The process of getting official approval to export biological or organic samples from Mongolia can seem long and overly complicated to foreigners. In past years, a number of foreign scholars and researchers have run into great trouble in attempting to export their research samples from the country, trouble which often stemmed from the lack of clear instructions emanating from the Mongolian government on the steps they needed to follow.
Based on interviews with Mongolian officials in charge of the process of inspecting and approving the export of biological samples to foreign countries, we have prepared a list of these steps foreign researchers will need to follow. The ACMS would like to extend its special appreciation to Mongolian biologist and ACMS member Dr. N. Soninkhishig for her help in preparing this list.
The Mongolian government assumes that all biological field research will be carried out jointly with, or at least with the official backing of, a Mongolian counterpart organization that is certified to undertake this kind of research, including Mongolian university departments or certified NGOs. It will also be assumed that this cooperation will be set down onto an official contract with all of the necessary signatures and stamps. The government likewise assumes that the Mongolian counterpart will aid the foreign researcher in undertaking the steps listed below. The foreign researcher should not assume that any of the officials and scientists they will interact with will speak English.
The following steps will be needed to receive final permission to export biological and organic specimens:
- An official letter, in the Mongolian language, must be prepared and addressed to the Mongolian government’s Mergejliin khyanaltyn gazar (Department of Professional Supervision). This letter must describe the purpose or aim of the research undertaken, a list and brief description of the samples obtained, including their sizes and weights, and the way in which they will be exported (typically either by air or rail). In addition, the letter must include a description of the type of analysis to be undertaken in the researcher’s home country, when it will be done, and when and how the results from this analysis will likely be released.This letter must be given personally to the Mergejliin khyanaltyn gazar (Department of Professional Supervision), which is located in the government building located in Barilgachdiin talbai (Construction Worker’s Square), Chingeltei duureg, 211238 Ulaanbaatar 13; phone: 327266, fax: 3250048, e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org. Accompanying the letter must be the following:
- the original copy of the contract established between the foreign researcher and their Mongolian counterpart;
- a photocopy of the counterpart’s official certificate of approval from the Mongolian government; and
- a receipt documenting the payment of ₮5,000 to the official account number 900032002 at any commercial Mongolian bank.
- If the samples in question consist of insects, plants or soil, the researchers need a certificate from the Ulsyn khorio tseeriin laboratori (State Prohibited Items Laboratory), located on the south side of town, near the Tsagaan khaalga (White Gate), just north of the ‘Avraga’ Bükhiin deed surguuli (‘Avarga’ Wrestling College); phone: 341-197; mobile: 9983-9972.
Representative samples must be brought to this location for analysis by the scientists working there. They will check to see that the specimens are not weeds nor carry any plant diseases or insects. This analysis typically will be completed within a single day and will cost up to ₮10,000. But the time and cost will increase if additional testing is required. Also, for very large operations, scientists could be brought directly to the site where the samples are located, which will also increase the costs.
If the samples in question consist of animals or human remains, the researchers need a certificate from the Ulsyn mal emneleg, ariun tsevriin laboratori (State Veterinary and Sanitation Laboratory), located Khan-Uul district, 11th khoroo, Zaisan; phone: 341651.
The researcher then needs to secure the Garal üüseliin gerchilgee (Certificate of Origination) from the Ulsyn khudaldaa aj üildweriin tankhim (Mongolian National Chamber of Commerce and Industry), located in the Mergejliin Khyanaltiin Gazar (Department of Professional Supervision, see above); phone: 328878, fax 324620, e-mail: email@example.com. They are open to receive materials from 9.30 am to 12.30 pm, Monday-Friday. Certificates will then to given in the afternoons, 2.30 to 5.30 pm. To receive this certificate, the researcher must show three documents: the contract, packing list, and invoice. This certificate will cost ₮11,000.
- Finally, the researcher must secure a Gaalyn bürdüülelt (Customs Certificate) from the Ulsyn Gaalyn Yerunkhii Gazar (State General Customs Department), located 11th district “Unuudur” newspaper building (behind the Dashchoilong monastery), phone: 350049 Customs officials will require a document from the foreign researcher listing the samples to be exported, their number, size and weight; how they are packed; and where and how they are to be exported. They will also check the validity of the official documents listed above. And they may also require to see representative samples.
If these procedures are followed and there are no hindrances, the entire inspection process could well be completed within 2-3 days at a total cost of ₮26,000-₮30,000. But researchers are warned to be prepared for obstacles, such as scientists or officials not working in their offices or answering their phones during the day, or for these people demanding additional testing or other forms of documentation.
The ACMS has found that the procedures listed above are not made available to foreign researchers or their Mongolian counterparts in written form. They appear instead to be passed on orally from one person to another. It is generally expected that Mongolians will call and speak directly with the people in charge in order to understand what needs to be done, a situation that could well lead to some subjective interpretations of procedures, if not outright abuse of the process.
It is in the best interest of the foreign researcher hoping to export specimens to leave as much time for this inspection process as possible and to be patient. Rushing the process may be an option only if they are willing to pay bribes or other forms of inducements to those involved. But on the other hand, if the researcher shows a willingness to work within the system, the system will usually work.
Lastly, the ACMS invites all who undertake this process to write to us and share their experiences, whether they are good or bad. We would especially like to know of any steps required that are not listed here. Such feedback will help us to expand and develop this section for the benefit of all scholars and researchers.