What you need to know to transport cremated remains

shipping-cremated-remainsAs cremation becomes more popular, there is a rising need for people to consider transporting cremated remains.  This can be the case either when someone has died in a different state or country, a cremation has been performed at the place of death, but the ashes need to be returned to the family.  Or in some cases people are opting to distribute the cremated remains between surviving family who may be located across the U.S.

Whatever the circumstances, when a family wish to transport cremated remains,  the questions can often arise as to how best and inexpensively can this be done.  We have outlined below the key information you need to know if you wish to ship cremated remains.

If you are shipping cremated remains through a service you will need to ensure that the correct documentation accompanies the shipment.  A copy of the death certificate and cremation certificate will be required, along with other authorization forms.

Shipping Cremated Remains by U.S. Postal Service

USPS introduced label 139 to improve their service in identifying cremated remains in transit.  Cremated remains can ONLY be shipped using Priority Mail Express and Registered Mail.  This means that the receiver has to sign to acknowledge receipt of the shipment and helps to give families peace of mind.  USPS clearly states that a shipment of cremated ashes should be marked on the exterior of the packaging.  Label 139 was introduced to ensure it was easier for families and postal workers to identify these valuable shipments that need sensitive handling.

The extract from the USPS Bulletin 52, governing shipment of cremated remains, states:

452.2 Cremated Remains

Human ashes are permitted to be mailed provided they are packaged as required in 463b. The identity of the contents should be marked on the address side. Mailpieces must be sent registered mail with return receipt service.

453 Packaging and Marking

The following conditions apply:

….b. Powders. Dry materials that could cause damage, discomfort, destruction, or soiling upon escape (i.e., leakage) must be packed in siftproof containers or other containers that are sealed in durable siftproof outer containers.”

Shipping Cremated Remains with a Courier Service.

Unfortunately, DHL, FedEx and UPS do NOT transport cremated remains at all, so you cannot courier cremated remains to another destination in the U.S. or overseas.

international-shipping-cremated-remainsTransporting Cremated Remains by Air

You also have the option to transport ashes by an airline carrier.  Most airlines offer a freight or cargo service, so this is one option to consider.  You do need to check with the specific airline as regulations that govern the shipping of human remains differs between airlines.  Some airlines require 7 days notice, and of course, you will require certain documentation.  The shipment will need to be marked as “cremated remains”.

Many airlines do allow you to take cremated remains as carry-on luggage.  Again you need to carefully check the guidance with the airline you are traveling with.  The TSA guidelines specify that “passengers transport remains in temporary or permanent ‘security friendly’ containers constructed of light-weight materials such as plastic or wood. Temporary containers can also offer a security friendly means to travel by air with a crematory container.”  If a cremated remains container cannot pass through an x-ray machine with the contents visible, it will not pass the TSA security check.  The official TSA statement is:

“To maintain the highest level of security, TSA determined that documentation from a funeral home about the contents of a crematory container was no longer sufficient to allow the container through a security checkpoint and onto a plane. Since February of this year, all crematory containers must pass through an X-ray machine. If a container is made of a material that prevents screeners from clearly seeing what is inside, the container will not be allowed through the checkpoint. Out of respect for the deceased, screeners will not open a container, even if requested by the passenger.”

Shipping Cremated Remains Internationally

If you need to ship cremated remains internationally, you do just need to check with the embassy in the destination country.  Some countries have specific guidelines about receiving cremated remains and additional import documentation may need to be completed.  Also, some countries have different rules about receiving cremated remains, and a funeral director may be required to take receipt of the ashes before handing them over to a family member.

You should ensure that sufficient time is allowed for legal processes and documentation.  You probably need 2 weeks notice to arrange an international transportation of cremated remains.  A list of U.S. embassies around the world is available here.

What do you need to do to ship cremated remains safely and securely?

The message is clear – if you intend to ship a cremation urn within the U.S, do make sure that you very carefully package the container.  Put contact details inside with the urn, and mark the outside of the package clearly stating ‘containing cremated human remains’.  Use label 139 – made available from USPS.  Ensure you DO ship the cremated remains using Priority Mail Express or Registered Mail, and DO ensure you make the postal clerk aware that this is what the package contains.

Hopefully, this information has answered any questions you had about how to transport your loved ones ashes.  If you have any further questions, feel free to ask us the question.

Ship cremated remains from the United States to anywhere in: the UK, Europe, Mexico, Central America, South America, Middle East and Indian sub-continent.

[Sara Marsden] Google+




22 thoughts on “What you need to know to transport cremated remains

  1. My Mom passed away in Las Vegas, Nevada.I have arranged for internment end of March 2023 which will be in Minnesota, so she can be with my Dad. Do I need anything to send her cremains via USPS? death certificate, etc.?

    • It is advised to travel with a copy of the death certificate and the cremation permit. The ashes need to be in an x-ray safe container to meet TSA standards.

  2. My son died in Las Vegas, but it was his wish to be buried in Los Angeles where he was raised. His brother, who lives in Las Vegas, had his brother cremated and will drive his urn home to Los Angeles.
    Is the permit to transport him home called a transport permit. How do I apply for the permit?

    • Hello Barby,
      My condolences on the loss of your son. Your son’s remains can transit to Los Angeles with his brother. He does not need a transport permit to travel with cremated remains. A permit is required for transporting a body. I would suggest that he travel with a copy of the death certificate, and if possible a copy of the cremation permit.
      I hope this helps.

  3. Pingback: What can I do with the cremated remains? A guide to your options

  4. We want to open a business trsnsporting remains is there information on how to do that or is there a site who arranges transporters?

  5. My brother just passed recently and his step family in N. H. Would like his ashes to be placed with his wife’s ashes what do I need to do to send them to his step daughter

    • Hello Lenore,
      My condolences. You can mail cremated remains by USPS. They have a special service for sending ashes.

  6. Hi my husband past 2.months a go and his family (parents)wants part of his ashes …
    I’m in tijuana Mexico and their in el Paso TX. Do I have to ask for permission in the embassy of the United States of America so I can cross the border and then ? I want to drive and take the ashes 16 hra drive

    • I would suggest you contact the consulate at the moment. There are more restrictions on transporting human remains and border crossings due to COVID.
      Normally you can drive cremated remains across the border. You may need to ensure the cremains are in a suitable container that can be x-rayed. Also, carry a copy of the paperwork – death certificate copy, cremation permit, etc.

      I hope this helps, Janet.

  7. After 14 months I have located the unclaimed cremains of a USMC Vietnam Veteran with no next of kin… just a lot of friends in his hometown. His cremains are in Columbia, SC. We would like to give him a Veteran Military Service in the Cemetery of the Alleghenies in Western PA. The location is not far from the cemeteries of two of his 5th Great Grand-Fathers – both are Revolutionary War Veterans. I am having difficulty getting his cremains mailed to PA in the care of Missing in America Project. The coroner and the state, have not provided a Death Certificate thus far. Some web info sites say I need this to mail, others say nothing. He died 5 years ago on Veterans Day. Any help would be most appreciated. Thank you

    • Hello Diane,
      It is my understanding that a copy of the death certificate may be required to mail cremated remains. You may wish to try contacting the Office of Vital Statistics in the state where the veteran passed to see if you can obtain a copy?

  8. Our Funeral Home offers worldwide mortuary shipping services. With our contacts in key cities around the world and the capability to handle paperwork in almost any language, we can tailor service to the needs of the individual case and can arrange for the transport of human remains from and to any location worldwide. Caribe Funeral Home works with consulates and embassies directly to ensure that all necessary protocol is followed and has a diverse customer base ranging from government agencies to individual families.

  9. We are wanting to transport our family member’s ashes from Las Vegas NV to Dillonville Ohio. We will be driving and taking the remains with us. What documentation besides the death certificate is needed?

    • Hello Walt and Joy,

      Thank you for your question. It is advisable to escort the cremated remains with the death certificate and the cremation permit.

      Kind Regards,

  10. I am Marine Veteran. I have arrangements with Oregon’s Eagle Point National Cemetary. I and my deceased Wife who passed last year will be together in a reserved Colombarium site. I moved to Ca. to be near my kids last year. Upon my passing, my children have agreed to drive my cremated remains up to Eagle Point Cemetery to be placed with my Wife! My question is, there a Permit &cost to do this? I’m trying to make all arrangements ahead of time.

    • Hello Howard,

      Thank you for your question. The laws do vary by state and even county pertaining to burial and transport permits. Whereabouts in CA are you? I can then direct you to local affordable cremation service provider who can quote you precisely what permits are required, and how much a cremation & the required paperwork is.
      I do believe that you should just be able to conduct a direct cremation in CA, and then the family should just be able to either collect the urn and transport it back to Oregon for burial. Or if preferred, a cremation provider can mail cremated remains for a small charge. This is generally between $75-$100.
      I hope this helps!

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