How To Bring The Body Of The Deceased Russian Citizen Back Home - procedure step by step

Bringing the body of the deceased person to homeland (aka repatriation) may be quite difficult. Let's review this procedure step by step.

In any country, the ones who learn first about a person's death are police and doctors. The following procedure is more or less the same throughout the world:

  • Doctors pronounce death and send the body to the morgue to be examined and prepared for repatriation. The morgue issues a Body Export Permit;
  • Police send a death notice to the consulate of the deceased person's home country.
    • The consulate or embassy issues the death certificate, informs the deceased person's family or representatives and all the relevant authorities about the incident, translates and certifies the documents required for repatriation.

Please note:

  • In case of death by violence the body cannot be repatriated quickly;
  • At the consulate, it is better to check if the Export Permit is issued when the body is taken to the morgue (this document is usually issued immediately, without a request).
  • Export Permit can also be issued by an insurance company representative (if the deceased had been insured) or the person's representative like a family member or a commissioned funeral service employee.

The arrangements of the deceased person's repatriation depend on the following:

  • whether the deceased had been on a trip arranged by a travel agency;
  • whether they had an insurance covering posthumous repatriation.

Case 1: An insurance is there, the trip had been arranged by a tour operator

A trip arranged by a travel agency usually includes insurance in its cost.

In this case the person's interests will be represented by the tour operator and the insurance company. To prevent the insurance company from evading their obligations you'll have to take all necessary steps properly and as quickly as possible, ideally during the first few hours since you've learnt of the death.

When the person is pronounced dead police or the consulate inform the hotel and / or travel company.

The family will learn about the death at the same time as the tour operator or directly from them. In this case, the tour operator becomes the official representative of the family under the agreement between the tour operator and the customer.

There is an important point: the insurance company must be notified of the death at the earliest possible time. In order to avoid any extra difficulties, insurers need to have some time to bring in their employee before the body examination at the morgue is finished (better yet, even before it starts). Otherwise they may lawfully refuse to compensate for anything done to the body at the morgue.

Insurance companies almost never work directly: instead, the local companies on their behalf provide all types of insurance services under the policy purchased. It takes time for the insurer to contact their partners. Therefore it is critical to inform the insurance company as early as possible.

How to quickly contact the insurance company?

  1. Phone the insurance company using the number specified in the policy immediately when you learn about the death. Sometimes at such moments every hour and minute counts, and late response might cost you not only money, but also some nerves. With that in mind, make sure you have a copy of the traveler's policy before they leave. Insurance companies send their policies by email, so you can easily save a few copies of the file to different locations. If the policy is not available, we suggest that the instant heirs contact the insurance company, i.e. parents, spouses, or children;
  2. Call the name of the person who purchased the policy to the company along with the policy number, and describe the situation. Provide all information you have: place, time, address of the morgue (the consulate must let you know all of these). If you learnt of the death from the travel agency, check if they have already contacted the insurance company and whether they could do that for you. The insurer normally does this and comes off better than the family.
  3. Arrange direct communication with the contact person responsible for your case.

Unfortunately, even strict adherence to the procedures does not always ensure a seamless and peaceful process. According to the contract, the insurance company provides compensation for the cost of all body repatriation procedures only within the agreed amount. If for any reason the cost turns out to be higher, the difference will have to be paid by the family.

To avoid such a situation read the insurance contract carefully – this amount must be specified therein. When taking all required steps check their costs, keep in mind the amount from the contract, the balance, and also make sure you keep all payment documents. In most cases all expenses fit into the financial obligations of the insurance company.

Body transportation options

There are several shipping options:

Cinerary urn (after cremation)

  • Transportation of such items is regulated by the carrier, however in most cases you can only transport the ashes in cargo compartment – you can't just carry it in your luggage or cabin bags, and an attempt to do so will be spotted on baggage check.
  • The urn must be hermetically sealed and accompanied by a document that confirms sealing (both things are done at the crematorium). Such cargo also needs to be declared: the attendant must fill out a special form when clearing the customs or during check-in.
  • A common transportation requirement is that the urn should be placed inside a box upholstered in soft fabric to prevent mechanical damage.

Zinc capsule (zinc coffin)

  • In this case, body embalming is required for better preservation and compliance with sanitary standards. After embalming, the body is placed in a capsule and hermetically sealed, no other contents are allowed. These operations must be confirmed by the appropriate certificates: embalming, absence of unauthorized contents, and hermetic sealing. All of them are issued at the morgue where the mentioned procedures are performed.
  • A wooden box is required for capsule transportation, that protects it from mechanical damage. Transportation is only allowed in the cargo compartment.

Coffin with zinc container

  • This option differs from the previous one only aesthetically: instead of a simple capsule with casing you can purchase a coffin fitted with a zinc capsule inside.

The rest of procedures is the same: embalming, placing into a coffin with a zinc container, sealing. No unauthorized contents are allowed inside the capsule. The same certificates are required as in the previous case. Transportation is only allowed in the cargo compartment.

Choose means of transport

The means of transport is usually chosen by the insurance company without your participation. The most common mode of transportation is by air.

Documents for repatriation

Depending on the country, the following documents may be required.

  • An application in a free form required by the Customs Union of the EEAA (the Russian Federation is a member)
  • Death Certificate
  • Export Permit
  • Embalming Certificate
  • Papers certifying that the container is sealed properly, and there are no unauthorized contents inside (Certificate of Contents and Certificate of Sealing, respectively)
  • In some cases, a certificate of no infectious diseases in the deceased is also required (Non-Infectious Disease Letter).

You can get the definitive list at the consulate: All above mentioned documents must be submitted in two languages (Russian and the language of the country of incident) and certified.

These services can be obtained both at the consulate and from third-party organizations, but it is preferable to contact the consulate for help. Translations and certifications (sometimes an Apostille is required) must comply with the Russian standards. Please note that in many countries consulates of the Russian Federation provide such translations free of charge.

The final stage of transportation – collecting at the airport in Russia

Insurance companies only provide posthumous repatriation to the country of origin, i.e. up to the closest big airport, seaport or railway station.

Collecting the body and bringing it to the morgue or to a cemetery is the sole responsibility of the deceased person's family. To avoid problems, you should pre-order the appropriate transport: all funeral homes provide such services.

When the body arrives home, the repatriation procedure is considered completed, and all subsequent activities like the farewell ceremony and burial, transportation to the burial site in some other city are supposed to be arranged with a Russian funeral company, i.e. the tour insurer is not involved into this.

Case 2: The insurance had been purchased, the trip was organized independently

  • In this case, the procedure remains the same.
  • However you'll have to communicate with the insurance company on your own.

Case 3: No insurance, the trip was organized independently

The cost of all services to bring the body home is very high, up to 20,000 USD or even more. With no insurance, all body transportation expenses are paid by direct bank transfer to the contracting company.

To get all the required documents, the deceased person's family will have to hire a local funeral company, or go there on their own and handle the repatriation process personally, or hire a Russian funeral company, which will send a representative to arrange repatriation.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and financial support for the Russian citizens posthumous repatriation

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs reminds that “in accordance with the legislation of the Russian Federation it does not provide any financial support or financial clearing related to the burial or repatriation of the Russian citizens who died abroad.” Ministry of Foreign Affairs and consulates only provide information support, as well as assist in document translation and certification.

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