When someone close to you dies overseas, bringing them home for the funeral can seem like a logistical nightmare. Where do you even begin? We’re here to help. Here’s how to repatriate a body belonging to a loved one, and what to expect when you do.


What is body repatriation?

In the context of a death, repatriation simply means to transport the person who died – either their body, or their ashes – to another country.

If a friend or family member dies on holiday, for example, a repatriation service can help you bring their body back home. A repatriation service can also help if they died in the country they lived in but wanted to be buried somewhere special abroad.

Arranging a repatriation can seem daunting, but once you’ve chosen a repatriation service provider to take care of it, their team will do most of the hard work for you. This can make a difficult time a little easier.


How long does it take to repatriate a body?

If the person died of natural causes, repatriation usually takes about five to seven days.

But what if they died in suspicious circumstances, or in a traffic accident – how long does repatriation take then? In cases like this, the body of the person who died may be held by the police until a post-mortem can be conducted. This usually means that repatriation takes around 10 to 15 days, but it can be as much as three months.

Some countries have a lot more bureaucratic red tape than others. So, it’s a good idea to ask your chosen repatriation provider about your specific situation to get a clear idea of how long the process will take.


How to repatriate a body from abroad

Different countries have different guidelines on body repatriation, meaning that the steps below might be slightly altered depending on where you are. It’s best to check with your chosen repatriation provider.

1) Contact the local authorities

If you’re travelling with a tour group or on a package holiday, the travel company’s representative can help you do this. If not, you can ask about how to go about this when you …

2) Speak to the British authorities about repatriation

Contact the British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate in the country the person has died in (you can find the right one here). They will be able to guide you through all the following steps, communicating with the local authorities and keeping you up to date with what is going on.

If you were in the UK when the death happened you were likely told about it by the police, who act on behalf of the British Consulate in these cases. If you heard about it elsewhere (from the media, for example), contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) for help with what comes next.

Looking for official advice on how to repatriate a body? The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has two excellent guides to help families here.

3) Register the death

The death needs to be registered in the country the person died in. The consulate or FCO will be able to tell you how to go about this. When you register, you’ll need to provide some information about the person who died and about yourself:

  1. Full name
  2. Date of birth
  3. Passport number
  4. The country the passport was issued by
  5. The date the passport was issued
  6. If you aren’t the next of kin, the details of the person who is.

Local death certificates can be used in the UK, but you’ll need a certified translation if the details aren’t in English. The consulate or FCO can help you get one.

You don’t need to register the death in the UK, but you can if you’d like it to be recorded by the General Register Offices for England, Wales and Northern Ireland and the National Records Office of Scotland. You’ll also be given a consular death registration certificate. This costs about £150.

You can find out more about the process of registering the death abroad and in the UK by filling out the form here.

4) Check whether the travel insurance policy covers repatriation

Repatriation can be expensive, but the cost may be covered by a travel insurance policy taken out the person who has died. It’s a good idea to check the policy carefully to understand how the cover will work and how to claim it. If you’re part of a tour group or on a package holiday, the travel company representative may be able to tell you about their cover.

If the person died in a European country and you are on benefits, you may also be eligible for a funeral payment from the government. This won’t cover repatriation costs entirely but can help towards a funeral in the UK or in Europe.

5) Find a repatriation provider

It’s a good idea to compare a few repatriation providers on cost and what’s included before choosing one. Once you have chosen your provider, they will send a local funeral director to bring the person who died into their care.

The person who died will be embalmed – this is a standard requirement for repatriation by plane. Depending on your repatriation provider, you may be able to arrange a memorial service or a cremation in the country before flying the person who has died home.

The repatriation provider will need to gather the following paperwork to begin the repatriation:

  1. The local death certificate with a certified English translation
  2. The passport of the person who died
  3. Permission to take the body out of the country
  4. A certificate of embalming
  5. A “Freedom from infection” certificate
  6. A permit for the country the deceased will be travelling to, if needed

Once they have the above, they will fly the body of the person who has died home in a special zinc-lined coffin.

6) Arrange the funeral

Once the repatriation is complete, you’ll need to take the local death certificate and its certified English translation to the nearest registry office. They can then give you the paperwork you need to arrange the funeral in the UK.

If you like, your repatriation provider can arrange the funeral back in the UK, or you can ask them to bring the deceased to a local funeral director. You can compare UK funeral directors on price and service here.


What next?

Once your loved one has been repatriated, you’ll be free to organise the funeral. You can find helpful advice and a checklist on how to arrange a funeral service here.

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