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Preparation and Shipment of Remains
Death of U.S. Citizen

Services Available in France Regarding Preparation and Shipment of Remains

French laws governing deaths are covered under Title II of the French Civil Code, as amended, and decree law 5050 of December 31, 1941, as amended by decree law No. 76‑435 of May 18, 1976.

While regulations for the disposal of human remains apply nationwide, services and prices vary by locality.

French death formalities require at least five working days and must be completed before remains can be transported to the United States.  If an autopsy is performed, the body may be retained by the medical authorities for a lengthy period of time.  Consequently, completion of the Report of Death will be delayed (see Section “remarks”).

Quality, cost, and capacity

French embalming techniques generally do not meet U.S. standards for viewing of remains, especially in those cases where an autopsy has been performed.  As a general rule, the U.S. funeral home director should determine whether the remains are suitable for viewing.

Capacity of mortuary services and professionals is adequate for the demand, except for forensic services such as autopsy and additional testing, which often face back-logs stretching from a week or two to several months if additional testing is required.

For burial in France, or cremation with placement in a niche, in most cases funeral plots are rented for 10 years, although 30- and 50-year rentals are also available, as is a permanent spot.  Plot rentals are renewable.  Unlike in the U.S., maintenance of the plot is the responsibility of the family.

All fees are approximate and vary depending on location and, for remains returning to the United States, shipping costs.

Local Burial:

The costs for burial in France (not embalmed) are approximately 6,000 euros ($5,800) including a 10-year grave rental.

Cost for local Cremation and Disposal of Ashes:  approximately 5,500 euros ($5,200) including ten (10) year niche rental.

Cost for preparation and Shipment of Remains to the U.S.:  approximately 7,400 euros ($7,000) to the east coast; to the midwest, approximately 7,500 euros ($7,200) or to the west coast, approximately 7,800 euros ($7,400).

Preparation and Shipment of cremated remains to the U.S.:

Fees include cremation, collection of ashes, documentation costs, packaging for shipment and shipping costs and are approximately 5,800 euros ($5,500).

Timing, Embalming, Cremation, Caskets, and Exportation

Maximum period Before Burial of Remains

French regulations prescribe that burial of remains should occur no sooner than 24 hours after death, and no later than 6 days after death.  The regulations do not distinguish between embalmed and nonembalmed remains.

When a death occurs in a public place, the remains are taken to the city morgue.  A burial permit will not be issued until identity and cause of death are established, even if this exceeds the six-day burial requirement.


Embalming is not widely practiced in France.  When requested or otherwise required, morticians generally use the intravenous method of embalming (I.F.T.).

French regulations forbid embalming if the death was due to a contagious disease.  U.S. CDC rules require an import permit in this case.


Cremation is permitted under French law if requested in writing by the deceased, the next of kin, or by the Embassy on behalf of next of kin.  An attending doctor’s certificate stating the cause of death must be presented before cremation can be undertaken.  Due to the limited number of crematoria, cremation may be delayed for periods as long as one week to ten days.

While there is no law in France permitting the scattering of ashes, local officials usually have a tolerant attitude about this practice, as long as it is done discreetly.

Caskets and Containers

French-made caskets and containers are suitable for the shipment of remains to the United States.

Exportation of Human Remains

French and American regulations require the complete flight schedule and the following documentation for the export of remains transported by casket:

  • Official French death certificate
  • Doctor’s certificate stating that death occurred under noncontagious, nonepidemic circumstances
  • Embalming certificate (French laws only require embalming for transportation of remains if the death was due to a contagious disease)
  • Police certificate that remains are sealed in an airtight container (usually the inner coffin)
  • Transit permit.

Exportation of Human Cremains/Ashes

Regulations require the complete flight schedule and the following documents for the export of cremated remains:

  • Official French death certificate
  • Certificate to the effect that the ashes were sealed in an airtight urn
  • Transit permit.


While noncontagious remains may be disinterred at any time, French law prohibits the opening of the coffin before five years or more, depending on local requirements; the funeral director will advise the family if opening the coffin is feasible.  If the decedent died of a contagious disease, disinterment is not possible for a year.

Exhumation requests must be made in writing by the next of kin, the legal representative, or the police.  Obtaining the authorization from the French authorities can take from two to four months.  Local authorities will supervise an exhumation with a family member or representative present.  Arrangements for an exhumation should be made through a French funeral home familiar with local laws and procedures.  The cost of shipping exhumed remains is generally much higher than for normal embalming and air shipment.  Owing to export requirements, a triple coffin is mandated by French authorities.  An estimate should be requested in advance from a funeral home in each case.

Disposition of remains


CDC requirements for importing human remains depend upon if the body has been embalmed, cremated, or if the person died from a quarantinable communicable disease.

Please see CDC’s guidance for additional information.