Body Repatriation should be simple. This guide explains how to repatriate a loved one into or out of the UK; laws, documentation, transportation and more.
Body Repatriation To the UK or From the UK: 6 Points to Understand
Arranging the repatriation of the body of a loved one can be a painful process in the midst of an upsetting time. This guide provides clarity by breaking the process up into basic steps.
What is Repatriation of a Body?
When a person dies outside of their home country, their next of kin may wish to bring the body home. This process of moving a deceased body across country borders, is known as body repatriation.
How Do You Repatriate a Deceased Body from Abroad, Back to the UK?
Though the regulations for the repatriation of a body will differ according to the country the person died in, the basic process is as follows:
- register the death with the local authorities in the country where the person has died
- register the death with the UK authorities (the local British Embassy can assist with this)
- check if the deceased had travel insurance or whether their life policy covers repatriation
Important documents to prepare for Body Repatriation:
- passport of the deceased
- death certificate (from country where the person died)
- an English translation of the death certificate, if it is in a foreign language
- documents from the local coroner granting permission for repatriation
- an embalming certificate
Keep in mind that if the death was sudden, violent or accidental, the local coroner may request a post-mortem. In this scenario, the local coroner should send notification to the UK coroner and an inquest would be carried out in the UK.
Packing of the dead body:
Your chosen funeral director can advise on the best way to pack the deceased’s remains, according to your exact circumstances. Coffins for repatriation are usually zinc-lined and airtight to avoid leaking. This is known as a hermetically-sealed coffin. Additionally, most countries require the body to be embalmed before the repatriation journey.
If the person died of an infectious disease, you should speak to your funeral operative about the protocols for body repatriation. There are stringent measures in place for infectious diseases (such as Covid-19), so please feel free to use us (insert hyperlink) at Fenix Funeral Directors if you find yourself in this situation. We are a dedicated funeral service with many years of experience organising such repatriation operations with sensitive care.
The deceased body is usually transported by air on a commercial flight. It is possible for family members to book seats on the same flight and travel with the body.
Receiving of the body:
Once the deceased body arrives in the UK, it must be collected at the airport. Your chosen funeral directors can assist you in arranging appropriate transportation. They would be given an Air Waybill number to collect the body. Any outstanding Customs clearance or Airline handling fees would also need to be paid at this point. The body is then taken to a funeral home for storage until the funeral.
Inquest or Post Mortem:
Once the body repatriation is complete, a coroner in the UK consults the documentation. They then decide if a post-mortem or inquest is necessary. If no inquest is required, you will obtain a Certificate of no Liability from the Registrar where the funeral will be held. The next of kin is then free to arrange a funeral service, burial or cremation for the deceased. Your funeral director can provide assistance with these arrangements.
How Do You Repatriate a Deceased Body Out of the UK?
If the deceased died within the UK, but is to be buried or cremated in another country, the body should be repatriated. This process may differ according to which foreign country the deceased is being returned to. However, there are always a few key steps to follow:
- inform local UK authorities and the relevant embassy about the death
- a Death Certificate must be obtained
- permission for repatriation of the body must be obtained from the coroner
- if there is a post-mortem required, the coroner may request an inquest before body repatriation takes place
- the embassy of the country the deceased is destined for will advise on any other documentation needed
- the body should be prepared, which will most likely include embalming, and a Certificate of Embalming should be obtained
- a zinc-lined casket with an airlock seal should be chosen in the correct size
A Cadaver Certificate
Some countries may require a certificate expressly stating that the deceased body is free of infectious disease. A specialised embalming and sterilisation of the body will be performed if the deceased had suffered from an infection disease.
Can You Transport Ashes Overseas?
If you decide to cremate the deceased in a foreign country, it is possible to transport the ashes back to the UK. This is an easier process than body repatriation. Before transporting ashes back to the UK, you will need to:
- present the Death Certificate and Certificate of Cremation to the British Embassy
- inform the airline you are flying with
- they will advise if the cremated remains can be carried as hand luggage, or if they should be checked in
- check what kind of container the ashes should be held in (something that can be x-rayed)
- once arriving in the UK, you must declare the ashes on your customs form
- you can then hold a memorial or funeral service for your loved one in the UK
Travelling with cremated remains is an easier process than body repatriation out of the UK as well.
The process is similar to that of bringing cremated remains into the UK:
- the necessary documentation and death certificates must be obtained
- the same protocol applies with the airline (informing them, checking their policies)
- you may also need proof of your relationship to the deceased.
How Long Does it Take to Repatriate a Body?
The time it takes for a body repatriation to the UK depends on a number of factors:
- the country the person died in
- the circumstances of death, and whether a post-mortem is requested
- whether next of kin are able to pay for the repatriation of the dead body
- if they need to wait for an insurance policy to pay out
On average, you can expect body repatriation to the UK to take around two weeks. If there are suspicious circumstances around the cause of death, it may take up to three months.
How Much Does Body Repatriation Cost?
The cost of Repatriation services to the UK depends on a number of factors:
- where the deceased body is coming from
- what kind of body preparation is required (usually embalming is required)
- the kind of coffin used
- the size and weight of the body
- the cost of the airline ticket
The total repatriation costs can be anywhere between £2000 – £4000. At Fenix Funeral Directors, we can help you bring your loved one home in the most cost-effective manner, and according to your exact wishes.
Must a body be embalmed before repatriation?
In most cases, the airline does request the body to be embalmed before repatriation. The funeral home should provide you with an Embalming Certificate.
What is the easiest and most cost-effective way to repatriate a body?
The simplest repatriation process is to have the remains cremated in the country where a person has died. Travelling with the ashes is a far simpler process, and there is no extra fee on the airfare. However, someone with the correct documentation will need to travel with the cremated remains, as human ashes cannot be posted in the mail.
Who can receive repatriated dead bodies in the UK?
A family member can collect the deceased body from the airport, but proper transportation would need to be arranged. This process can be made smoother by appointing funeral directors to assist. At Fenix Funeral Directors, we can oversee the collection, transportation and storage of the deceased. Our years of experience with body repatriation processes can give you peace of mind that we will bring your loved one home.