Updated on April 5, 2024
Article byPrakhar Gajendrakar
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

Repatriation Meaning

Repatriation refers to the process of sending an item, commodity, asset, or individual from a foreign nation to a homeland. The process process applies to anyone returning from a foreign country to their origin. It also includes the conversion of foreign currency into domestic currency.


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Under the repatriation process, an individual residing in a foreign country can go back voluntarily or even be forced out of a nation. The homeland is responsible for the transport of its citizens. This process applies to refugees, deportees, and foreign nationals as well. In the U.S., citizens must pay a repatriation tax – the transition cost of converting money earned overseas into US dollars.

Key Takeaways

  • Repatriation is the procedure through which the government brings an individual residing in a foreign country home. For example, the individual could be living in a foreign nation for business, work, education, medical condition, etc.
  • In addition to individuals, this process extends to business transactions, financial investments, and international trips.
  • The modern international law of repatriation states that every Prisoner of War (POW), refugee, or displaced person is entitled to the basic human right of returning to their homeland.

Repatriation Explained

The term ‘repatriation’ refers to the re-entry of expatriates into their home country. Expatriates are individuals who went overseas for work, business, education, job, or on a travel visa. It includes refugees, deportees, and foreign nationals.

The term also applies to the conversion of foreign currencies into domestic currency. This process is integral to business operations — in financial investments, portfolio management, expansion, monetary transactions, etc. In addition, companies use the conversion rate for the repatriation of profits. For example, in the U.S., citizens pay a transition tax to convert money earned overseas into US dollars.

When a person, or a group from the same country, gets stuck in a foreign country, they can be sent back voluntarily or forcefully. In addition, if a person dies in a foreign country, the repatriation of remains is initiated to bring the body back home.

This process applies to almost everything—commodity, goods, assets, tangible assets, and movable property. For example, if a country returns a piece of art, painting, structure, or jewelry looted from other countries, it is called repatriation art.

The modern international law of repatriation states that every Prisoner of War (POW), refugee, or displaced person is entitled to this basic human right—to return to their home country. Repatriating such individuals is the responsibility of both governments.

Repatriation costs (associated with the process) are generally paid by the person making the journey. In most cases, the process is overseen by the government.

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Let us look at some repatriation examples to understand the process:

Example #1

Mike, an Indian by birth, has been living in the U.S. for quite some time. First, Mahesh entered the country on a student visa. Then, during the COVID-19 pandemic, he got stuck in the U.S.

Fortunately, Mike finds a community of Indian people facing the same issue. Soon the group of Indians reaches the Indian embassy and contacts the officials. In response, the government of India organized a repatriation flight for the group stuck abroad.

Upon arrival, Mike is subject to a standard scan—for viruses and contagious diseases as a precautionary check.

This is the course of action for repatriated individuals. It is a common procedure occurring in various countries. For example, when the Taliban invaded Afghanistan, different countries organized flights to bring the citizens back home. In the 2022 Russia and Ukraine war, the Indian government planned many flights to bring back Indian students. Upon arrival, if repatriates try to convert foreign currency into domestic currency, the process is called ‘repatriation of funds.’

Example #2

In 2022, Bangladesh sought help from the European Union (EU). First, Bangladesh requested the EU to repatriate the Rohingya community back to the Rakhine state. Second, Bangladesh wanted the EU to pressure Myanmar to relocate the community.

Meanwhile, countries like Japan, the UK, Korea, the US, and France were investing heavily in Myanmar.

The Foreign minister of Bangladesh raised the Rohingya repatriation issue, which had been neglected for five years. The minister highlighted the need for the EU to take action, without which the political stability of Bangladesh, Myanmar, and other nearby regions will be under threat.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is repatriation insurance?

When a person living in a foreign country for the purpose of work, business, education, or other reasons dies due to an injury, accident, or illness, the repatriation insurance covers the cost of transport—back to the homeland. It is a part of the travel policies. The insurance also covers other damages like loss of luggage, canceled flights, and trip protection.

2. What is a repatriation flight?

These flights are different from regular carriers. It is a special transport scheduled by a government to bring its citizens (who were stuck in a foreign country) back home. Most seats on such flights are economy class. It can cost as much as $2000 per ticket. Often such transport is undertaken in a distress situation; if there are multiple shuttles, older individuals are prioritized.

3. What is medical repatriation?

It refers to a scenario where a patient is brought back to their homeland. The patient might have been transported to obtain treatment. However, the patient might suffer from a serious medical condition during the return journey. Often, patients are transferred to another country to avail better medical facilities. But due to unforeseen circumstances, the patient gets stuck overseas. Therefore, the government takes the responsibility to bring its citizens back home.

4. Does repatriation benefit a country?

International business enhances the flow of cash across markets. For example, if a U.S.-based company sells tools in the United Kingdom, the trade will involve the conversion of pounds into dollars for repatriation. Companies repatriate profits using the conversion rate. In the US, citizens pay a transition tax to convert money earned overseas into US dollars. This is extra revenue for the US government.

This article has been a guide to Repatriation and its meaning. Here, we explain the repatriation of funds, profits, insurance, and examples. You can learn more about it from the following articles –

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