Death: What are the steps to bury a loved one abroad?

While losing a loved one is always difficult, having them buried abroad can be particularly difficult to manage because of the administrative procedures to be undertaken, since it is necessary to respect both French legislation and the regulations of the destination country. How to proceed?

Obtain the necessary papers

To be able to repatriate the body, it is first essential to gather several administrative documents. First, you must declare the death to the town hall of the place where the deceased died, so that it can issue you a death certificate. For health reasons, you will also need to request a certificate of non-epidemic issued by the Regional Health Agency (ARS), as well as a notice of non-contagion signed by a doctor. Be careful, this means that if the deceased was carrying a transmissible infectious disease (HIV in particular), it will probably not be possible to be repatriated.

In addition, you will need to obtain authorization to close the coffin or even a closing report from the prefecture of the department where the procedure takes place. If it is the repatriation of a cinerary urn, prefectural authorization is also required. In addition, ask the prefecture for an international permit to transfer the remains abroad, and don’t forget to draw up (or have the immediate family draw up) an agreement for the transport of the body.

To facilitate transport, also contact the consulate of the country concerned in France so that they can issue you with a mortuary pass, if possible in several languages ​​(French and the official language of the State of destination). If the country in question does not belong to the Berlin Convention, also ask the consulate for authorization to enter the territory.

Be aware that certain specific circumstances ( suicide, accident, homicide) may give rise to an investigation and forensic examinations, or even to the opening of criminal proceedings, which will, unfortunately, lengthen the delays even more and may exhausting for loved ones.

Respect the conditions of carriage

In order to be able to travel, the remains must generally have benefited from conservation care, which French legislation prohibits however when the person has been the victim of a contagious disease. In addition, the body must be placed in an airtight and waterproof cold-welded metal box inside the coffin. The latter must also contain an absorbent material and, if necessary, be equipped with a purifier in order to equalize the pressure. Some airlines also require it to be encased in a wooden crate. Ballot boxes are also subject to various regulations and cannot be carried in the cabin.

Contact a funeral home

Under no circumstances can the family take care of transporting the deceased themselves. The transport of the body, whether carried out by land or air, must necessarily be taken care of by a specialized funeral service. This intervention generally includes the preparation of the body (mortuary or ritual washing, care) and the provision of an adequate coffin that meets the standards required by health authorities and airlines. You should also know that some companies offer to take care of a large part of the administrative procedures, and can even, in some cases, book plane tickets for relatives on board the same aircraft as that in which the body of the deceased will travel. deceased.


As a result, the price of this type of service is relatively high and will depend on the length of the journey (road transport) or the weight of the beer (air transport). In total, it is between 3,000 and 6,000 euros depending on the trip to be made. Europe and the Maghreb countries, which represent the vast majority of these journeys, are among the least expensive destinations.

Remember to check whether the deceased had death or funeral insurance with an agreement on the repatriation of his body. If this is the case, you will be able to obtain partial or full reimbursement of the costs.

Where to inquire?

To obtain reliable and up-to-date information on the various regulations – we are thinking in particular of those linked to the Covid-19 epidemic –, contact the embassy or consulate of the country of destination, but also the prefecture of the place where a death took place. If some of your family members live there, do not hesitate to ask them to help you with the procedures.

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