What You Need to Know About Shipping a Body for Burial
When a loved one dies in a different country or state, funeral planning takes an unexpectedly difficult turn. Because of health and sanitation issues—and because every country and state has different rules and regulations regarding safe body transport—you may have to wade through quite a bit of paperwork to get everything taken care of. This process is made even more complicated if you aren’t with the body at the time of its transfer.
The only way to legally ship a body is to work with two separate funeral homes—one in the place where death occurred, and one where you live to receive and care for the body upon arrival. Ideally, you should look for funeral homes (in both locations) accustomed to international or state-to-state shipping, and who have staff members who are able to speak the same language as you or at least provide translation services. This will make it easier as you gather up the necessary paperwork and make arrangements for funeral planning.
Paperwork for Shipping a Body
Although every country requires different certifications and documents, most funeral directors suggest you have copies on hand of:
- Death Certificate
- Burial and/or Transit Information
- Permit Letter of Non-contagious Disease
- Embalmers Affidavit
- Passport of Deceased (or Other Identifying Papers)
- Funeral Home Certification/Letter of Guarantee
Different airlines will also have their own requirements when it comes to documentation for body transport. In most cases, the funeral home of your choosing will be the one to deal with airline restrictions and paperwork (because of TSA regulations regarding what is safe to transport), so be sure and find a funeral home with experience in body transport.
Rules for Transporting Cremated Remains
Because the same health regulations don’t necessarily apply to cremated remains, it is easier to ship an urn full of ashes than it is to transport an embalmed body. In most cases, you will need much of the same paperwork as above, although you may be able to squeak by with a death certificate, cremation certificate, and funeral home letter. You might also have the option of carrying the ashes on as carry-on luggage (as opposed to putting your loved one in the hold), provided you have the right container and submit to x-rays at the security gates.
Cremated remains can also be mailed (via Express Mail or Registered Mail at the USPS). This can only be done domestically, and requires specific packaging. Outside mail carriers like UPS and FedEx do not allow this.
Other Body Transport Considerations
Shipping a body can be an expensive process, so expect to pay more than you would for traditional funeral plans. Because you are required to have the deceased embalmed and placed in a casket—and because the transportation itself is costly—this can cost thousands of dollars on top of your existing funeral plans.
Fortunately, most funeral homes are equipped to deal with the transport of human remains. If you or a loved one will be spending considerable time overseas and are concerned about the possibility of death occurring (for example, if you are an expat), you can also make advance funeral arrangements on an international level.