How to Get a Death Certificate in Puerto Rico: Step-by-Step

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The island of Puerto Rico is a United States territory, and this means it follows many of the same legal processes. Like other parts of the US, you need to make sure you’re eligible to get a death certificate in Puerto Rico. These documents are kept private to protect the identity of the deceased and their families, so only specific individuals have access to certified copies. 

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If you’re wondering how to get a death certificate, you’re in luck. There are many different options for getting a death certificate in Puerto Rico, and it’s easy to begin no matter where you’re located. While you have more options if you’re currently located in Puerto Rico, you can apply online or by mail. 

With so many legitimate reasons why you may need a death certificate, it’s important to know how to proceed. In this guide, we’ll outline how to get a death certificate step-by-step in Puerto Rico. As long as you know key information about the deceased, you’re ready to begin. 

What Do You Need to Order a Death Certificate in Puerto Rico?

Before you start your death certificate search, make sure you have the right information. While you don’t need anything complicated to request a death certificate in Puerto Rico, you do need essential information about the deceased. In this case, you’ll need:

  • Their full name
  • Their date of death
  • Their place of death (city and hospital, if possible)

It’s important to note that the San Juan Registry of Vital Records has only kept vital records since July 22, 1931. If you need any earlier records, you will need to write to the Local Registrar (Registrador Demográfico) in the city where the death occurred. You can also search the U.S. Social Security Death Index for these records. 

Death records are also private documents in Puerto Rico. This means you must be a legal agent of the deceased, authorized by the court, or a direct relative of the deceased. Puerto Rico defines a direct relative as a parent, guardian, or adult child of the deceased. 

You will need to include a photocopy of a valid photo ID with your application to prove your relationship with the deceased. Acceptable ID includes driver’s license, state ID, passport, veteran ID, or university ID. Before you begin your application, make sure you have all of these things ready. 

Steps for Ordering a Death Certificate in Puerto Rico Online

It’s becoming more common for vital records to be available online. This makes it easy to order death certificates in just a few clicks. Here’s how to order a death certificate in Puerto Rico online. 

1. Visit VitalCheck or the PR Website

If you wish to order a death certificate, you will need to go through VitalChek or the Puerto Rico government website. VitalChek is the only third-party service used to order death certificates digitally in Puerto Rico, so make sure you’re going through the main website. Though this is the most costly option, it’s also fast and convenient. Alternatively, you can navigate the certificates page on the Puerto Rico government website. 

2. Complete the form online

The application for a death certificate is actually the same whether you order online or by mail. However, you can fill out the form digitally through VitalChek or the Puerto Rico certificate portal. To begin, you will need to log in to the secure website. You can log out at any time and save your progress. When you’re ready, share information about the deceased, their date of death, and their place of death. 

Next, share your own information as the solicitor. You’ll need to confirm your identity with a copy of your photo ID. You’ll also need to confirm your address. You do not need to be located within Puerto Rico to submit an application. 

3. Pay the fee

The online fee for requesting a death certificate in Puerto Rico is different from the fee for mail-in applications. The cost is $10 per copy, and there is an additional shipping fee of $2. Finally, there is a flat $5 convenience fee per order. To keep costs low, order as many copies as you might need per application. 

You can pay online through a debit or credit card. This is the only way to use a credit card to process your payment. If you’d prefer to pay by check, use a mail-in application with the instructions below. 

4. Wait the processing time

Once you submit your form digitally and make a payment, your application will be printed and mailed to the correct agency. Because it’s sent by regular mail, you will need to wait for shipping time. 

When received, the approximate processing time is 30 business days. You can always check the status of your order through the online portal on VitalChek or the Puerto Rico certification website. 

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Steps for Ordering a Death Certificate in Puerto Rico in Person or by Mail

All of Puerto Rico’s vital records are handled by mail. Even if you order a certificate online, the request is printed and sent via regular mail. This is done through the San Juan Registry through the Department of Health Registry. You can visit the office in person or mail your request with the steps below. 

1. Download the application

The first step is to complete an application form. This is found through the Vital Records website. However, it’s important to recognize that this form is only available in Spanish. If you wish to apply in English, download the form through VitalChek using the steps above. The form is simple and straightforward, even if you don’t speak fluent Spanish.

2. Complete the request

Once you download the death request form, it’s time to complete it. The first section pertains to information about the deceased. You’ll need to complete these questions:

  • Paternal last name
  • Maternal last name
  • First and middle name (if applicable)
  • Date of death (day/month/year)
  • Place of death (city and hospital)

Next, part 2 is for your information as the requestor. Remember, you must be a legal representative of the deceased or their parent/guardian or adult child. You’ll need to share:

  • Your paternal last name
  • Your maternal last name
  • Your first and middle name (if applicable)
  • Relationship with the deceased
  • Type of ID you’re including with your application
  • Your current address
  • The mailing address you wish the record to go to

Lastly, sign your request and list today’s date. Your information needs to be verified with the ID you include, so make sure it’s accurate and up-to-date. 

3. Include a copy of your ID

Be sure to include a copy of your ID with your printed application. This should be a clear copy of a driver’s license, passport, military ID, and so on. This needs to be a valid photo ID. When in doubt, include multiple forms of identification. 

4. Pay the fee

Next, include a money order made payable to the Secretario de Hacienda de Puerto Rico. The cost is $5 for your first copy, and it’s $4 for each additional copy. Personal checks, cash, and debit cards are not accepted. 

5. Send a self-addressed envelope

With your request, be sure to include a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Print the address clearly along with a money order and your application. Send your completed request to:

Department of Health Demographic Registry
P.O. Box 11854
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00917

Once sent, requests can take up to 6 weeks depending on current processing times. This doesn’t take into account shipping times. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Death Certificates in Puerto Rico

Whether you need to close an account or notify the IRS of a death, there are a lot of reasons to request death certificates. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions and their answers specific to the territory of Puerto Rico.

Who’s allowed to look at death records or death certificates in PR?

In Puerto Rico, you are only allowed to request death records if you have a legal claim to these documents. You must be a direct family member (parent or adult child) or a legal representative of the estate. These privacy laws are a way to protect the identities of the deceased. 

How long does it take to receive a death certificate in PR?

It takes upwards of a month to receive a death certificate in Puerto Rico. The fastest method is to send your request online, but even this process relies on snail mail. In addition to shipping times, you can expect to spend between 30 and 45 business days waiting for your request. 

To stay on top of your request, use the online portal through the Puerto Rican certificate website. This is the best way to manage your request and determine its current timeline. You can also contact the San Juan office directly to check whether they’re running on schedule or with a delay. 

How much does a death certificate cost in PR?

The cost of a death certificate in Puerto Rico depends on the method you use to submit your request. If you submit online, you’ll pay the highest fee. It starts at $17 to request a death certificate online, and the cost goes up depending on how many copies you need. 

However, if you submit your request via mail, it’s much more affordable. It costs $5 per first copy and $4 for every additional copy. Note that this fee is non-refundable, even if your request can’t be completed. Puerto Rico does not accept cash or personal checks. You can either pay through credit/debit card online or via cashier’s check. 

Access the Records You Need in Puerto Rico

Despite being a US territory, Puerto Rico follows many of the same vital record practices you’ll see across the United States. Whether you need to send a notification of death letter to the credit bureaus or you’re collecting ancestry documents, death certificates play an important role in remembrance. How will you honor those you love when they’re gone?

Losing someone special is never easy, and the steps that come next can be complicated and confusing. Our interactive post-loss checklist makes it easy to manage all of these obstacles, including ordering death certificates. Most importantly, it’s a reminder that you’re never alone. 


Sources:
  1. “Application for a Death Certificate.” Puerto Rico Government. PR.gov
  2. “Vital Records.” Welcome to Puerto Rico. ToPuertoRico.org
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