International Travel

These are the most powerful passports in the world

These are the most powerful passports in the world

London-based firm Henley & Partners has released its 2022 Henley Passport Index based on data provided by the International Air Transport Association, which has been regularly monitoring the world’s most travel-friendly passports since 2006.

The IATA says that increasing travel barriers have been introduced during the pandemic, which has resulted in the widest mobility gap in the index’s 16-year history. However, the index doesn’t take temporary restrictions into account, meaning that holders of the world’s most powerful passports – people from Japan and Singapore – can theoretically travel to 192 destinations without requiring a visa. That’s 166 more countries than Afghan nationals, who are at the bottom of the index of 199 passports, and who are able to visit only 26 countries without applying for a visa in advance.

Besides South Korea ranking second alongside Germany, European countries dominate the top of the list, with European countries tying for the third, fourth, and fifth spots, and several sharing the sixth spot with the United States and New Zealand. Australia has risen one spot from 2021, and now ranks seventh alongside Canada and Greece. This means Australians are able to travel to 185 countries without needing to apply for a visa.

The report notes that the emergence of the Omicron variant in late 2021 shone a light on the growing divide in international mobility between wealthier nations and poorer ones, highlighting the tough restrictions introduced against primarily African nations that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described as being akin to "travel apartheid."

Overall, however, mobility has greatly improved. In 2006, an individual could visit an average of 57 countries without requiring a visa; today, that number has risen to 107. These new freedoms are primarily enjoyed by passport holders from Europe, North America, and richer Asian nations, as well as Australia and New Zealand, however. 

Christian H Kaelin, chair of Henley & Partners and creator of the passport index concept, said that opening up migration channels will be crucial for post-pandemic recovery. He said, "Passports and visas are among the most important instruments impacting on social inequality worldwide as they determine opportunities for global mobility. 

“The borders within which we happen to be born, and the documents we are entitled to hold, are no less arbitrary than our skin color. Wealthier states need to encourage positive inward migration in an effort to help redistribute and rebalance human and material resources worldwide."

The full top ten list is below.

  1. Japan, Singapore (192 destinations)
  2. Germany, South Korea (190)
  3. Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain (189)
  4. Austria, Denmark, France, Netherlands, Sweden (188)
  5. Ireland, Portugal (187)
  6. Belgium, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States (186)
  7. Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Greece, Malta (185)
  8. Poland, Hungary (183)
  9. Lithuania, Slovakia (182)
  10. Estonia, Latvia, Slovenia (181)
Image: Douglas Sacha