United States Postal Service Announces New Requirements for Cremated Remains


In September, 2019, the United States Postal Service (USPS) issued a new Publication 139 governing the mailing of cremated remains. The Publication contains several new requirements that funeral directors who are shipping cremated remains domestically or internationally must be aware of. Publication 139 also contains a number of best practices to use when mailing cremated remains. Below are important requirements and recommendations from Publication 139:

• Label 139. Starting September 30, 2019, the outside container holding the cremated remains must have USPS Label 139, “Cremated Remains”, on each of the six sides of the box. The application of the labels, which was previously only a recommendation, will now be a requirement. Rolls of Label 139, Cremated Remains, are available at no cost at the Postal Store on USPS.com or at any retail Post Office location.

• New Box Available. USPS announced in the Publication that it will offer a Priority Mail Express Cremated Remains box for domestic and international mailing of cremated remains. For free box kits, go to the Postal Store link at USPS.com. Put in “Cremated Remains Kit” in the search box at the Postal Store link and order either or both of the kits. Descriptions of the kits are found on the last page of this Report. You may order up to five free kits which will be shipped to the funeral home for free within 3 to 5 business days.

• Priority Mail Express. Cremated remains of humans and animals may only be mailed using Priority Mail Express. When mailing internationally, Priority Mail Express International service is used. Do not use registered or certified mail to send cremated remains.

• Inner Container. USPS recommends that cremated remains be placed into a primary inner sift-proof container. The inner container must be strong and durable. It shall be properly sealed and sift-proof. With international mailings of cremated remains, the inner container must be an urn. #25159 4

• Outer Container. The outer container must either be the Priority Mail Express Cremated Remains box that is available from USPS or a customer-supplied shipping package. If the funeral home uses its own box, it must be strong, durable, and have Label 139 applied on all six sides of the box.

• Packing the Containers. The inner container must be properly sealed and placed into the outer container. USPS recommends placing the inner container in a sealed plastic bag before placing it in the outer container. It also encourages the attachment of a label directly to the plastic bag with the return address of the sender and the wording “Cremated Remains”. Additionally, shippers are advised to place a slip of paper inside the outer container with the sender’s and recipient’s names and addresses together with their contact information.

• Cushioning Material. The USPS instructs shippers to place sufficient cushioning all around the inner primary container to prevent it shifting inside the outer shipping container during transit and to absorb any shock to prevent breakage. Foam peanuts or air bubble wrap is recommended.

• Addressing the Package. The USPS requires a complete address for the recipient as well as a complete return address for the shipper. The address labels must be typed or written in a clear manner using ink that does not smear. Funeral homes may generate single-ply Priority Mail Express labels through Click-N-Ship or other USPS-approved methods.

• Shipping to International Address. In addition to labelling, the funeral home will also have to fill out a custom’s declaration form and indicate on the form that the package contains cremated remains. To determine the applicable required customs form, see Section 123.61 of the International Mail Manual available online.

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