Returning the Remains of a Deceased U.S. Citizen to the United States

When a U.S. citizen dies abroad, U.S. consular officers are there to help. In coordination with the legal representative of the deceased, consular officers may work with local authorities on the preparation of the remains for return to the United States. Options available to a family depend upon local law and practice in the foreign country.

U.S. and foreign laws generally require four documents to send remains to the United States.

* a consular mortuary certificate,

* a local death certificate,

* an affidavit from a local funeral director, and

* a transit permit.

Additional documents may be required depending on the circumstances of the death. The consular officer will ensure that all necessary documents travel with the remains to the United States.


Consular Mortuary Certificate

The consular mortuary certificate is used for the orderly travel and customs process for the remains. The certificate is in English and has essential information about the transport of remains. The certificate is prepared by a consular officer.


Death Certificate

A certificate of death is issued by the local registrar of deaths or similar local authority. It identifies the remains by giving the name, place, date, and cause of death as certified by the competent local authority. This certificate should be duly authenticated as required under local law.


Affidavit of Local Funeral Director

The affidavit comes from the local (foreign) funeral director. It confirms that only the remains, clothing, and packing materials are in the casket. The affidavit may also say that the remains have been embalmed or otherwise prepared. The affidavit complies with the customs requirement that the casket and case contain only the remains.


Transit Permit

Local health authorities at the port of embarkation may also issue a transit permit with the name, sex, and/or age of the deceased, and/or the date and cause of death.


U.S. Entry Requirements for Customs and Quarantine

The local death certificate (when attached to the consular mortuary certificate accompanying the remains) generally will satisfy U.S. quarantine requirements. The documents should confirm that the deceased did not die from a quarantinable disease. They should also confirm that the remains are embalmed. 


Shipment of Unembalmed Remains

Under the following conditions, embalming is generally not required for entry into the United States.

  • The remains are accompanied by a death certificate. The certificate states that the cause of death is not a quarantinable communicable disease.
  • The remains are shipped in a leakproof container.

If the cause of death was a quarantinable communicable disease, please contact the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country where the death occurred for assistance.


Additional Information

For more information about the return of remains of a deceased U.S. citizen, or for information about the shipment of the remains of a deceased U.S. citizen to a third country, contact the American Citizens Services Section of the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country where the death occurred.