Vidyya Medical News Service
Volume 6 Issue 363 Published - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 28-Dec-2004 Next Update - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 29-Dec-2004
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Yellow Book 2003-4: Death overseas - Importation or exportation of human remains

Death Overseas

Importation or Exportation of Human Remains

There are no federal restrictions on the importation of human remains, unless the cause of death was one of the following communicable diseases: cholera or suspected cholera, diphtheria, infectious tuberculosis, plague, suspected smallpox, yellow fever, or suspected viral hemorrhagic fevers (Lassa, Marburg, Ebola, Congo-Crimean, or others not yet isolated or named). If the death was the result of one of these diseases, the remains must be cremated or placed in a hermetically sealed casket, and be accompanied by a death certificate, translated into English, that states the cause of death. The local mortician handling the remains following their importation will be subject to the regulations of the state and local health authorities for interstate and intrastate shipment.

The U.S. Consular Officer stationed in the foreign country will assist family members in making arrangements with local authorities for preparation and transportation of the remains. The authority and responsibilities of a U.S. Consular Officer relating to the return of remains of a deceased U.S. citizen abroad are based on established U.S. laws, treaties, and international practice. Local law and protocols of the foreign country determine options available to the family of the deceased. Certain documents are required under U.S. and foreign law before remains can be sent from one country to another. These requirements depend on the circumstances of death.

Additional, detailed information on death overseas is available through the U.S. Department of State website at Please refer to “Death of U.S. Citizens Abroad/Estate Matters.” Information on the return of the remains of a deceased U.S. citizen can be obtained by calling the Office of American Citizens Services, Department of State, at (202) 647-5226, or contacting the consulate of the foreign country in which the death occurred.

The United States has no requirements for the exportation of human remains; however, travelers should be advised that the requirements of the country of destination must be met. Travelers should also be advised that information regarding these requirements may be obtained from the appropriate embassy or local consulate general.

— Thomas DeMarcus

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