What are the best passports for 2023?

Published 2023-09-10 09:49:01
Visa application - Image by Freepik

The Henley Passport Index revealed its passport ranking earlier in July. There were some surprises at the top with some unexpected drops in the rankings of some countries as they vied for the top spots. These rankings have far-reaching consequences when it comes to global investments and business opportunities.

The freedom to travel the world without visa hassles and delays is a prerequisite to having a powerful passport. Now is usually the time of the year when countries are ranked in terms of how powerful their passports are depending on the number of destinations the passport holder has access to without a prior visa.

The Top Ten Rankings

Previous number one Japan was dethroned by Singapore and land in second place. Japan occupied the exulted number one position for five years before being toppled. Japan slipped to position number two but also has to share the spotlight with the six other nations of Finland, Sweden, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and South Korea. 

Singapore now has access to 193 visa-free destinations whilst the number two position has access to 190 countries. Singapore jumped up in the rankings steadily by gaining 25 new visa-free destinations over the past ten years. The third position belongs to countries that have visa-free access to 189 countries. Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands and the UK fall within this category. In fourth place with visa-free access to 188 countries are Belgium, Malta, Norway and Portugal. New Zealand holds number 5 with access to 187 countries, whilst Australia is in sixth position with easy access to 186 countries.

Previous tourism heavyweight, the United States are at position seven along with Lithuania. The US has been slipping in the rankings at a steady pace over recent years by securing fewer visa-free travel destinations compared to countries like Singapore and the UAE.

The US and UK occupied the number one position in the 2014 rankings but have both slipped in the consecutive years. Following a steady decline over the ensuing years, the UK slowly inched up to its current ranking of number three with visa-free access to 189 destinations. The US has dropped to number seven in the rankings with access to 185 countries without a prior visa, having only secured an additional 12 visa-free destinations for its passport holders.

Countries that feature at the bottom of the list are Yemen, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Global Trend

Over the 18 years that these statistics were collected and interpreted by Henley & Partners, the trend has been in the direction of increased travel freedom.
Global visa-free accessibility has almost doubled since 2006.

Even though there is a massive disparity between the top-ranked passports and the lower-ranked ones, there are a very small number of countries that have fewer visa-free access to destinations than ten years ago.

The biggest upsurge in rankings over the last few years can be seen in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It added 107 destinations since 2013 which resulted in a leap of 44 places over the past decade. The UAE now sits at a comfortable number 13 on the Henley Passport Index. Columbia was the next best “pole-vaulter” which added 28 destinations to its proverbial “visa-free belt”. It is now ranked number 41 with 133 visa-free destinations available for its passport holders. Other surprising performers were China and Ukraine who showed up as most improved in rankings over the last ten years.

Although Asian countries held strong at the top over the recent years, Europe seems to be bouncing back and regaining some ground. Germany, Italy and Spain improved their rankings in the latest poll.

Experts believe the steady decline of the US will assist in the downfall of the US “soft power” where businesses face hurdles with visa applications or face challenges when applying for visas to holiday travel destinations.

Greg Lindsay, from Cornell Tech’s Jacobs Institute, made a comment on the lack of progress made by the United States in the Henley & Partners release:

“The story is a simple one — by more or less standing still, the US has fallen behind. America’s relentless slide down the rankings is a warning to its neighbour Canada and the rest of the Anglosphere as well.”

What is the Henley Passport Index?

Henley and Partners is an international citizenship and residence advisory firm that is London-based. The Henley Passport Index is an authority in passport rankings which is dependent on the total number of countries that passport holder has visa-free access to. The Index has a wealth of information and statistics that span over 18 years and experts that are able to process and interpret that information.

The statistics are compiled and collated by a dedicated research team at the company Henley & Partners using information from the International Air Transport Association (IATA). IATA generates global data resulting in the largest and most detailed database of travel information. Experts assess approximately 199 different passports and 227 various destinations.

The index is updated every quarter so information is very relevant in real time which is important in a world that changes rapidly, especially politically which affects visa policy changes. 

Countries are allocated one point for every destination they can travel to visa-free. “Visa-free” is defined as destinations that grant visas on arrival, and issue a visitor permit or an electronic travel authority (ETA) upon entry. Destinations that require a visa application or where the passport holder needs to apply for a government-issued e-visa are given no points.  

According to the Henley Passport Index Report, a passport represents more than just a travel document. It also gives the passport holder considerable financial freedom especially in terms of investment and economic opportunities internationally.

Global connectivity and access have become indispensable features of wealth creation and preservation, and its value will only grow as geopolitical volatility and regional instability increase,” the report said.

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Author: KashGo
Expat Mum in the Desert and content writer for EasyExpat.com

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