Death of a U.S. Citizen

In the event of the death of a U.S. citizen in Rwanda, the American Citizen Services (ACS) section of the U.S. Embassy in Kigali can assist the family and friends.  Our services include:

  • Finding and notifying the next-of-kin of the deceased;
  • Acting as a liaison with Rwandan police, hospital and mortuary authorities;
  • Arranging for the disposition and repatriation of remains;
  • Coordinating administrative and financial requirements;
  • Assisting in the collection and return of personal effects to next-of-kin; and
  • Issuing a “Consular Report of Death of a U.S. Citizen Abroad”.

Disposition and Repatriation of Remains

When an American citizen dies in Rwanda, the remains are usually preserved until the next-of-kin provides instructions regarding disposition.  There are normally two options regarding the disposition of remains:

  • Embalming is permitted in Rwanda for the purposes of repatriating remains to the United States. There is at least one funeral home able to do basic embalming.  While embalming should take place as soon after death as possible, a death certificate signed by a physician is required.
  • Cremation is permitted in Rwanda.  There is one cremation facility accessible to the public, but the family or their agent must work through a local funeral home to arrange for the required documentation and authorization.

Autopsies are not required in Rwanda, but can be performed at the request of family, or if the circumstances surrounding the death are in question.  Consular personnel work with a funeral home to ensure that the wishes of the next-of-kin are carried out as quickly and professionally as possible.

CDC requirements for importing human remains depend upon if the body has been embalmed, cremated, or if the person died from a quarantinable communicable disease. As of April 2020, COVID-19 is a quarantinable communicable disease in the United States and the remains must meet the standards for importation found in 42 Code of Federal Regulations Part 71.55 and may be cleared, released, and authorized for entry into the United States only under the following conditions:

  • The remains are cremated; OR
  • The remains are properly embalmed and placed in a hermetically sealed casket; OR
  • The remains are accompanied by a permit issued by the CDC Director. The CDC permit (if applicable) must accompany the human remains at all times during shipment. Permits for the importation of the remains of a person known or suspected to have died from a quarantinable communicable disease may be obtained through the CDC Division of Global Migration and Quarantine by calling the CDC Emergency Operations Center at 770-488-7100 or emailing dgmqpolicyoffice@cdc.gov.Please see CDC’s guidance for additional information.

Return of Personal Effects

The Embassy can, in most circumstances, take charge of personal effects and possessions of the deceased if instructed to do so by the next-of-kin.  This may not be necessary if the deceased has a friend or family member present in Rwanda at the time of death.

We will conduct a thorough inventory of any personal effects and send a copy to the next-of-kin.  We can send the family any items they wish to have returned, at their expense, by DHL or FedEx.  Most families decide to donate items of little sentimental or monetary value (clothing, suitcases, kitchenware, etc.) to a local charity in order to avoid the large expense involved in returning these items to the United States.  The Embassy will gladly arrange for this charitable donation on the family’s behalf.

Consular Report of Death of a U.S. Citizen Abroad

The “Consular Report of Death of a U.S. Citizen Abroad ” is an official report, in English, that provides the essential facts concerning the death of a U.S. Citizen.  It functions in much the same way as a death certificate issued in the United States and can be used to settle bank accounts, insurance policies and other estate matters.

This report can be issued only after the Rwandan authorities complete their documentation.  A minimum of 20 certified copies will be sent to the Next-of-Kin.  Families may order additional certified copies from the Department of State for a fee.

Families can obtain up to three sets of the following documents from the Embassy:

  • 20 copies of “Consular Report of Death of a U.S. Citizen Abroad ” (free)
  • A certified copy of the Rwandan Death Certificate
  • An original Autopsy Report (at the family’s expense)

For more information you may also refer to the Department of State website.  For more information on the Consular Report of Death of a U.S. Citizen Abroad, and other services that a consular officer can help you with when a loved one passes away overseas, see the links below.