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.
At this time, COVID-19 is a quarantinable communicable disease in the United States and the remains must meet the standards for importation found in 42 Code of Federal Regulations Part 71.55 and maybe cleared, released, and authorized for entry into the United States only under the following conditions:
- The remains are cremated; OR
- The remains are properly embalmed and placed in a hermetically sealed casket; OR
- The remains are accompanied by a permit issued by the CDC Director. The CDC permit (if applicable) must accompany the human remains at all times during shipment.
- Permits for the importation of the remains of a person known or suspected to have died from a quarantinable communicable disease maybe obtained through the CDC Division of Global Migration and Quarantine by calling the CDC Emergency Operations Center at 770-488-7100 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please see CDC’s guidance for additional information.
The U.S. Mission Thailand is ready to assist family and friends in the event of the death of a U.S. citizen in Thailand. The American Citizen Services unit can:
- Confirm the death, identity, and U.S. citizenship of the deceased.
- Notify the next-of-kin.
- Provide information about the disposition of the remains and personal effects of the deceased.
- Prepare documents for the disposition of the remains in accordance with instructions from the next-of-kin or legal representative.
- Provide guidance on forwarding funds to cover costs.
- Serve as provisional conservator of the estate if there is no legal representative in the country.
- Send the Consular Report of Death Abroad to the next-of-kin or legal representative for use in settling estate matters in the United States.
Notification of Next-of-Kin
Thai authorities normally notify the U.S. Embassy when a U.S. citizen dies in Thailand. The American Citizen Services unit contacts the next-of-kin of the deceased as soon as possible. Next-of-kin is established in the following order:
- legal spouse
- if no spouse, then all children
- if no children, then all parents
- if no parents, then all siblings
- if no siblings, then all grandparents.
It is the responsibility of the next-of-kin to:
- If the deceased had a Last Will & Testament, send it to American Citizen Services by email or fax.
- If the deceased did not have a Last Will & Testament but had substantial personal effects and a number of next-of-kin, send notarized Affidavits of Next-of-Kin (PDF 63KB) to American Citizen Services by email or fax. Next-of-kin in Thailand may have affidavits notarized at the American Citizen Services unit of the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok or the U.S. Consulate General in Chiang Mai free of charge.
For Bangkok: Contact: Bangkok Contact Form
For Chiang Mai: Contact: Chiang Mai Contact Form
- Make arrangements for the disposition of remains and personal effects of the deceased, often with the assistance of a Thai funeral home.
- Pay for mortuary and related expenses.
Affidavit of Next-of-Kin and Letter of Instruction
The Thai forensic institute or hospital may require a letter of instruction from the U.S. Embassy to release remains of a U.S. citizen into the custody of the next-of-kin or designated representative.The American Citizen Services unit can produce a letter of instruction upon receipt of explicit written guidance in the form of a legal will or a signed and notarized Affidavit of Next-of-Kin (PDF 63KB) in some cases.
Disposition and Repatriation of Remains
When a U.S. Citizen dies in Thailand, the body is usually preserved until instructions are received from the next-of-kin regarding the disposition of remains. There are normally two options:
- Cremation in Thailand and interment or scattering of ashes in Thailand, the United States or other location
- Embalming in Thailand and air shipment to the United States or other location for burial
Please note that embalming and mortuary services in Thailand may not meet U.S. standards. Families are advised to consult with a funeral director in the United States about the advisability of viewing remains and conducting an open-casket funeral.
Funeral Homes in Thailand
The next-of-kin or legal representative of the deceased is responsible for paying all funeral home expenses and costs associated with shipping the remains and any personal effects. In most cases, the next-of-kin is able to make payment arrangements directly with a funeral home.
Funeral Homes in Thailand–Price Lists
In order to determine the cause of death, the medical examiner on the scene may recommend an autopsy when a U.S. citizen dies outside of a hospital setting. Autopsies are normally performed free of charge by the Forensic Institute at the Police General Hospital in Bangkok or by another forensic institute within 24 hours of receiving the remains. Thai autopsy reports take at least 45 business days to produce and may fall short of the standard expected in the United States. Next-of-kin should discuss with their Thai funeral home the cost of obtaining a copy of the autopsy report.
Autopsies are not typically performed on U.S. citizens who die in hospitals, except at the request and expense of the next-of-kin. Hospitals are normally able to provide a cause of death, which is required for issuance of a Thai death certificate.
Next-of-kin are advised to be flexible regarding dates for funeral ceremonies in the United States. It takes time to perform an autopsy, embalm or cremate the body, prepare remains for shipment, and produce the necessary documents. Please allow 10 or more days from the date of death for remains to arrive in the United States.
Return of Personal Effects
Funeral homes in Thailand can assist with itemizing and returning personal effects of the deceased to the next-of-kin or designated representative.
Consular Report of Death of an American Citizen Abroad
The U.S. Embassy and Consulate issues an administrative document called a Consular Report of Death Abroad that provides essential facts about the death, disposition of remains, and custody of the personal estate of a deceased U.S. citizen. The Consular Report of Death Abroad is based on the Thai death certificate and may be used in legal proceedings in the United States as proof of death.
In order to issue a Consular Report of Death Abroad, the American Citizen Services unit must first receive all of the following:
- The original Thai death certificate
- An English translation of the Thai death certificate, certified by a professional translator (Note: Most funeral homes in Thailand include the cost of translation in their service packages.)
- The original U.S. passport of the deceased
The American Citizen Services unit will send the following documents to the next-of-kin:
- Consular Report of Death of a U.S. Citizen Abroad (A maximum of 20 copies are provided free-of-charge; additional certified copies may be ordered from the Department of State for a fee.)
- The original Thai death certificate and English translation
- The deceased’s canceled U.S. passport
For more information, please refer to the Department of State website.
American Citizen Services (ACS)
U.S. Embassy Bangkok
95 Wireless Road
Bangkok 10330 THAILAND
Telephone from USA: 011-66-2-205-4000
Telephone from Thailand: 02-205-4000
Contact: Bangkok Contact Form
U.S. Consulate Chiang Mai
387 Witchayanond Road, Chiang Mai 50300, Thailand
Tel: (66) 53-107-777
Fax: (66) 53-234-472
Contact: Chiang Mai Contact Form