Passport: ‘Extraordinary shift’ in power as most powerful passports unveiled

Passports enable holidaymakers to travel far and wide but not all passports are the same. Passports from different countries have differing levels of power. This is thanks to the number of other nations they can enter.

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The Henley Passport Index is the original ranking of all the world’s passports according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa.

The latest index has revealed which are the most powerful passport right now – and coronavirus has undeniably impacted the ranking.

Many countries with “premium” passports have lost their “shine” in a post-pandemic world, the index cautioned.

Last week the EU released a list of countries whose residents would be allowed entry into the bloc from July 1 based on coronavirus-related health and safety criteria.

A number of countries which normally score highly on the passport index featured on the list.

This included Australia, Canada, Japan and South Korea.

However, there were some counties which were notably missing from the list.

The US was excluded, as were Brazil and Russia.

This, in turn, has impacted the countries’ passport strength – “one of many extraordinary shifts in passport power caused by the temporary pandemic-related bans,” said the index.

Before coronavirus, the US passport usually ranked in sixth or seventh place among the top 10 most powerful passports.

Americans were previously able to access 185 destinations around the world without requiring a visa in advance.

However, under the current EU ban, US nationals now have roughly the same level of travel freedom as citizens of Uruguay which ranks twenty-eighth on the index, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 153.

“In another striking inversion,” added the index, “the US’s dramatic decline in passport power means that Americans find themselves with a similar level of travel freedom usually available to citizens of Mexico (25th on the index, with a score of 159), current travel bans notwithstanding, albeit temporarily.”

Without taking the various travel bans and restrictions into account, Japan continues to hold the number one spot on the Henley Passport Index with a score of 191.

Singapore remains in second place with a score of 190, while Germany and South Korea are in joint-third place, each with a score of 189.

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So where did the UK passport rank?

The British passport came in seventh place, joint with Belgium, Norway, Switzerland and the US, with a visa-free travel score of 185.

As for other countries in the top 10 most powerful passport (again, without taking the various travel bans and restrictions into account) Finland, Italy, Luxembourg and Spain came in joint fourth place with a score of 188.

In fifth place were Austria and Denmark with a score of 187.

In sixth place, with a score of 186, were jointly France, Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal and Sweden.

Czech Republic, Greece, Malta and New Zealand came in eighth place with a 184 score.

In ninth were Australia and Canada with 183 and in tenth, Hungary with 182.

“As we have already seen, the pandemic’s impact on travel freedom has been more drastic and long-lasting than initially anticipated,” said Dr Christian H. Kaelin, Chairman of investment migration firm Henley & Partners and the inventor of the passport index concept.

As “premium passports lose their shine in a post-COVID world,” experts suggest that the crisis is likely to make international mobility more restricted and unpredictable in the longer term.

“Even as countries open their borders, it is expected that numerous governments will use epidemiological concerns as a justification for imposing new immigration restrictions and nationality-targeted travel bans that will mainly be aimed at citizens of developing countries,” said Professor Dr Yossi Harpaz, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Tel Aviv University.

Noting the recent decision by the EU with respect to the US and other countries, Harpaz commented: “The passports of both developing and developed nations stand to decrease in value, at least temporarily.

“In such uncertain times, global demand for dual citizenship and investor visas is expected to increase.”

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