Part II. U.S. Embassy Information
United States Embassy of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Av. República de Colombia #57, Altos de Arroyo Hondo
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
After Hours Phone: 809-567-7775
Consular Information Sheet, Register with the U.S. Embassy: http://www.travel.state.gov./
Part III: Profile of Religions of the Host Country and Religious Services available to visitors
Country Profile: There is religious freedom in the Dominican Republic. The country, which occupies two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola, has an area of 18,815 square miles and a population of 10.09 million. The largest religious group is the Roman Catholic Church. Traditional Protestants, evangelical Christian groups (particularly Assemblies of God, Church of God, Baptists, and Pentecostals), Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) have a much smaller but generally growing presence. According to a 2006 population survey by the Gallup Organization, the population is 39.8 percent Catholic (practicing), 29.1 percent Catholic (non-practicing), and 18.2 percent evangelical Protestant. In the same study, 10.6 percent stated they had no religion. The Dominican Confederation of Evangelical Unity claims evangelicals represent 16 to 20 percent of the population. There are approximately 300 Jews in the country, most of who live in Santo Domingo which has a synagogue and a community leader but no ordained rabbi. There is another synagogue in Sosua and both the Sosua and Santo Domingo synagogues are led by the same individual. Government sources estimate there are between 5,000 and 10,000 Muslims, a figure that includes many foreign students. A Sunni mosque in Santo Domingo has approximately 500 regular worshippers. There is a small number of Buddhists and Hindus. Some Catholics practice a combination of Catholicism and Afro-Caribbean beliefs (Santeria), witchcraft (brujería), or voodoo (voodoo), but because these practices are usually concealed, the number of adherents is unknown.
Religious Activities for Visitors: English language services are available at the following houses of worship: Epiphany/Union Church, Episcopal/Interdenominational, First Baptist Church, Santisima Trinidad (Catholic). Denominations that have Spanish language services include the Seventh – day Adventist, Plymouth Brethren, Latter-Day Saints, Assembly of God, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Evangelical, and Roman Catholic Church. The Hebrew Synagogue Center has services in Hebrew and Spanish.
Part IV: Funeral Directors, Mortician and Related Services Available in the Dominican Republic:
For information regarding estimated costs of funeral homes’ services in the Dominican Republic, please visit this page: Death of a U.S. Citizen.
Part V: Profile of services available in the Dominican Republic regarding preparation and shipment of remains:
a. Disposition of Remains: One of the first and most important decisions the family needs to make is whether to inter their loved one locally or have the remains returned to the United States. If the family opts for local burial, the funeral home here will arrange the service and burial according to the family’s wishes. If, on the other hand, the family prefers to send the remains to the United States, they should contact a U.S. funeral home to work with the Dominican funeral home on issues relating to the family’s wishes and transportation of the remains. Dominican funeral homes normally require payment in advance before providing their services. Costs for preparing and returning remains to the U.S. are the responsibility of the family. The U.S. embassy cannot provide financial assistance for return of the remains. When a non-natural death occurs or when the remains will be transported out of the country for burial, Dominican law requires an autopsy. There are no exceptions to this law. The autopsy must be conducted by an officially designated forensic doctor. The police and/or the Coroner will determine the nearest appropriate medical center, to which the remains will be taken until an authorized forensic doctor can be contacted to perform the autopsy. Embalming in compliance with U.S. standards is available in the Dominican Republic, but is performed by only a small number of certified morticians in Santo Domingo. Intermittent power outages are common in the Dominican Republic and this can sometimes affect mortuary refrigeration units and morgue equipment. Storage facilities are inadequate and remains may not always be promptly stored. Cost estimates for specific procedures and effects, including: embalming, cremation, exhumation, casket, ashes urn, and shipping, are listed below. [See (7) a-f.]
b. Specific facts relating to embalming, cremation, caskets, exportation, documentation requirements, preparation, shipments, and exhumation follow. [See f. (2)-(8) below.]
c. Unique circumstances in the Dominican Republic: The police may withhold permission to cremate or embalm for as long as necessary if they believe the death resulted from a crime requiring investigation. In case of death from a communicable disease, sealed caskets and containers that meet the requirements for shipment out of the country are available.
d. Shipping: Options for in-country transportation of remains is limited. Ambulances and hearses are not plentiful. Remains are often transported by privately owned vehicles, trucks, or public cars for hire. This is particularly true when a death occurs outside the major cities. These modes of transportation may be unreliable and costly, as fees are negotiated on the spot. Whenever possible, a reputable ambulance service should be requested. For the repatriation of remains to the United States, all international airlines provide air shipment facilities. Prices vary by airline and space availability must be confirmed in advance. Usually, the U.S. funeral home selected by the family makes arrangements to meet the remains upon arrival and transports them directly to their own offices for any further preparation.
e. Local authorities responsible for licensing funeral directors and morticians: Licensing for funeral directors and morticians is not required, though the Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation are responsible for regular inspection of funeral homes. Funeral Homes and all other businesses in the Dominican Republic must be registered with the National Office of Industrial Property (ONAPI).
f. Local authorities responsible for making findings regarding the cause of death and for issuing local death certificates: One of the country’s officially designated Forensic Doctors (Medico Forense) is responsible for making findings regarding the cause of death. Medico Forenses laboratories are located in Santo Domingo, Santiago, San Francisco de Macoris, San Pedro de Macoris, and Azua. The Medico Forense issues a single official record of death that is provided to the Registro Civil for its records. For details, see our guide on Local Death Procedures. The family or funeral home can then request from the Registro Civil an “Extracto de Acta de Defuncion” which is the legal local death certificate for purposes of shipping, interment, and settlement of estates in the Dominican Republic. The funeral home must have the Extracto de Acta de Defuncion to process documentation for the shipment of remains to the United States. The U.S. Embassy’s American Citizens Services Unit (ACS) also requires the Extracto de Acta de Defuncion to prepare the Consular Mortuary Certificate and the Consular Report of Death of an U.S. Citizen Abroad. The Consular Mortuary Certificate permits the entry of remains into the United States. The Consular Report of Death of an U.S. Citizen Abroad is an important document that is usually required to settle estates in the United States. We normally receive our copy of the Extracto directly from the funeral home.
(1) Maximum period before burial of remains: National laws and regulations of the Dominican Republic require interment within first forty-eight hours after death.
(2) Embalming: There is no legislation in the Dominican Republic related to embalming within a specific period of time. However, burial must take place within 48 hours. This requirement is not enforced in cases where remains will be shipped abroad. Embalming in compliance with U.S. standards is available in the Dominican Republic, but is performed by only a small number of certified morticians in Santo Domingo. Should the next-of-kin decide to have the remains returned to the U.S. for burial, the cost would be significantly greater than cremation. Embalming may take several days depending on the location of the remains and the schedule of the mortuary company. The police may withhold permission for embalming for as long as necessary if they believe the death resulted from a crime requiring investigation. Embalmed remains being returned to the U.S. must be transferred to a licensed mortician at the airport in the U.S.
(3) Cremation: Cremations has been an option in the Dominican Republic since 2003 and is offered by select funeral homes.. Currently, there are two funeral homes that offer cremation services; Blandino and Jerusalem. Cremation may take several days depending on the location of the remains and the mortuary company’s schedule. Since cremation is only available at select funeral homes in the Dominican Republic, there may be several requests in the queue. Services are processed in the order that they are received. The police may withhold permission for cremation for as long as necessary if they believe the death resulted from a crime requiring investigation. The cost for preparation, cremation and air shipment of ashes to the United States is approximately of US$2,000. The procedure reportedly results in the same sized fine ash as it does in the U.S. A variety of urns and keepsake/display memorials are available at various prices for storing cremated remains.
(4) Caskets and Containers: Caskets and containers which meet the requirements for shipment out of the country are available, including those hermetically sealed caskets in case of death from a communicable disease. Caskets come in a wide variety of styles and prices. The container is a sheet metal shipping unit that is required to contain the casket during international transportation.
(5) Exportation of Human Remains: Returning a body to the U.S. can take several days or more depending on the circumstances. Families should coordinate their plans for a funeral service with both the U.S. and Dominican funeral homes. The family should provide the Dominican funeral home with the name and telephone number of the funeral home in the U.S. where the remains will be received. The two funeral homes will coordinate the rest of the process. All the documents and permits required to ship remains are usually obtained and prepared by the local funeral home. The family of the deceased is responsible for all costs associated with this process.
(6) Exportation of Human Remains/Ashes: Cremation may take several days or more depending on the location of the remains and the funeral home’s schedule. The cost for preparation, cremation and air shipment of ashes to the United States is approximately US$2,000. Cremated remains, with a consular mortuary certificate, can be shipped as air freight on a commercial flight. The Transportation Security Administration has specific rules on traveling with crematory remains as carry-on items. Federal Express and DHL will not ship cremated remains. U.S. Embassy APO (Army Post Office), FPO (Fleet Post Office), DPO (Diplomatic Post Office), and diplomatic pouch cannot be used for shipment of cremated remains.
(7) Costs: The estimated charges below are based on the current exchange rate. The costs listed below are estimates provided by the three principal funeral homes in the country in February of 2018. These estimates are subject to change without notice. Clients should be aware that extra charges may apply.
a) Cremation, ashes urn, and airfare: an estimated cost of US$2,000.00
b) Embalming, casket, and airfare: an estimated cost of US$4,000.00
c) Shipping Remains: Shipping costs depend on a variety of factors, including the size and weight of the shipment. For human remains that have not been cremated, the estimated rate is based on the gross weight, variable fuel surcharges, and security fees.
d) Casket used for repatriation: an estimated minimum cost of US$600.00
e) Burial in the Dominican Republic: an estimated minimum cost of US$491.00 for an underground burial and US$932.00 for the above-ground sepulcher or burial chamber.
f) Exhumation: an estimated minimum cost of US$600.00 (cost of cremation and repatriation not included)
(8) Exhumation and Shipment: Under Dominican law, exhumation of interred remains is permitted after five years have passed. However, the Attorney General may grant exemptions to this restriction under certain circumstances. Exhumed remains may be exported to the U.S. or other countries. The first step in pursuing the exhumation of remains is to contact a funeral home.
(9) Local Customs Regarding Funerals, Disposition of Remains, Mourning, and Memorial Services: It depends on the family’s traditions or religious beliefs. Typically, a mass or ceremony is held along with a wake or viewing at the funeral home. The burial is usually scheduled for the following day. Catholics, who comprise the largest religious group in the Dominican Republic, celebrate mass for a period of nine consecutive days after the death. Other religious groups honor other traditions following the burial.