As we enter 2020, Asian countries have further established their lead on the Henley Passport Index that rank the national passports with the number of countries that they are allowed in visa-free or visa-on-arrival. For the third consecutive year, Japan has secured the top spot on the most powerful passports list – which is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) – with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 191. Singapore is 2nd with a score of 190, while South Korea drops down a rank to 3rd place alongside Germany, with visa-free/visa-on-arrival access to 189 destinations worldwide.
The US and the UK remain in the top 10 while their shared 8th-place position is a significant decline from the number one spot they jointly held in 2015. Finland and Italy share 4th place, with a score of 188, while Denmark, Luxembourg, and Spain together hold 5th place, with a score of 187. Here are the top 20 countries with the most powerful passports ranked by Henley:
As the fastest climber, UAE has risen a remarkable 47 places over the past 10 years and now sits in 18th place. Afghanistan remains at the bottom of the index, with its nationals only able to visit a mere 26 destinations visa-free.
Middle Eastern countries have made strong gains as part of overall efforts to boost trade and tourism. The UAE and Saudi Arabia each climbed four places, while Oman climbed three. Saudi Arabia is now in 66th place, with citizens able to access 77 destinations around the world without a prior visa, while Oman sits in 64th place, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 79.
Mobility brings power!
Asian countries’ dominance of the top spots is a clear argument for the benefits of open-door policies and the introduction of mutually beneficial trade agreements, commented Dr. Christian H. Kaelin, Chairman of Henley & Partners; “Over the past few years, we have seen the world adapt to mobility as a permanent condition of global life. The latest rankings show that the countries that embrace this reality are thriving, with their citizens enjoying ever-increasing passport power and the array of benefits that come with it” he said.
Using exclusive historical data from the Henley Passport Index, political science researchers Uğur Altundal and Ömer Zarpli, of Syracuse University and the University of Pittsburgh respectively, have found that there is a strongly positive correlation between travel freedom and other kinds of liberties – from the economic to the political, and even individual or human freedoms. Altundal and Zarpli observe that “there’s a distinct correlation between visa freedom and investment freedom, for instance. Similar to trade freedom, countries that rank highly in investment freedom generally have stronger passports. European states such as Austria, Malta, and Switzerland clearly show that countries with a business-friendly environment tend to score highly when it comes to passport power. Likewise, by using the Human Freedom Index, we found a strong correlation between personal freedom and travel freedom.”