Remarks by Ambassador Jennifer Zimdahl Galt at the Responsible Travel Outreach Campaign Launch Event

AMBASSADOR GALT: Good afternoon.  Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs Munkh-Orgil and I thank you for taking time from your busy schedules to join us at Chinggis Khaan International Airport.

Although it is far from our offices, I believe this is the ideal setting in which to introduce an important new bilateral initiative between our two governments.

As United States Ambassador to Mongolia, I have confronted dozens of complex bilateral and multilateral issues.

One that consistently resonates is the desire of the Mongolian people to enjoy easier travel to the United States and other “third neighbors.”

The United States is proud to welcome to our shores every day thousands of foreign students, tourists and business people; we are pleased that Mongolians are among these travelers.

But the United States, like every other country, including Mongolia, has a fundamental duty to protect its borders; we therefore encourage legitimate travel that is in accordance with U.S. laws and regulations.

Mongolians should take pride in knowing that your government has been working to facilitate legitimate travel to the United States.

Achieving easier travel to the United States will require a concerted effort; hence our conversation with you here today.

Speaking frankly, the fact remains that too many Mongolians do not engage in lawful, legitimate travel to the United States; too many Mongolians overstay their visas or programs of study, misrepresent their purpose of travel, and engage in unauthorized employment while visiting the United States.

The United States Department of Homeland Security reported that, in 2016, almost 8 percent of Mongolian tourist and business travelers remained in the United States beyond their authorized period of stay, while 20 percent of Mongolian students remained in the United States beyond their program end dates.

Evidence indicates that about a third of Mongolians visiting the United States engage in activities not allowed under their visa categories – typically unauthorized employment.

Consequently, Mongolians are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain visas to travel to the United States.

The consular and public diplomacy teams at my Embassy, and their counterparts at your Ministry of Foreign Affairs, care about this issue and are doing something about it.

Our aim is to get Mongolians to think selflessly when traveling abroad.

Each individual action can have collective consequences.

When a Mongolian overstays a visa, misrepresents his or her purpose of travel, or engages in unauthorized employment, such actions damage the reputation and credibility of all Mongolians and make travel more difficult.

We hope to encourage all Mongolian travelers to consider these consequences before violating U.S. visa laws or travel policies.

When the vast majority of Mongolians abide by our laws and policies, it will be easier for Mongolians to travel to the United States.

This afternoon, we will debut a series of public service announcements that we hope will encourage Mongolians to travel responsibly.

These videos showcase three “ordinary” Mongolians who went to the United States to study, completed their academic degrees, and responsibly returned to Mongolia.

Our exemplar responsible travelers now contribute meaningfully to Mongolian society.

I now wish to appeal to our friends from the media.

We need your help not only to distribute, but also to amplify this responsible travel message.

We ask you to show these videos, and others like them, throughout Mongolia and to Mongolians living abroad.

As you circulate the videos, we will use our Embassy Facebook and Twitter pages to encourage those who travel responsibly to share their experiences with us and with others.

But this is just the beginning.  Over the next several months, my Embassy and your Ministry of Foreign Affairs will produce additional videos to promote responsible travel.

We ask you to show these videos as well – again as a public service, paid for with the currency of patriotism and love for your country.

In my two years here, my Embassy team and I have helped deepen the U.S.-Mongolia relationship across a diverse range of issues.

Our bilateral partnership is arguably the strongest it has been in the 30 years since our two countries established diplomatic ties.

Through this responsible travel campaign, we now aim to improve our consular ties – our people-to-people ties – by changing perspectives and mindsets.

Each Mongolian is an ambassador of Mongolia when traveling abroad.

Responsible travel is not just about obeying U.S. and other foreign laws; it is also about cultivating trust in the Mongolian people as international visitors.

Mongolia has a long way to go to achieve freer travel to the United States.

With your support, this responsible travel campaign can help us get there.

Please help us start the journey now.

Thank you.  I’ll now turn the floor over to the Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs to say a few words.