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Many individuals may wish to be buried in a state or country other than the one in which they were cremated or where funeral or memorial service took place. This wish is usually carried out by family members or a close friend, who then take the cremated remains and either bury, intern, or spread the ashes (or “cremains”) in the place the deceased wished.
This article aims to give you a better idea of the type of documentation you will need to transport cremated remains as well as different ways that they can be transported.
We highly recommend speaking with a funeral director in your specific location as well as contacting an embassy (if traveling internationally) and a local funeral director at the final destination, to avoid any unseen issues along the way.
What Documents Will I Need?
It is likely that you will need a variety of documents, including, but not limited to the following:
- Burial transit permit
- Copy of the death certificate
- Certificate of cremation
- Any country-specific authorization and permission forms
It is very important that these documents, and any others you may be required to have, are secured beforehand. A licensed funeral director should be able to help you navigate exactly what you will need. If you are traveling to another country we recommend you contact a funeral home in the locality you plan on visiting in order to determine and confirm what documentation and local laws are applicable.
Traveling with Cremated Remains
Cremated remains can be taken on an airplane so long as they meet the guidelines of the airline you plan on using and those of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Remains of a loved one can be placed in a carry-on or checked luggage, but please adhere to all guidelines and have all documentation ready before passing through a Transportation Security Administration baggage check.
TSA offers the following instructions for transporting cremated remains:
- Carry-on Baggage: Yes (TSA Recommended)
- Checked Baggage: Yes
- Note: Some airlines do not allow cremated remains in checked bags, so please check with your airline to learn more about possible restrictions.
- The container must be scannable by airport security equipment. To facilitate screening, TSA suggests that you purchase a temporary or permanent crematory container made of a lighter weight material, such as wood or plastic. If the container is made of a material that generates an opaque image, TSA officers will not be able to clearly determine what is inside the container and the container will not be allowed. Out of respect for the deceased, TSA officers will not open a container, even if requested by the passenger.
- Carry the death certificate, Certificate of Cremation, or other appropriate documentation with you. Check with a licensed funeral director at your origin of travel and destination to determine if there are local laws to be considered.
Traveling to a Destination Country
Before traveling to a foreign country with your loved one’s remains, always contact the embassy or look on their website. It is important to remember that government documents may take some time, up to two (2) weeks in many cases, so make sure to give yourself ample time before leaving on your trip to assemble all the necessary paperwork and documentation.
Shipping Cremated Remains
If you elect to ship the remains or cremation urn it is best to use the United States Postal Service (USPS). You should ship by registered or express mail with a return receipt requested. Be sure to indicate the contents on the outside of the package. There are also strict packaging requirements. Most cremation service providers offer to prepare and ship the remains for you to ensure they meet USPS requirements. Currently, UPS, FedEx, and DHL do not handle the transport of cremated remains.
If you are wishing to ship remains internationally, the USPS has a country-specific list of where they can ship. You should contact your local Post Office to find out if your destination country will accept remains from the USPS and what additional requirements may apply.
There are many ways you can get your loved one’s remains where you need in order to fulfill their last wishes. Remember to give yourself ample time and collect all the necessary paperwork and documentation ahead of time. If traveling to a foreign country contact both an embassy and local funeral home in order to make sure you are adhering to local laws and customs.