Return of Remains of Deceased U.S. Citizens – Post-mortem repatriation of the body to the USA

U.S. citizen dies in Russia – What to do?

  1. Inform the U.S. Embassy (Consulate)
  2. Decide whether to ship the body to the United States or bury it in Russia

In this article, we are going to take a look at how to return the body of a deceased U.S. citizen to the homeland.

Post-mortem repatriation – the Body or Ashes?

Russia and the United States allow to export and import the remains:

  • The body in a sealed container;
  • Ashes in a cinerary urn.

Ashes shipment is always cheaper, quicker, and easier to arrange.

Post-mortem repatriation to the USA: specifics

A U.S. citizen's death in Russia must be reported to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate as soon as possible. Department of State officers will not be able to assist with money, but they will take on many organizational issues.

U.S. Embassy Assistance in Repatriation

Having received the notice of a U.S. citizen's death in Russia, the embassy officers will take the following steps:

  • Confirm the deceased person's identity and citizenship;
  • Locate and inform their next-of-kin;
  • Help the deceased person's representatives arrange return of the remains to the United States;
  • Provide advice;
  • Take possession of personal effects (e.g. money, jewelry, documents and papers) and later hand them over to the heirs;
  • Prepare the consulate part of the document package required for local burial or return of the remains to the United States
  • Make sure the heirs receive the personal effects;
  • Send certified copies of the Consular death report (death certificate) to the next-of-kin and heirs;

Requirements for sending remains from the Russian Federation to the United States

To transport the body or the urn, you will need to:

  • Collect the documents;
  • Sign a shipping contract with the airline;
  • Hand over the remains to the airline for return to the United States;

Shipping Documents

Document Where to get it Purpose
Consular Report of Death of a U.S. Citizen Abroad U.S. Embassy (Consulate) Regular American death certificate. Required for all procedures after a citizen's decease.
Consular mortuary certificate U.S. Embassy (Consulate) Required for remains import into the United States
Russian Death Certificate Municipal services center or registrar office; Required for bringing the body/urn outside the Customs Union
Affidavit attesting to the fact that the casket contains only the remains of the deceased and the necessary clothing and packing materials. Morgue or funeral home Required for bringing the body/urn outside the Customs Union

You can collect the documents without assistance. It may take from a few days to six weeks.

The U.S. Embassy reminds that a local death certificate is required for a Consular report of death of a U.S. citizen abroad to be issued. Depending on how soon you get it and submit it to the U.S. Embassy (Consulate), the consular report issue may take up to 4-6 weeks.

Body Embalming

Embalming is not mandatory to return a body to the United States.

  • If the body has been embalmed properly, this will be reflected in the consular mortuary certificate, which is sufficient to import the body.
  • If the remains are not embalmed, the Embassy will inform U.S. Customs and the U.S. Public Health Service in advance that the person did not die from a contagious disease.
    The examination has to be carried out by a consular mortuary or some other morgue / funeral director.

How to choose the airline to bring the remains to the United States

It is the airline itself who determines the remains carriage rules according to the Russian Ministry of Transport decree #82 dated 06/28/2007, international rules ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) regulations, and TSA (Transportation Security Administration) acts.

The Russian airlines only allow to carry the body or the ashes in the luggage compartment.

Some U.S. airlines following the TSA standards allow the ashes to be carried in hand luggage.

The same applies to some European carriers.

Check the details on the rules and applicable fares at each specific airline – this information may often not be publicly available.

The cost of bringing remains to the United States

The cost depends on:

  • Remains weight
  • Travel distance
  • Airline rates

It is always cheaper to ship ashes than a body.

Many airlines require an attendant on board the aircraft. This applies to both the body and the ashes. A relative of the deceased person or a funeral home representative can be such an attendant. The attendant must have a flight ticket. Some airlines (e.g. Lufthansa) have special rates for shipping remains and attending persons.

Make sure you check the rates at each specific airline.

Useful Links – assistance in the post-mortem repatriation to the USA

With our vast experience, knowledge, resources, and status of the official state funeral service, can quickly arrange return of remains to the USA. To arrange sending the deceased U.S. citizen back to U.S. call hot line +7 (495) 181-97-29.

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