Skip to main content

Navigating International Funeral Repatriation: A Step-By-Step Guide

Making funeral arrangements can be extremely challenging. But when a loved one dies overseas, transporting their remains can prove all the more difficult.

Transporting human remains isn’t as simple as moving through international borders. It entails handling and fulfilling several regulatory and logistical processes. Funeral repatriation services can prove helpful in reuniting families facing such situations. Additionally, learning the basic processes is important for a more seamless experience. While emotionally difficult, doing so is key to a proper send-off.

Below, you’ll find a quick run-through of the primary stages involved in moving the deceased from their location back to their home country.

The Basics Of Cross-Country Body Repatriation Process

Owing to the differences in regulatory practices, the processes involved in sending the remains can vary from country to country. Most nations allow the transport of a dead body after the family or representatives have gone through the following:

  1. Notification

Contacting local authorities is necessary to register a loved one’s death and to ask for specific requirements to kickstart the process. Your embassy can also assist you with the pre-transport procedure. In most cases, you might also need to fill in forms to notify local authorities about the deceased.

  1. Document Submission

After notifying authorities in the deceased’s current location and home country, the family members are requested to provide documents to prove the former’s identification and citizenship.

Besides a death certificate, other documents might be asked for before the repatriation occurs. Depending on the country involved, you may need to hire a translator to ensure you fill out the forms correctly.

  1. Seeking Approvals And Certificates

Once your documents are approved, you can request repatriation certificates and other requirements specific to the origin country. The coroner from the originating country will issue the permit for transporting mortal remains.

Timelines for preservation differ, so ensure you’re aware of such restrictions. Act quickly and avoid wasting time. In some locations, authorities or family members may request an autopsy when the death was sudden or if there were suspicions that a crime might have been committed.

  1. Preparation Of The Remains For Transport

Besides submitting the needed papers, the family must ensure the embalming process is conducted in line with the regulations set by authorities and airline companies. On top of these, religious considerations also come into play.

For instance, Islamic laws prohibit cremation and dictate that a burial shall be performed as soon as possible. It can be more challenging to handle international repatriation in such cases.

  1. Arranging Funeral Services In The Home Country

It’s best to arrange funeral services before the remains arrive. These include the following:

  • Selecting a funeral home

An assigned funeral director will receive the remains once cleared through customs. Only certain end destinations like funeral homes or crematoriums are authorized. The director will likewise handle any local paperwork and transport from the airport.

  • Organizing the burial

Memorial service, funeral, and burial ceremonies will be conducted according to religious norms or the deceased’s final wishes. The clergy should prepare special arrangements if the body were autopsied or experienced lengthy transit.

  • Paying for burial and other associated expenses

Any burial plot, cremation urn, casket or coffin, funeral services, cemetery plaque order and other items must be paid in advance for final arrangements.

  • Notifying extended family and friends

Details related to memorial events, burial and grieving should be provided to concerned parties. Remind them of the appropriate ways to show support as everyone copes with the loss.

  1. Arranging Transport

Mortal remains are often transported via airline, although some might call for ground routes. When planning logistics, these factors must be considered:

  • The deceased’s cause of death

Contagious diseases require sealed body bags and heightened precautions during transit. Death through violent causes needs extra paperwork and added preparation. These can cause delays.  

  • Time elapsed since death

Storage authorization and embalming practices vary and may also hinder swift repatriation.   

  • Embalming method

Chemical composition and injection sites follow cultural norms, impacting decomposition. Extra treatments may be needed for long transits.  

  • Shipping container used

Airline-approved containers have size, material, and weight limits.

  • Flight availability

Only certain airlines handle human remains in cargo holds, depending on flight route and load. Long-distance repatriation requires at least one layover.

Once logistics are determined, family members can indicate the preferred arrival airport to receive the body. The moving company handles all transportation, storage, and customs clearances. If desired, a relative can accompany the remains on the same aircraft. However, it’s important to notify the airline while booking the ticket.

Working With Funeral Repatriation Experts

Given the complexity of international repatriation of remains, it’s best to hire experienced companies during this difficult time. These professionals can seamlessly liaise with embassies, authorities, airline companies, and coroners, from origin and destination countries.

They can determine and collect the required paperwork, obtain the needed authorizations and certificates, and contact the airlines for a stress-free procedure. This relieves grieving families of handling intricate work during an already challenging time.

Leave a Reply