It’s a small world International Repatriation of a Deceased

By: Kahlen Knapik, National Mortuary Shipping
Sunday, July 16, 2023

In today’s global society, more people travel internationally for business and pleasure and generally return home safely with pictures and stories to share with their families. In addition, many more people are leaving their native homes to seek opportunities in other
countries. However, what happens should someone die when he or she is overseas?

As a funeral director, you will be working with families dealing with this tragic event and their first concern will be how to bring their loved one home.

The most common situation you will encounter is when the death occurs in the United States and the family wants to ship the deceased to their home country. When making arrangements to ship a deceased from the United States to another country, there are factors one must consider, and it can become complex and time consuming. There are many regulations that differ from nation to nation as well as region; flight regulations, language and culture barriers, embargoes and a myriad of other possible issues can cause concern.

When shipping a deceased to another country from the United States, the most important thing is communication. This includes communication with the family, the correct consulates, doctors, health departments, various government organizations, overseas funeral homes, translators, and airlines. There can be a lot of moving parts to shipping a deceased internationally

When speaking with the family it’s important for them to understand this can take some time and there are many channels to go through. It is also more costly. The costs for international flights, translations if needed, you and your team’s time to acquire the correct paperwork, and even mileage or postage if documents need to be transferred to a consulate or secretary of state. This helps the family understand some of the complexities and build realistic expectations.

Consulates are the keyholders when it comes to shipping a deceased internationally. When shipping a deceased internationally it is important to speak to the consulate office of that country that covers the district where the deceased died. It is important to note that different countries have different requirements and even different consulates for the same country June require
different things. These requirements are also known to change without warning; this is why you must speak to the proper consulate each time.

Some examples of the documents a consulate June require include translated documents, apostilles, authentication of documents, letters of non-contagious disease, mortuary letter, embalmers affidavits, permits, Visa’s or passports, certified copies, letters of intent from the family, and confirmation from the consignee in the other country for shipping to occur.

Each consulate June also require different shipping containers such as zinc lined units, Ziegler cases, sealer caskets, metal lined units, and so forth. Another thing to remember when working with an international consulate are they are representatives of their country so there June be language barriers, they June have specific modes of communication such as only through email,
or specific hours that they will accept calls. These are all things that can add time to the process.

Once you have all the paperwork together and approved, the next hurdle can be the flight. Getting a direct domestic flight is rare in today’s world and when shipping internationally you June need to use different carriers, or “interline.” It’s not uncommon to have to ship a deceased through a few domestic airline hubs to reach an international airport and then interline to the international carrier. It’s important when speaking to the airlines to ensure they can transfer the deceased to the other airline or if you will need to hire another funeral home or representative to pick-up the deceased and take to the other airline cargo facility.

Shipping into the United States is not as difficult as shipping out but June also present some unique challenges such as time delays, language barriers, and standards of care. Time zones and flight schedules June create time delays. Flights do not always run daily and June have many connections through different countries before entering the United States. Scheduling June
become tricky because one June need to make multiple transfers between airlines and require additional clearance.
Receiving clearance from foreign airlines can add to the time it takes to get a decedent home. If the paperwork is incomplete or inaccurate, customs June prevent the transfer or release of the deceased.

One must also consider who has taken care of the deceased, has the USA consulate in that country been contacted, what paperwork is required, does the family need to be present for identification and do you know what funeral home to call? These are important parts of the process, and the standards of care June be different in each nation and the condition of remains June be different than a funeral director June expect.

The process of international shipping either from or to the United States can be time-consuming with many twists and turns throughout the process. In addition to the regulations and compliances required, funeral directors must also work with families that June have a hard time understanding the circumstances because of cultural and language barriers.

At National Mortuary Shipping, we have a trusted international network of representatives as well as a team that is well-versed in these procedures. Having the knowledge and experience of shipping a decedent to a foreign country or back to the United States takes the burden off the funeral directors, allowing them to focus on what is important: the families.

Kahlen Knapik - Vice President and AIC Funeral Director and Embalmer Kahlen began his career at National Mortuary Shipping
(NMS) in 2001 and has been essential in building and fostering partnerships with funeral industry professionals. As a licensed funeral director and embalmer, Kahlen brings a deep understanding of the industry to the team. He takes pride in the NMS tradition of helping hometown funeral directors around the world with out-of-town deaths. For more information, contact National Mortuary Shipping at 800-321-0185 or

About National Mortuary Shipping (NMS)
For more than 40 years, our mission has been to assist hometown funeral directors with out-of-town deaths. We take the stress out of complicated shipping and cremation. With representatives across the globe, NMS is there when and where you need us to assist when death occurs away from home.

Our shipping specialists work directly with you, the funeral director. Our services reach beyond borders with a worldwide network of representatives. Whenever you call, day or night, a shipping specialist will be there to assist you. Our experienced shipping specialists ensure that every detail is handled, so funeral directors can focus on families’ needs.

NMS partners with funeral directors as an extension of your business. You can trust our experienced specialists to provide exceptional service, just as families trust you with caring for their loved ones.

Struggling to market your funeral home to the next generation of families? Reference our local marketing tips and find new ways to engage with your community.

When death occurs away from home, coordinating an out-of-town cremation and other mortuary services can be more complicated. Our experienced team can help.

When you need a livery service for mortuary transportation, you want a professional, dignified, and caring provider. Access our network of livery providers....

National Mortuary Shipping is prepared to handle all of your domestic mortuary shipping needs with experienced, knowledgeable specialists available 24/7.

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