2023’s Most (And Least) Powerful Passports

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A recent news article published in the Forbes speaks about The World’s Most (And Least) Powerful Passports In 2023.

Covid-19 pandemic to Russia’s war on Ukraine

The last few years have seen global turmoil, from the Covid-19 pandemic to Russia’s war on Ukraine, and with it a reshaping of the status of many countries around the world. This inevitably has had a significant effect on the weight our passports carry, and where and how we can travel.

As we begin 2023, the latest results from the Henley Passport Index give us a unique insight into the world and the impact of the ongoing upheaval, as well as a look at what lies ahead. Based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) (the world’s largest database of travel information) and backed up by significant in-house research, it ranks all 199 global passports according to the number of destinations holders can visit without needing a visa in advance.

Despite the turmoil, one country has maintained its stability and position – Japan’s passport taking the top spot for the fifth year running. Japanese citizens can now visit 193 destinations from 227 without needing a visa. We stay in Asia for the tied second-ranked countries, South Korea and Singapore, each with a score of 192. In Europe, Germany and Spain share third place with visa-free access to 190 countries. The UK takes sixth place with 187 and the US seventh with 186 – both still significantly down and showing no movement towards retaking the top spot they shared almost a decade ago.

The study by Henley & Partners

The study by Henley & Partners shows a strong link between economic power and passport strength. Just 6% of passports worldwide give their holders visa-free access to more than 70% of the global economy, and only 17% of countries give their passport holders visa-free access to more than four-fifths of the world’s 227 destinations. The number one ranked Japanese passport gives visa-free access to 85% of the world and, collectively, these countries account for 98% of the global economy (with Japan’s own GDP contribution around 5%).

At the other end of the Index, Afghanistan remains at the bottom with a score of just 27, meaning its residents have visa-free access to 166 fewer countries than Japan’s – the widest global mobility gap in the Index’s 18 years documenting passport power. This gives the Afghanistan passport visa-free access to just 12% of the world and less than 1% of global economic output.

A better measure of economic mobility and fiscal opportunity

“For global citizens, a better measure of economic mobility and fiscal opportunity afforded by their passports is to look at the percentage share of global GDP accessible to them visa-free,” says Dr. Christian H. Kaelin, Chairman of Henley & Partners. “Our latest research into how much global economic access each passport provides is a useful tool for investors and gives new insight into the ever-widening inequality and wealth disparity that defines our world.”

Interestingly, the Ukraine war has yet to have a significant impact on the Index scores of Ukraine and Russia, with both keeping a similar ranking since the invasion almost a year ago – on paper at least. In 2023, Ukraine is ranked 36th with a score of 144 while Russia sits 13 places lower at 49th with a score of 118. In reality of course, airspace closures and sanctions have essentially rendered Russia’s citizens unable to travel at all through much of the developed world, with the exception of the UAE and Turkey.

Conversely, Ukraine’s citizens have been granted emergency rights to live and work in the EU for up to three years, boosting its already meteoric rise up the Index, climbing more than 24 places over the last decade. Should Ukraine join the EU, as seems more likely with its recent application being approved in record time, it will likely climb into the global top ten of most powerful passports.

Asia and Europe still dominate the top of the Index

While Asia and Europe still dominate the top of the Index, Henley points to the growing passport strength of Gulf states as a key trend in the coming year. The UAE has climbed an amazing 49 places in the last decade to 15th place with a score of 178 and access to nearly 70% of global GDP. With the expectation that Kuwait and recent World Cup hosts Qatar will sign a visa-free deal with the EU this year, expect to see them both enjoy dramatically improved passport scores in the near future too.

Here’s the top ten ranking for the world’s most powerful passports in 2020, or take a look at the full ranking.

1. Japan: 193

2. Singapore: 192

2. South Korea: 192

3. Germany: 190

3. Spain: 190

4. Finland: 189

4. Italy: 189

4. Luxembourg: 189

5. Austria: 188

5. Denmark: 188

5. Netherlands: 188

5. Sweden: 188

6. France: 187

6. Ireland: 187

6. Portugal: 187

6. United Kingdom: 187

7. Belgium: 186

7. Belgium: 186

7. Czech Republic: 186

7. New Zealand: 186

7. Norway: 186

7. Switzerland: 186

7. United States: 186

8. Australia: 185

8. Canada: 185

8. Greece: 185

8. Malta: 185

9. Hungary: 184

9. Poland: 184

10. Lithuania: 183

10. Slovakia: 183


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Source: Forbes