Japan becomes the world’s most powerful passport in latest update to Henley Passport Index

Japan has consolidated its spot at the top of the Henley Passport Index, now offering its citizens visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to a record total of 189 destinations, the latest annual update of the ranking has revealed. Following closely behind Japan are Singapore and Germany with 188 destinations accessible without a prior visa, while third place is shared by six countries: one Asian (South Korea) and the rest European (Finland, France, Italy, Spain, and Sweden).


Summary:

  • Japan has consolidated its spot at the top of the Henley Passport Index, now offering its citizens visa-free access to a record total of 189 destinations; followed closely behind by Singapore and Germany in joint 2nd place, with 188 destinations accessible visa-free;
  • Third place is shared by six countries: one Asian (South Korea) and the rest European (Finland, France, Italy, Spain, and Sweden) as a general theme towards more open borders is seen through the annual update to the Henley Passport Index;
  • The UAE, in 23rd place, remains the fastest overall climber on the index, ascending 38 places since 2008. The country has secured more new visa-waivers for its citizens in 2018 than any other jurisdiction in the world;
  • China has significantly strengthened its position on the ranking, climbing from 74th to 68th position since Q1 — although the country’s relatively low score of 70 visa-free destinations means it still sits near the bottom of the North Asian regional ranking.

While Schengen Area countries have traditionally topped the index as a result of their open access to Europe, developed Asian nations have been able to secure equally high scores in recent years thanks to their strong international trade and diplomatic relations. “With close to 40 visa-waiver agreements signed by governments since the start of the year, passport-holders around the world go into the summer season with greater collective access than ever before,” explains the report’s author, Henley & Partners, a global leader in residence and citizenship planning.

Boosting this trend, Russia — which is usually off-limits to nationals of most countries — announced in April that visas would be waived for all travelers holding tickets to the June–July FIFA World Cup. Nonetheless, the country continues to slip down the list as others around it in the ranking sign additional visa agreements.

The Henley Passport Index, which is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), claims to be the most reobust index of its kind, but is among a number of measures now available to reference passport power.

“The index is innovating the way we map and measure travel freedom, making it easier for individuals to understand where exactly they lie on the spectrum of global mobility,” says Dr Christian H Kälin, group chairman of Henley & Partners. This latest update is based on a total of 199 different passports against 227 different travel destinations, including countries, territories, and micro-states.

The biggest movers in the latest update to the ranking comprise Ukraine, up 20 places to 38th; Georgia, up 19 places to 49th; and China, up 17 places to 68th. However, the standout performer in the ranking is the United Arab Emirates (UAE) which holds the position as the fastest overall climber on the index, ascending 38 places since 2008 to 23rd place .

The country has secured more new visa-waivers for its citizens in 2018 than any other jurisdiction in the world, including China, Ireland, Burkina Faso, Uruguay, Guinea, Tonga, Benin and Honduras. The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs said recently that the country is actively strengthening its diplomatic efforts in a bid to have one of the top five passports in the world, as per the country’s Vision 2021.

China has also significantly strengthened its position on the ranking, climbing from 74th to 68th position since Q1 – although the country’s relatively low score of 70 visa-free or visa-on-arrival destinations means that it still cannot compete with North Asia’s high-performers of Japan and South Korea. While Chinese citizens are increasingly being welcomed across the world, the country is gradually breaking down its own entry restrictions. As an example, it has allowed citizens of 59 countries to travel to its popular Hainan province visa-free for a month – an unprecedented move for the traditionally closed-off nation.

At the other end of the spectrum, Iraq and Afghanisatn remain at the foot of the rankings in equal 100th place, each able to access only 30 destinations worldwide. Eritrea, Pakistan, Palestine Territory, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen also have access to less than 40 destinations.

The report notes that so far, 2018 has seen little to no activity in the European and North American visa-policy space, despite American and British foreign policy continuing to dominate headlines. By contrast, dozens of new immigration and border policies have been legislated by countries in Asia and the former Soviet Union in recent months, as well as in Africa and the Caribbean.

“Following the general protourism trend emerging in the Middle East, governments in other regions are seeking to boost visitor inflows as a means of stimulating economic growth, strengthening diplomatic ties, and improving travel prospects for their own citizens,” says the latest update to the ranking.

Here’s the full ranking…