If you’re a passport holder in these countries, you can travel freer than anyone else.

Earlier this year, Henley & Partners named the most powerful passports in the world for the beginning of 2020.

Since then, much has changed given the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic which rendered the world’s mobility systems virtually paralysed.

With this, they published an April 2020 update to discuss how these changes affected the rankings as well as the state of global travel on the whole.

The most powerful passports

Source: Henley & Partners

Asian countries have retained their positions at the top of the Most Powerful Passports list.

Still on the lead is Japan with a visa-free score of 191. This means that Japan can access 191 destinations visa-free.

Following Japan is Singapore with a score of 190. The tie between Singapore and Germany for the third spot remains unbroken, with each country scoring 189.

In the fourth spot, there is a four-way tie among Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, and Spain — all obtaining a score of 188. At the beginning of the year, Spain and Luxembourg were only in fifth place.

Denmark retains the fifth spot, with a score of 187. It shares the position with Austria, a newcomer in the top five. Previously, Austria was only in seventh place.

The rest of the top ten is shown above, it can be seen that there are multiple ties occurring for each rank.

While Asia dominated the highest three positions, it is Europe which has the greatest number of countries obtaining the top ten scores with 20 countries making it in. This is not surprising since Europe’s Schengen Area already provides a high level of access to other neighbouring countries without border checks to begin with.

The non-Asian or non-European countries which made it to the top ten are the United States (7th), New Zealand (8th), Australia (9th), and Canada (9th)

According to Henley & Partners, an average citizen could access 58 destinations without a visa back in 2006. However, this number doubled to 107 as of 2020, indicative of sustained growth for travel freedom.

Beneath the surface

Three months since the publication of the original leaderboard, nothing much has changed with respect to the passport rankings. However, the imposed travel restrictions and border closures impede the ability to travel even in the most visa-free countries.

“In a global health emergency, relative passport strength becomes temporarily meaningless. Travel freedom is contingent on factors that occasionally can be utterly beyond our control,” according to Henley & Partners Chairman Dr. Christian H. Kaelin.

“As public health concerns rightfully take precedence, even within the otherwise borderless EU, this is an opportunity to reflect on what freedom of movement and citizenship essentially mean for those of us who have perhaps taken them for granted in the past,” Kaelin added.

When passports were first standardised during the 1920 League of Nations Conference on Passports and Frontier Formalities, among the chief reasons specified for doing so is to regulate the spread of epidemics.

Now that we are faced with a global disease outbreak, tightened — and possibly long-term —restrictions on travel may be imposed once this pandemic ends.

The index

The rankings of these countries are based on their Henley Passport Index (HPI) scores.

Right now, 199 different passports are included in the Index. The data needed for the computation of the Index are obtained from the International Air Transport Authority (IATA) supplemented with open-source data.

To obtain the score, each passport is checked for their “visa-free” status for all the 227 unique travel destinations considered by Henley & Partners. A country is defined to be “visa-free” for a destination if they satisfy any of the following conditions:

  • a holder can enter a territory without a visa requirement
  • a holder upon arrival, can obtain a visa, a visitor’s permit, or an electronic travel authority (ETA)

If a country satisfies the “visa-free” condition, it gains one point for that particular destination. Otherwise, it gets a zero. Getting the total for all destinations yields the final HPI score.

To see the full rankings, you can check out below:

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