Disposition of Remains Report

Disposition of Remains Report

When a U.S. citizen dies in El Salvador, 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 Salvadoran 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 June 2022.

Embassy of the United States of America
San Salvador, El Salvador
Consular Section – American Citizen Services (ACS) Unit
Tel: (503) 2501-2628 Fax: (503) 2278-6020
Web Site: https://sv.usembassy.gov/
E-mail: acssansal@state.gov

The U.S. Embassy in San Salvador has jurisdiction for the entire country of El Salvador.

We strongly recommend that U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in El Salvador 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 El Salvador. For additional information, you should refer to “Traveler’s Checklist” on the State Department’s website.

DISCLAIMER: The U.S. Embassy in San Salvador, El Salvador 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, embalmment, 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.

Cemetery plots are of two or four spaces, with the cost dependent upon the location and size. Prices for funeral services range from 1,500 USD to 6,500 USD and vary depending on the funeral home chosen. Cremation prices range from 2,400 USD to 5,000 USD; prices vary from 150 USD to 650 USD. Refrigeration of remains is 120.00 USD per day; special packages are available. The cost of air transportation for remains varies depending on the final destination and availability of flights. El Salvador uses the U.S. dollar as its currency.

Capillas Memoriales Servicios Funerarios

Manager: Paulina Muñoz (see La Auxiliadora)

Address: 57 Avenida Norte, 1a Calle Poniente # 2922, San Salvador, El Salvador.
Tel: (503) 2536-5700 / (503) 2208-3757 / (503) 2265-2121
Fax: (503) 2265-2144
E-mail: N/A
Web Site: https://capillasmemoriales.com

Services: General funeral services, refrigeration, and cremation (off site).

Complejo Funerario Montelena

Manager: Tania Michell Morales de Cubías

Address: Urbina Santa Elena, Boulevard Orden de Malta Sur, Antiguo Cuscatlán, La Libertad, El Salvador
Tel: (503) 2212-8200 / (503) 7852-6816
Fax: (503) 2289-7801
E-mail: montelena@montelena.com.sv
Web Site: http://www.montelena.com.sv/new/home.php

Services: General funeral services, crematorium, refrigeration, cemetery, church.

Funeraria La Auxiliadora

Manager: Paulina Muñoz

Address: Avenida Olímpica / 63 Avenida Sur, Edificio La Auxiliadora, San Salvador, El Salvador.
Tel: (503) 2536-1300 / (503) 2298-1300
Fax: (503) 2298-6347
E-mail: informacion@laauxiliadora.com
Web Site: www.laauxiliadora.com

Services: General funeral services, refrigeration, cremation (off site)

Funeraria de la Fuerza Armada (FUDEFA)

Manager: Eliu Fuentes Velarde

Address: Colonia Avila, Calle El Progreso # 3143, San Salvador, El Salvador.
Tel: (503) 2298-2999 / (503) 2528-0920
Fax: (503) 2528-0909 / (503) 2528-0910
E-mail: contactenos@funeraria.com.sv
Web Site: www.funeraria.com.sv/index.htm

Services: General funeral services.

Funerales y Crematorio Las Flores

Director: María José Avilés

Address: 21 Calle Poniente / 27 Avenida Norte # 1507, San Salvador, El Salvador.
Tel: (503) 2530-6575 / (503) 2257-2000
Fax: (503) 2257-2002
E-mail: info@funerales.com
Web Site: https://grupolaresurreccion.com/funerales/contactenos/

Services: General funeral services, crematorium, refrigeration, cemetery.

Salvadoran Customs

Local citizens prefer interment, rather than cremation, as cremation services are fairly new in El Salvador. Wakes normally last between one and three days, but can exceed three days depending on the circumstances. Mourning normally lasts three and nine days, at which time, Catholic masses are held on a daily basis. People tend to wear black clothing in order to show their mourning and respect. Memorial services are not customary in El Salvador.

Host Country Religions

Although the Salvadoran Constitution guarantees freedom of religion and worship, the country is predominantly Roman Catholic. More than 60% of the population is Roman Catholic; 35% are Christian Evangelicals, Assembly of God, Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, Anglicans, or 7th Day Adventists, and 5% represent other small religions.

Spanish-speaking religious organizations representing the following are found in El Salvador: Roman Catholic, Assembly of God, Mormons, Seventh-day Adventist, Central American Mission, Baptist, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mennonites, and Lutheran. Certain small indigenous groups profess Roman Catholicism and Christian Evangelical religions while also incorporating elements of Indian animism and ancestor worship.

An English-language Catholic mass is available in at least one church, and Protestant services in English are also available through the non-denominational Union Church.

El Salvador has ten national refrigerated morgues available at no cost managed by the regional forensic offices of the Instituto de Medicina Legal “Alberto Masferrer” (IML) with a total capacity of 64 spaces for refrigerated storage of remains.

Remains can be refrigerated for up to two weeks, sometimes longer depending on pending investigations before the final disposition of the remains must be determined. Generally, if remains are not collected after a one week period, local authorities will bury them in a common grave in a municipal cemetery.

Autopsies

Salvadoran law mandates that an autopsy is mandatory in all cases of accidental, sudden, violent or suspicious death, and in cases in which death did not take place in a recognized medical facility or hospital and the deceased was not attended to by a physician at the time of death. Title IV, Chapter VII, Art 102-E of the Salvadorian Judiciary Organic Law states that an autopsy may be ordered or requested by the following:

• Judges and Courts of the Republic
• Attorney General (FGR) of the Republic and Auxiliary Agents
• Solicitor General (PGR) of the Republic under its competence
• Officers and Agents from the National Civil Police (PNC) when requested under the law
• Those that are expressly authorized by law

Autopsies are performed in morgues that belong to the national judiciary system through the Forensic Medical Institute (IML). The autopsies are performed by medical examiners specializing in pathological anatomy, legal medicine, or forensic pathology and are registered and authorized by the Salvadoran Medical Association. It is not unusual for autopsy reports to be written up as “under study” or “pending further investigation”. Unfortunately, these studies and investigations can take several months to complete, and in many cases, they are inconclusive.

Once remains are released by the local morgue, they must be prepared, embalmed, or cremated for local interment or for transportation outside of El Salvador.

Disposition of Remains – Specific Facts

The next-of-kin (NOK) or legal representative has five options regarding the disposition of the decedent’s remains. The fees for all of the options vary depending on the type of disposition, transportation, quality of caskets or containers, and the type of memorial service desired. The quality of the embalming meets the requirements of the Salvadoran Ministry of Health; however, only major mortuaries (such as those listed above) meet U.S. standards.

When requested, the ACS Unit of the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador will assist with coordinating the repatriation of remains between the funeral home and the NOK or legal representative.

The maximum time period before burial of remains is required:
• 30 days if the remains are embalmed.
• 48 hours if the remains are not embalmed.

All funeral homes require a deposit (usually half of the estimated expenses for the chosen services) with the remaining fees due upon completion of the service. Others require the total amount due before commencing with the preparation of the remains and the documentation. We recommend that the NOK or legal representative transfer money overseas through banks, credit card companies or money transfer companies. As a last resort, the Department of State may be able to help transfer funds through our office in Washington, D.C. to U.S. Embassy San Salvador. Please see the instructions available at Sending Money to a U.S. Citizen Overseas. The Embassy will pay upon receipt of the funds all services requested by the NOK, and receipts will be sent to the NOK, legal representative or depositor. Unspent funds will be reimbursed to the sender via check issued by the Department of State.

Note: All price estimates cited in this report are current as of June 2019, but are subject to change.

• Cemetery plot prices vary depending on the location and whether it is a municipal or private cemetery.
• Municipal Cemetery (1 plot) – 200 to 2,000 USD
• Private Cemetery (2 or 4 plots) – 7,500 to 25,000 USD
• Columbarium Niches (1 space) – 2,500 to 3,500 USD
• Refrigeration of Remains (per day) – 120 USD

The funeral home will complete all documentation as required by the following entities:

• Instituto de Medicina Legal (IML)
• Fiscalía General de la República (FGR)
• Civil Registry
• Ministry of Health
• Ministry of Foreign Affairs (RR.EE.)
• U.S. Embassy San Salvador
• Airlines

Preparation and Local Interment in El Salvador

Funeral homes offer basic preparation services. Remains can be held for up to 48 hours before their interment.

The cost of the preparation and local interment ranges from 1,500 to 5,000 USD. This price does not include the cost of the cemetery plot.

Embalming and Local Interment in El Salvador

Embalmed remains can be held up to 30 days before their interment. All local funeral homes provide embalming services. The quality of the embalming meets the requirements of the Salvadoran Ministry of Health; however, only major mortuaries meet U.S. standards. Remains are normally embalmed no later than two days after the death.

The cost of embalming and local interment ranges from 2,400 to 5,000 USD. This price does not include the cost of the cemetery plot.

Embalming in El Salvador and Repatriation of Remains to the United States

Embalming is required for repatriation of remains to the United States. Local funeral homes provide caskets and hermetically sealed containers that meet the requirements for international transportation of human remains. The funeral home, NOK or legal representative must provide the following documents and information to the U.S. Embassy:

• Medical certificate of death from the attending physician or hospital (If any)
• Death certificate from the Civil Registry
• U.S. passport or other proof of identity
• Export permit from the Salvadoran Ministry of Health
• Name, address, and phone number of funeral home at destination
• Flight information (airline, flight number, date, port of entry, departure, and arrival times)
• Affidavit of preparation of remains from the funeral home for shipment
• Once the required documents and information have been provided, the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador can issue the Consular Report of Death Abroad (CRDA), the Consular Mortuary Certificate, and the Affidavit of Embalming to accompany the remains in order for the shipment to clear U.S. Customs. The remains must be collected in the United States by a licensed funeral home as authorized by the NOK or legal representative.

The cost for embalming in El Salvador and repatriation to the United States ranges from 6,000.00 to 7,500.00 USD.

Cremation and Disposition in El Salvador

Salvadoran General Law of Cemeteries, Chapter VII, Articles 31 – 32 allows for cremation of human remains.

Salvadoran law does not require a written consent or any other proof from the deceased allowing for the cremation of the remains. However, cremation cannot take place within the first 24 hours after death without the consent of the mayor of the jurisdiction where the death occurred. Further, funeral homes and other government offices may require a simple letter from the NOK or legal representative authorizing the cremation.

In cases of violent death, cremation cannot be authorized until an investigation is completed to clarify the cause of death. If death was the consequence of a criminal act or is the subject of a judicial investigation, the mayor will not authorize cremation without the concurrence of the criminal prosecutor’s office.

If death occurred as a consequence of a communicable disease, the Salvadoran General Directorate of Health can order the cremation without a mayor’s consent and before the 24 hours referred to in Article 32 of the law.

Currently, there are only two crematoriums in the country, both located in the San Salvador area: Funerales y Crematorio Las Flores and Complejo Funerario Montelena. In addition, several other major funeral homes offer off site cremation services in coordination with these crematoriums.

The funeral home, NOK, or legal representative must obtain the following documents and information from the Salvadoran authorities:

• Local death certificate
• Autopsy report when required under Salvadoran law

For the disposition of the cremated remains, the NOK or legal representative may select from the following options:

• Burial of cremated remains (interment)
• Burial of cremated remains (columbarium niche)
• Personal possession of the cremated remains

The cost for cremation and disposition of remains in El Salvador ranges from 2,400 to 5,000 USD.

Cremation in El Salvador and Repatriation of Remains to the United States

Local funeral homes will provide containers (urns) that meet shipping requirements. Cremated remains may be personally taken by the NOK or legal representative on a commercial flight.

To read more about requirements for importing remains in caskets or ashes in urns, please visit the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) / Custom and Border Protection (CBP) webpage for major airlines’ policies regarding this matter.

The funeral home, NOK, or legal representative must obtain the following documents and information from the Salvadoran authorities:

• Medical certificate of death from the attending physician or hospital (If any)
• Death certificate from the Civil Registry
• U.S. passport or other proof of identity
• Export permit from the Salvadoran Ministry of Health
• Name, address, and phone number of funeral home at destination
• Flight information (airline, flight number, date, port of entry, departure, and arrival times)
• Affidavit of preparation of remains from the funeral home for shipment
• Once the required documents and information have been provided, the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador can issue the Consular Report of Death Abroad (CRDA), the Consular Mortuary Certificate, and the Affidavit of Cremation to accompany the remains.

The cost for cremation of remains in El Salvador and the repatriation to the United States ranges from 4,000 to 5,000 USD.

Shipping Options

Funeral homes will normally make arrangements for in-country and international transportation. The NOK, or legal representative must make the necessary arrangements with the funeral home for payment of expenses, documentation, preparation, and transportation.

The airlines that provide international shipping from El Salvador to the United States are: American Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, and Avianca. All airlines have daily flights to the United States and offer a similar selection of flights and connections.

Local Authorities that License Funeral Homes

The local authorities responsible for licensing funeral directors and morticians are:

• Salvadoran Ministry of Health
• Salvadoran Ministry of Environment
• Local Municipalities

Only major funeral homes are members of the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) and the Asociación Gremial Latinoamericana de Cementerios y Servicios Funerarios (ALPAR) with qualified and professionally trained morticians. All other local funeral service providers have likely learned the trade through hands on experience rather than professional training.

Exhumation and Shipment of Remains

Chapter VII, Article 37 of the Salvadoran Cemetery Law and Article 126 of the Salvadoran Code of Health states: “The exhumations of remains before seven years after the burial may be accomplished only with specific authorization from the Ministry of Health or upon the presentation of a court order.”

Fees for exhumations, once the required Health Ministry permit and/or court order have been obtained, vary from municipality to municipality. In El Salvador, the average cost for exhumation services within seven years after burial is approximately 1,000.00 USD.
The funeral home must obtain the following documents from the Salvadoran Authorities:

• Exhumation permit issued by the Ministry of Health
• Death certificate from the Civil Registry
• Interment certificate issued by the cemetery
• Exportation permit issued by the Ministry of Health
• If the remains are to be repatriated to the United States, the funeral home must also obtain a Consular Mortuary Certificate from the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador. The average cost for shipment ranges from 3,000 to 5,500 USD.