Japan has been knocked off the top spot for the world’s most powerful passport for the first time in five years.
Singapore has taken first place on the latest Henley Passport Index 2023 rankings.
Singaporeans enjoy visa-free access to 192 travel destinations out of 227 worldwide.
With Japan falling to third place, three European countries tie in second place: Germany, Italy and Spain with visa-free access to 190 destinations.
How does the Henley Passport Index rank passports?
The Henley Passport Index ranks the world’s most powerful passports and is updated quarterly.
It is based on the number of destinations passport holders can access without a visa.
Global citizenship and residence advisory firm Henley & Partners uses data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to rank the world’s 199 passports. The index has been running for 18 years.
Countries score one point for every destination they can visit visa-free. This applies if citizens can obtain a visa on arrival, a visitor’s permit or an electronic travel authority (ETA) when entering the destination.
No points are awarded for destinations where a visa is required or the passport holder has to obtain a government approved e-visa before departure.
Which countries have the most powerful passports?
At the start of 2023, Japan held the top spot with visa-free access to 193 countries.
That has now dropped to 189 countries, leaving Singapore in first place. The country has gained visa-free access to an additional 25 over the past 10 years, pushing it five places up the ranking.
The top 10 is rounded out by:
2. Germany, Italy and Spain
3. Japan, Austria, Finland, France, Luxembourg, South Korea and Sweden
4. Denmark, Ireland and the Netherlands and the UK
5. Belgium, Czechia, Malta, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal and Switzerland
6. Australia, Hungary and Poland
7. Canada and Greece
8. Lithuania and the USA
9. Latvia, Slovakia and Slovenia
10. Estonia and Iceland
The UK has risen the ranks from sixth to fourth place for the first time since 2017.
The USA, meanwhile, has continued its 10-year decline, falling a further two spots to eighth place. The country has seen the smallest increase in its score of any in the rankings over the past decade.
In 2014, the UK and USA jointly held first place.
Which countries have the least powerful passports?
Afghanistan remains the weakest passport in the world, with visa-free access to just 27 destinations — 165 fewer than Singapore.
It is followed by Iraq (29 destinations) and Syria (30 destinations).
The bottom of the ranking is filled out with Pakistan (33 destinations), Yemen and Somalia (35 destinations), Palestine and Nepal (38 destinations), North Korea (39 destinations), Bangladesh (40 destinations), Libya and Sri Lanka (41 destinations), and Kosovo (42 destinations).
Travel freedom is rising, but so is inequality
Over the years, the Passport Index shows that travel freedom is generally getting stronger.
The average number of countries travellers are able to access visa-free nearly doubled from 58 in 2006 to 109 in 2023.
Only eight countries worldwide have less visa-free access today than they did a decade ago.
Since 2013, the UAE has gained visa-free access to an additional 107 destinations, boosting it from 56th to 12th place in the rankings.
Colombia is the next biggest climber, jumping from 65th to 37th place.
Ukraine and China are both among the 10 most improved rankings over the past 10 years.
However, the gap between the most and least powerful passports is widening.
Which countries have the most welcoming visa policies?
A new ranking, the Henley Openness Index, reveals which countries have the most — and least — welcoming visa policies.
Small island nations, African states and Cambodia fill the top 20.
Twelve countries offer visa-free or visa-on-arrival entry to all 198 other passports in the world. These include Burundi, the Comoro Islands, Djibouti, Guinea-Bissau, the Maldives, Micronesia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Samoa, the Seychelles, Timor-Leste and Tuvalu.
The four countries at the bottom of the list do not permit visa-free access for any passport. These include Afghanistan, North Korea, Papua New Guinea and Turkmenistan.
They are followed by Libya, Bhutan, Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea and India, which each provide visa-free access to fewer than five other nationalities.
Does openness equate to access?
The two indexes show that high openness does not necessarily equate to high visa-free access to countries. However, Singapore and South Korea — both relatively open — have climbed the Passport Index, while the USA and Canada have slid down the Index as their openness stagnates.
American passport holders can access 184 out of 227 destinations visa-free, whereas only 44 other nationalities are granted visa-free access to the US. EU states grant visa-free privileges to more than twice the number of states than the US.
Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Japan complete the top five countries with the biggest disparity between the travel freedom they enjoy and the visa-free access they grant to other countries.
The countries that are most open but hold the least powerful passports include Somalia, Sri Lanka, Djibouti, Burundi and Nepal.