Funerals abroad: complicated procedures

Repatriating a body abroad requires a number of steps, which can be complicated depending on the country of destination.

The burial of a loved one abroad requires a number of formalities and procedures that can be complex depending on the country of destination.

A file to be compiled

The very first step is, just like at a funeral in France, to declare the death to the town hall of the town where the deceased died so that it can issue you a death certificate. Next, draw up a transport agreement for the body (validated by the immediate family).

For most countries, two other documents must be obtained: a certificate of non-epidemic from the Regional Health Agency (ARS) and a certificate of non-contagion signed by a doctor. Some are content with a certificate of absence of health risk that the French State issues when the deceased has been placed in an airtight coffin and everything has been disinfected.

An authorization to close the coffin or the cinerary urn is also necessary. It is issued by the prefecture of the department where the procedure takes place. At this same prefecture, we will not forget to ask for an international permit to transfer the remains abroad.

Body care

The country of destination may impose body preservation care. This is the case in Eastern Europe, Israel, Russia and several African countries, some even going so far as to impose formaldehyde injections. It is therefore good to approach the consulate of the country concerned in order to have precise information.

Some airlines, such as Air France, also require that the coffin be airtight, equipped with an inner metal envelope closed by cold welding with resin.

To this is sometimes added the installation of an absorbent material or that of a purifying device intended to equalize the internal and external pressure. All of these devices no longer allow the body to be cremated.

Final formalities

This is followed by the application for an international transfer permit. If the casket is to be transported as freight, it must nevertheless be placed in a packaging that hides its appearance and on which is indicated that it be handled with care.

All you have to do is collect the “mortuary pass” from the competent French authority, which must be written both in French and in the language of the country of destination.

If the country does not belong to the Berlin Convention, you will have to apply to the consulate for authorization to enter the territory.

Specific measures due to the Covid crisis

Given the current epidemic situation, some ARS no longer provide a non-epidemic certificate.

The General Directorate of Local Authorities (DGCL) thus explains that “ if a country requires a certificate of non-epidemic, in the event that the regional health agencies no longer issue them, the transport of bodies abroad will not be possible. immediately, and the coffin must either be buried in France, or be temporarily deposited according to common law. »

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