Death of a U.S. Citizen
General information is available on the "Death Abroad" webpage on the "travel.state.gov" website.
Procedures in Italy
What Happens First. Under Italian law 24 hours must pass from the time of death before the remains can be prepared for burial or shipment. Generally, an autopsy is performed unless death occurs in a hospital.
Death Certificate. A death certificate is required for burial in Italy or transport of the remains. A local funeral agent should be contacted as soon as possible and given the death certificate (see Funeral Homes in Rome). Although the agent cannot work on the remains for 24 hours, the agent can provide guidance and can prepare the necessary Italian documents.
Required Documents. In order to obtain the required documents and assist with burial and transport, the funeral agent must have the death and identity information of the deceased. A permit must be obtained from the Comune and the Prefettura before the remains can be moved.
How Long Does This Process Take? Under ideal circumstances burial locally can take place within 48 hours, however, it generally takes 4 to 7 days to arrange shipment outside of Italy.
Maximum Period Before Burial. Although Italian law does not provide a specific maximum time before burial, a decision regarding the disposition of remains must usually be made within 48 hours of the death.
Embalming. The embalming and cosmetic preparation of the deceased is not normally available in Italy, but may be obtained under special circumstances and must be performed by an authorized physician or technician.
Cremation: An authorization is required for cremation in Italy. The Consular Section of the American Embassy will issue the required statement if there is evidence that the deceased's wish was to have his remains cremated, or, in the absence of such evidence, if authorization is received from the deceased's next-of-kin. A delay of several weeks for the local funeral agency to obtain ashes from the crematorium is not unusual.
Caskets and Containers. Different types of caskets are available in Rome and other large cities. For shipment abroad, Italian law requires the treatment of the remains to prevent decomposition. They must also be placed in a zinc container whose lid has been hermetically sealed. The metal container must be enclosed in a solid hardwood case suitable for transportation.
Exportation of Remains. The same documents are required to ship either bodies or ashes and are usually obtained by the funeral agency.
Exhumation and Shipment. Exhumation of interred remains is permitted any time after burial during the winter months (October-April) and under the supervision of the city health officer in compliance with municipal regulations. Exhumed remains can be exported following the same procedures outlined above.
Processing the Consular Report of Death Abroad (CRODA). The American Embassy or Consulate General will issue an official death certificate for an American citizen and can assist in the export of the remains to the U.S., after the next of kin provides general information about the decedent. This information may be provided via phone, e-mail or fax. Please contact the Embassy or Consulate General in the Consular District where the decedent resided or died for specific guidance on CRODA processing.