Nowadays more and more members of South African families live abroad, and not only do we miss them while they are living so far away, but it also makes dealing with their passing more difficult. It can be complicated, expensive, and traumatic to bring deceased family members “home”, but at Sonja Smith, Elite Funeral Group we have always understood the importance of reuniting families through repatriation.

Repatriation is the transporting of human remains to their final place of burial or cremation as will be required when someone passes on while in a foreign country. It is an international endeavour with expenses and legalities, which adds to the challenge. Transporting human remains often faces overnight transport restrictions, safety protocols, and other legalities.

We can assist you with and advise you on considerations such as:

  • Repatriation from the place of death to the place of burial or cremation.
  • Documentary services.
  • International funeral arrangements and transport with services such as flight arrangements, transfers, and customs.
  • Preparation of the remains.
  • Refrigerated storage and transportation.

Families should note that the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO) provides logistical assistance and advice to the next of kin in the event of the death of a South African national abroad,in collaboration with its diplomatic or consular missions. It should be borne in mind that the manner in which someone dies can affect how the local authorities handle the case. The South African Government does however not render any financial assistance pertaining to the death of South African nationals abroad.  We can assist with contacting the Department of Health or the South African representative abroad on your behalf.

The documentation required when the repatriation of a loved one must be arranged includes:

  • Letter from the family member requesting importation/exportation
  • Details of the funeral undertaker in the foreign country
  • A copy of the deceased’s passport (first and second pages, showing passport number and picture)
  • The death certificate. It must state the cause of death.
  • An embalming certificate; and/or

An affidavit by an undertaker stating that the remains have been embalmed and prepared in conformity with the regulations of the relevant city.

  • A letter from the attending pathologist or medical doctor stating that the person did not suffer from a contagious or infectious disease at the time of death and that the deceased died in a non-epidemic area.
  • If the documents are not in English, a certified translation must be attached.

Permission will be granted for the importation/exportation of the mortal remains to South Africa, on condition that the body was embalmed and sealed and placed in a sturdy non-transparent coffin. An import permit must have been obtained from the receiving health authority. Once the permission for the importation of the mortal remains to South Africa is granted by the relevant authorities in Pretoria, the repatriation process may take place. The South African Consulate General in the respective country might also be involved and issue a letter in this regard.

It is always advisable that you ensure the repatriation of mortal remains is covered in your travel insurance when planning an overseas trip. If your loved one passed away in another country, simply contact us for advice and assistance. The Sonja Smith EliteFuneral Group is a Registered Importer/Exporter and is authorized to repatriate human remains. Contact us for more information or visit our website at