Disposition and Repatriation of Remains

Important information regarding remain repatriation during the current COVID-19 outbreak:
U.S. citizens should be aware that due to current travel restrictions imposed by countries around the world and the limited number of international flights departing Vietnam, repatriation of bodies can be extremely difficult, even if a person did not die from a quarantinable communicable disease. We strongly encourage families to work with local service providers to seek guidance and possible solutions to remains repatriation.  For general information regarding the COVID-19 situation in Vietnam, please click here.

When a U.S. Citizen dies in Vietnam, the body is preserved until instructions are received from the next-of-kin regarding the disposition of remains. There are normally two options:

  • Cremation and interment in Vietnam or shipment of ashes to the United States or other location.
  • Embalming in Vietnam and air shipment to the United States or other location for burial.

Please note that embalming and mortuary services in Vietnam 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.

The next-of-kin or legal representative of the deceased is responsible for paying all expenses and costs associated with shipping the remains and any personal effects. In most cases, the next-of-kin can make payment arrangements directly with a service provider.

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.  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 may be 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 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 may be obtained through the CDC Division of Global Migration and Quarantine by calling the CDC Emergency Operations Center at 770-488-7100 or emailing dgmqpolicyoffice@cdc.gov.

Please see CDC’s guidance for additional information.

Costs for Disposition and Repatriation of Remains

The cost for preparation and burial in Vietnam is estimated to begin at approximately USD 6,000. This cost can be higher depending on the area. The cost for cremation and disposition of ashes in Vietnam is estimated to begin at approximately USD 3,500.

Should the next of kin decide to have the remains returned to the United States for burial, the costs are significantly higher due to the high cost of airfreight and embalming. The cost for preparation, embalming and air shipment of remains to the United States is estimated at USD 12,000 to USD 18,000 or more depending on the airline and cost for the services provided by the funeral company.  The cost for preparation, cremation, and air shipment of ashes to the United States is estimated at USD 3,500 to USD 8,000.

Procedures for requesting permission to transport the ashes or remains of a U.S. citizen to the United States from Vietnam:

1. Fill out the quarantine permit application form (obtained at the International Quarantine Service in Hanoi or the International Quarantine Service in Ho Chi Minh City).

          International Quarantine Service (Department of Health)
          35 Tran Binh, Mai Dich, Cau Giay District, Hanoi
          Tel: (024) 3768-5512

          International Quarantine Service (Department of Health)
          40 Nguyen Van Troi, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City
          Tel : (028) 3844-0155 / (028) 3844-5306 / (028) 3844-0157

2. Be prepared to present documents pertaining to the remains, such as a Vietnamese Death Certificate, certification from the physician or hospital, and other evidence of the death in support of the request for the permit.

3. Bring the urn with the ashes to the International Quarantine Service in Hanoi or the International Quarantine Service in Ho Chi Minh City for sealing (if applicable).