The Mongolian government has cancelled the visa on arrival program that was extended to 42 countries in mid-2014. This means there will be no such facility during 2016 and all travelers from these nations now need to apply for a visa in advance from the Mongolian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The visa-free access for the 42 nations concerned was granted from June 2014 until 31st December 2015, but the decision not to extend it and revert back to a strict pre-visit visa-issuance program has taken many diplomats, businesspeople, tourists and travelers by surprise; especially as the decision impacts most significantly upon EU nationals, who are amongst the largest investors in and travelers to the country. The process to attain a pre-visit visa takes a minimum of three days and must be accompanied by various documentation concerning the visit.
The news, which has not been widely publicized by the Mongolian government, affects citizens of the following nations:
The move is certain to seriously damage Mongolia’s tourism industry and foreign investment into an economy that is already under severe pressure following the collapse of coal and iron ore sales to China, which is suffering from over capacity problems. It is unclear what prompted the withdrawal of the visa-free program, which has predominantly hit European nations and all of those within the EU with the exception of Germany.
Reports have reached us of business and tourist travelers being turned away at Airport Check In desks and being forbidden from boarding aircraft to Ulaan Baatar or to board trains along the Trans-Siberian Express passing through the country. A MIAT official we spoke to at Hong Kong International Airport described the situation as “a disaster”, explaining that he was having to refuse boarding for multiple passengers on every flight.
All travelers to Mongolia are advised to contact their relevant Mongolian Embassy directly for details and new visa requirements and protocols at least a month ahead of planned travel to the country.
It should be noted that many Mongolian government, embassy and immigration and tour operator websites have not yet been updated with this new information and continue to imply that visa-free access is permitted.
Moody’s Investor Services have also just released a report stating that the outlook for Mongolia “remains negative on a challenging operating environment“, while the handling of the recent visa-on-arrival for Europeans certainly raises cause for concern. The EU is Mongolia’s third largest trading partner, and one of Mongolia’s largest investors. A return to Soviet style administration procedures is not helpful to the national development in a world dominated by global trade flows and mutually beneficial investment. Allowing visa on arrival to lapse and reinstating an administratively awkward visa protocol sends Mongolia, its economy, and its case for national development and prosperity backwards, not forwards, and allows serious doubts to creep in over the ultimate aims of local politicians promoting an ultra-nationalistic agenda under the auspices of the Democratic Party.