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Death of a U.S. Citizen
U.S. Citizen Services

When an U.S. citizen dies abroad, the Bureau of Consular Affairs assists the family and friends. The Bureau of Consular Affairs attempts to locate and inform the next-of-kin of the U.S. citizen’s death. The Bureau of Consular Affairs provides information on how to make arrangements for local burial or return of the remains to the United States. The disposition of remains is subject to U.S. and local (foreign) law, U.S. and foreign customs requirements, and the foreign country facilities, which are often vastly different from those in the United States.

Profile of services available in Bosnia and Herzegovina

(1)  Maximum period before burial. BiH law does not impose any specific time limit for burial.  It only requires that the body be refrigerated.  Embalming is rarely performed in BiH.

(2)  Embalming. Although almost never requested by Bosnian citizens, embalming can be performed in Bosnia and Herzegovina if the family of the deceased U.S. citizen wishes.  The Institute of Forensic Medicine of the Sarajevo University’s Medical School is the only institution that embalms the deceased.  If an autopsy is requested, embalming must be done immediately after the autopsy.  In any case, it should be performed as soon after death as possible.  Please note that the quality of embalming will likely be very far from U.S. standards.

Note:  Without embalming, an open-casket ceremony is still possible if the remains are shipped to the U.S. within a week. However, the U.S. local funeral director should examine the remains first and advise the family about the possibility of viewing the remains.

(3)  Cremation. Bosnia and Herzegovina does not have a crematorium.  The nearest crematorium is in Zagreb, Croatia or in Novi Sad, Serbia.  This requires export of remains from BiH and transport by road to Croatia or Serbia.

(4)  Caskets and containers. Zinc caskets required to export remains may be purchased locally, as well as wooden caskets with shipping bags necessary for air transport.  The prices of coffins range from $500 to $2,000 (zinc casket included).  The cost of an air-transport bag and packing of the coffin (placement in the bag) is $180.  The soldering of the zinc casket costs $80, and disinfection of the zinc casket at the time of soldering is $20.  Dressing of the deceased in the clothes in which he/she will be buried costs $32. Name plates for the coffin cost $ 7.  Therefore, the total cost of a medium-quality coffin and preparation for shipment (without embalming) is from $1,100 to USD 2,500.

(5)  Exportation of remains.  Air export requirements are that the zinc casket must be sealed by soldering, and then placed in a wooden coffin.  The wooden coffin must be placed in an air transport bag and sealed.  The act of sealing of the casket must be witnessed by the representatives of the Health Department and Customs.  After the sealing, the Health Department issues the exit permit, i.e. “laissez-passer for corpse”, which is the key document for export of remains from Bosnia and Herzegovina.  These administrative fees amount to about $100.

(6)  Various prices.  The price of local burial without embalming is approximately BAM 1,400 (approximately $ 830) (including a middle-quality coffin).  The cost of a grave site is approximately BAM 3,400 (approximately $2,000)

  • Embalming:  approximately $500
  • Use of refrigerated chamber for one day:  approximately $30
  • Road transport within BiH:  about $1 per kilometer
  • Transport within Sarajevo Canton (Hospital-Funeral Home-Airport): $60
  • Export permit (administrative costs):  $100
  • Air cargo prices. The weight of the remains is most often between 100 and 150 kg (220 to 330 lbs).  Air cargo price is calculated per kilogram, and varies depending on the destination in the U.S.  The total cost of air shipment to the U.S. ranges from $3,500 to $6,500.

Responsibility for decisions regarding disposition of remains and the costs, rests with the next-of-kin or legal representative of the deceased. The embassy is not able to provide any financial assistance but can facilitate the transfer of funds from the United States.

Most Bosnian undertakers or funeral homes require payment in advance. Money can be transferred from the U.S. using private companies, such as Western Union, or via the Department of State’s OCS/TRUST system or directly transferred to a local funeral home bank account in BiH. Information on money transfers through the Department of State is available here.

(7)  Exhumed remains:  In order to obtain a permit for exhumation, a written request and death certificate must be submitted.  The funeral home will forward the request to the Sanitation Department, which gives the final approval.  They will also ensure the presence of the police if required in a particular case. The procedure of preparation and shipment of the exhumed remains is the same as stated above.  The total cost of an exhumation service is about $400, and the same administrative fees apply as stated above.

(8)  Autopsy:  The local prosecutor determines whether an autopsy is necessary.  The Institute of Forensic Medicine of the University of Sarajevo’s Medical School is the main institute that performs autopsies.  There are also qualified pathologists in other major hospitals in BiH, such as in Banja Luka, Mostar and Tuzla.

(9) Local Customs:  Funerals and memorial services are conducted in accordance with the customs and traditions of the religions represented in the country.  There is also a big population of atheists, so funerals without any religious service are also common.