If someone has died abroad and you want to bury or cremate them in Scotland, you must apply to Healthcare Improvement Scotland for permission.
To apply, fill in the application form and declaration from the Healthcare Improvement Scotland website.
A funeral director can apply for you, but you'll still need to provide them with the required documentation.
You'll also need to provide the following 'certified' documents:
- the death certificate (or equivalent) and/or a 'certificate of registration of death' issued by the country where the person died
- the dead person's passport (or equivalent identification)
- a completed 'application for cremation' (you can get this from a funeral director or crematorium)
You can get a document certified from a professional, such as a doctor, solicitor, police officer or teacher. The person should not be related, live with, or be in a relationship with you.
Email copies of these documents to Healthcare Improvement Scotland at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alternatively, you can post them (using recorded delivery) to:
Healthcare Improvement Scotland
Death Certification Review Service
Anyone from another country can be buried or cremated in Scotland.
If they die in another country, the person arranging the burial or cremation will need to get the necessary paperwork from the country in which they died. Contact Healthcare Improvement Scotland for information on what papers you need.
If a foreign national dies in Scotland, the arrangements for burial or cremation in Scotland are the same as for a Scottish citizen.
Visit the Scottish Government website to find out what to do after a death in Scotland.
After you apply
A medical reviewer will check your application and (if successful) will send you:
- a certificate declaring the documentation is in order
- a certificate authorising a burial or cremation
The process takes 5 working days from when they get your application.
If the medical reviewer needs more information, they'll try to get missing documents or information as soon as possible. If they're unable to conclude it's safe to cremate, only a burial will be possible.
Bringing ashes back to Scotland
You do not need a permit to bring ashes into the UK.
You can usually carry ashes onto a plane or put them in the hold as part of your luggage.
When you take the ashes to the airport you should:
- tell the airline in advance so they can give you advice
- take the cremation certificate with you to answer any questions you are asked
You can scatter ashes anywhere in Scotland if you have the permission of the landowner.
If you want to inter ashes in a Scottish cemetery you must contact the burial or cremation authority for the cemetery to arrange this.
You will need to contact the cemetery in advance to confirm what documentation is needed and pay any fee.
Suspicious deaths abroad
If a person dies abroad in suspicious circumstances, Healthcare Improvement Scotland may report the death to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. Their Scottish Fatalities Investigation Unit (SFIU) will investigate the death, whether or not there is an open or closed investigation in the country where the death happened. When a death abroad is reported to the SFIU, they will consider if:
- the death was sudden, suspicious or unexplained
- the circumstances of the death have been sufficiently established (meaning enough of the details are proven to be true)
- the circumstances would be sufficiently established in an inquiry
- it would be in the public interest to hold an inquiry
If someone dies abroad who has emigrated and lived permanently in another country, the SFIU will not investigate.
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