You asked (11-01-2011)
Dear Viet Nam News,
My Vietnamese mother-in-law is ill and one of her last wishes is to go back to Da Lat to visit her sisters, nephews and nieces. With her health deteriorating on a daily basis we don't know if at the end of the trip she will have the strength to return to the United States. We discussed the possibility that she may die while visiting Viet Nam. She said she was fine with the idea of being buried in Viet Nam with both her parents.
Our questions are:
1 – What happens if she dies while visiting Viet Nam?
2 – Are we allowed to bury her in Viet Nam? If yes, are there some procedures we need to understand and follow? If no, what do we need to do to repatriate her body back to the United States?
We deeply appreciate your help in these difficult times.
Paul Buckman and family
Dear Mr Buckman,
Regarding your questions, we have contacted several relevant agencies about your situation. We really hope that your Vietnamese mother-in-law will be able to return to the US after visiting Da Lat but in the worst case, if she dies during the trip, she could be buried in Viet Nam, as is her wish, under current Vietnamese law.
Lawyer Nguyen Van Nam from Nam Hung Law Firm said death certificates in Viet Nam could only be issued by the Vietnamese Government. However, foreign death certificates may not be accepted in the US for insurance and estate purposes. In this case, the General Consulate of the United States will help with reporting the death of an American citizen abroad, which is valid for the process of distributing assets, but only after you have collected a local death certificate.
According to Articles 51 and 52 of Decree 158/ND-CP, if the relatives of the deceased wish to register for a death certificate, they have to approach the Department of Justice in the locality where the dead person resided. In your case, you will have to visit Lam Dong Province's Department of Justice.
The required paperwork includes a death notice confirmed by the People's Committee of the commune where the dead person was staying or from the director of the hospital he/she was last admitted to, as well as the passport of the person who is the representative of the dead person.
Tran Thi Le Hoa from the Ministry of Justice's Department of Judicial Administration said that if adequate paperwork is presented, the processing time may take just one to two days.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Consul Department's Nguyen Tan Trung said the burial service could be registered with the local People's Commune, which is relatively easy to do. After that, you should contact the local undertakers, which will help you with funeral arrangements.
We hope this information is of some help to you and I wish you and your family all the best.