Burying People Who Passed Away Abroad Without Using A Domestic Funeral Home

For most cemeteries, burying a body is a matter of course: the funeral home delivers the body, provides the necessary documentation, and the burial takes place. The procedure may be less clear, however, where the person passed away while abroad and the body was subsequently repatriated without using a domestic funeral home.  

When an American passes away abroad, a consular official from the US Department of State will arrange for the documentation necessary to facilitate shipment and U.S. Customs clearance for the body. These documents include the foreign death certificate (if available), an affidavit from the foreign funeral director, a transit permit, and a consular mortuary certificate, all of which will accompany the remains back to the United States. In addition, the consular mortuary certificate will generally satisfy U.S. public health requirements where the body has already been embalmed.  

So what does this mean for a cemetery burying a body shipped by this method? Under New York Public Health Law (“NY PHL”) §4145(1), “internments, cremations or other dispositions” of a body are only permitted when the body is accompanied by a “burial, cremation, or transit permit.” However, NY PHL §4144(4) provides that “When the body of a deceased person is transported from outside of the state… for burial or other disposition, the transit or removal permit issued in accordance with the law and health regulations of the place where the death occurred shall be given the same force and effect as the burial permit herein provided for.” Thus even if the body is transported directly from the airport by a family member, the necessary documentation should still be accompanying the body. Records of the permit should be kept in the same manner as those provided by a funeral home.

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