Last Updated: April 7, 2020
Repatriation of Remains
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.
At this time, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please see CDC’s guidance for additional information.
In situations resulting in the death of a U.S. citizen, please immediately call 9-1-1 to report the incident. (911 is the emergency services number in Costa Rica, as well as the United States).
The U.S. Embassy Consular Section can help when a U.S. citizen dies in Costa Rica. The degree and nature of consular assistance depends upon whether a deceased U.S. citizen was accompanied by family and whether s/he was a visitor to Costa Rica or was residing here.
The Consular Section can provide information on funeral homes that will arrange for local burials or prepare remains for shipment to a designated location in the United States. The Consular Section will also issue a Consular Report of Death Abroad, which serves as a death certificate in the United States for probate and other legal purposes. The U.S. Embassy does not provide funds to pay for the funeral, repatriation, or burial expenses of Americans who die abroad.
Families of the deceased do not necessarily have to travel to Costa Rica to make decisions and arrangements regarding the disposition of remains. U.S. Embassy representatives can act on behalf of the family in working with local authorities and service providers in many cases.
A Preliminary Consular Report of Death Abroad can be issued to the legal Next-of-Kin (NOK) prior to local Costa Rican authorities’ certification of the final determination of cause of death. Once the cause of death is finalized, the final Consular Report of Death Abroad is issued and sent to the legal NOK. It is important to note that it can take several months or more for forensic labs in Costa Rica to conduct tests and forward the results to the central Costa Rica Judicial Morgue. Once the forensic reports are received, Judicial Morgue authorities will conclude an autopsy report and issue a final report on the cause of death. Under Costa Rican law, an autopsy must be performed on all deceased individuals.
Remains of a deceased individual may be cremated, interred, embalmed and interred or prepared for repatriation in Costa Rica. Under Costa Rican law, the remains of deceased persons can be maintained in a mortuary facility for up to one week prior to final disposition, depending on the capacity of the facility and condition of the remains. In general, remains of persons who die from suspicious, sudden or accidental causes are transported to a judicial mortuary facility. These facilities are equipped to properly store and maintain remains, but capacity is limited. Local hospitals often do not have refrigerated facilities and are therefore unable to store remains for longer than three days. As such, decisions regarding the disposition of remains need to be made as soon as possible. It is also important to note that under Costa Rica law, persons who die of or are suspected to have suffered from infectious diseases or conditions posing a public health risk are buried within 24 hours.
Remains to be repatriated abroad must be either embalmed or cremated to meet Costa Rican legal regulations. Ministry of Health permits must be obtained before remains to be exported are prepared or shipped. These documents can only be produced on weekdays during Ministry of Health office hours. These papers cannot be produced on weekends or holidays.
Exhumation of remains is only authorized after 5 years of interment. Extra- ordinary exhumations can be permitted – depending on circumstances – either by Ministry of Health authorities or with a judicial order.
If an unaccompanied U.S. citizen dies while in Costa Rica, a U.S. consular officer may serve as a provisional conservator of the deceased’s personal estate and can take custody of his/her portable personal effects. As provisional conservator, the consular officer’s duties include arranging for the effects to be sent to the legal next of kin, subject to local laws. In general, real-estate property or contested property will be disposed of in accordance with local Costa Rican laws and regulations. The U.S. Embassy also maintains a list of reputable local attorneys that can be found at the following link: List of local attorneys. (Link)
The estimated cost for local interment, cremation and local disposition, or air shipment to a designated location in the United States will depend on various factors. Different funeral homes offer services at different prices and final costs will depend on several factors, including the location and condition of the remains and the location of the final resting place. The funeral homes listed below have agreed to offer special prices to U.S. citizens working through the U.S. Embassy. The prices shown below are only approximate and refer to services provided in the central part of San Jose province. The funeral homes listed below also all provide these services at internationally accepted standards.
Interment without preservation/embalming is possible for remains buried in Costa Rica. Interment can cost up to $1,000.00 without preservation. The cost with preparation and embalming can be approximately $1,800.00.
The cost above does not include the burial plot or casket, the costs of which can range from $4,000 to $12,000. Please contact the funeral homes below for quotes regarding burial plot and casket cost and availability.
The estimated cost for cremation of remains varies among funeral homes but ranges between $1,300.00 and $1,900, including airfare costs. The estimated cost for embalming and air shipment of remains to a designated location in the United States can range from $1,500 to $ 4,000. This estimate does include the cost for a standard casket but does not for other special preparation requests. Please contact the funeral homes below for quotes regarding full costs. In addition, embalmed remains can only enter the United States through an international airport and must pass through customs and shipping procedures.
How to reach us: For more information, please contact us at 506-2519-2590 or 506-2519-2093, Monday through Thursday, from 8:00 AM to noon and 1:00 PM to 4:30 PM, and Friday from 8:00 AM to 12:00 PM. For after-hours or weekend emergencies, please call (506) 2519-2000. Written inquiries may be sent to email@example.com
Funeral homes in the San Jose area
The following five funeral homes in San Jose have experience with shipping remains internationally. The U.S. Embassy does not recommend any funeral home: .