Embalming certification issued by the funeral home
  • Certification of the funeral home stating that the coffin contains only the corpse
  • Other documentation such as the shipping bill, customs requirements, etc. which will be provided by the funeral home.

All the documentation must be duly apostilled or authenticated by the competent authority. Panamanian funeral homes are responsible for securing the required authentications and apostilles.

6. Costs

The average cost of a local burial range from $850.00 to $7,500.00.  Some of the things that are included in the price are: burial permits (Health Department and inscription in Civil Registration office); transportation from the hospital to the church and cemetery (in the same city); clothing (family needs to provide the clothes); basic casket; coordination with a church and a book of condolences. Final costs may increase if the individual died outside Panama City.

Preparation and air shipment to the United States may start at $4,500.00 depending on the state and number of air connections. Some of the things that are included in the price are: legal documentation for repatriation; transportation from the hospital to the funeral home; embalming and clothing (clothing not included); casket and air tray; coordination with the funeral home at final destination; transportation to the airport; and coordination with airline and airway bill.

Cremation and disposition of ashes in Panama range from $1200.00 to $3,000.00. Some of the things that are included in the price are: burial permits (Health Department and inscription in Civil Registration office); transportation from the hospital to the crematorium (in the same city); cremation service; temporary (plastic) urn; and a book of condolences.

Cremation and air shipment of ashes to the United States may start at $2,500.00 depending on the state and number of air connections. Some of the things that are included in the price are: legal documentation for repatriation; transportation from the hospital to the funeral home cremation service; temporary (plastic) urn and box for shipping; coordination with the funeral home at final destination; transportation to the airport; and coordination with airline and airway bill.

Transportation prices from locations outside Panama City vary from $85 to $3,500. For Bocas del Toro, for example, it is necessary to rent a plane to do the pick-up. This may be also true for other areas that are difficult to access.

7. Exhumation and Shipment

The exhumation of corpses is allowed after five (5) years.
The cost may vary depending on the cemetery.

  • Municipal cemetery costs are about $ 75.
  • Private cemetery costs are between $ 400 and $ 585.

8. Autopsies

In case of a death that occurs outside a hospital, health professionals are required to determine the cause of death. In some cases, the cause of death can’t be determined. This does not stop the service. The family can ask for a private autopsy and the cost is about $3,000.00.

9. Remarks

Local customs for disposition of remains depends on the religious beliefs of the respective families. The local authorities are responsible for licensing funeral directors and for ensuring that they comply with legal regulations.

A Consular Officer will send the deceased’s legal representative up to 20 certified copies at the time of death, at no fee.

Additional copies can be obtained by contacting:

Department of State
Passport Vital Records Section
44132 Mercure Cir.
PO Box 1213
Sterling, VA 20166-1213
Tel. (202) 485-8300

You must submit a notarized written request to the above address, with the following information:

  • Full name of the deceased;
    • Date and place of death;
    • A copy of requester’s valid identification;
    • The requester’s return address and telephone number;
    • The Requester’s signature; and
    • Appropriate fees, payable to the “Department of State” by check or money order
  • There is a $50 fee for each certified copy of a Report of Death.
  • Overnight Delivery: To cut down on the processing time, you may send your request to the above address using overnight delivery.  To have your records returned to you using overnight delivery, include an additional $16.48 to cover overnight delivery or include a pre-paid envelope for the delivery service provider of your choice.