Japan now has the most powerful passport in the world, based on the latest assessment by Henley & Partners, a global citizenship and residence advisory firm. Those in possession of a Japanese passport can now enjoy the ability to travel to 189 countries without applying for a visa.
Last year, Japan came in joint fifth place, alongside Ireland and New Zealand, with visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 172 countries. However, since the index allows multiple countries to hold the same rank, Japan actually had to jump 15 countries to claim the number one spot as its own. No other passport in the world grants this level of access. With visaless access to 188 countries each, Singapore & Germany came in joint place for the second most-powerful passports.
In 2017, the US passport granted such access to 174 countries and came in joint-third, alongside Denmark, Finland, Italy, and Spain. This year, despite now granting visa-free access to 184 countries, the US has slipped to fourth place, alongside countries such as the UK, Austria, and Luxembourg.
Henley & Partners work with the International Air Transport Association to calculate the passport index every year. Using information from the world’s largest travel database, passports from 199 different countries are compared to 227 destinations. The rankings are then based on how many of these destinations a passport can get someone to, either without a visa or by obtaining a visa upon landing. The vast majority of these destinations are countries, but also include territories, such as the Falkland Islands, and microstates, such as Vatican City.
With access to just 30 countries each, holders of the Iraqi or Afghanistani passport holders will have the most trouble getting around, followed closely by citizens of Syria & Somalia, who can freely travel to 32 countries each. The most-improved passport of recent years is that of the United Arab Emirates, which has climbed 38 spots in the last ten years to reach number 23.
Visa -free travel exists to facilitate travel between two countries that are allies, and would typically have a high success rate for visa applications. The easier it is to travel, the greater the economic boost from tourism will be. Visa-free travel is usually a reciprocal matter between the countries, and may require some additional gestures, such as the sharing of national security information. This means that how well your country ranks is essentially a reflection of how trusted it is on the global stage.
A rival assessment, the Arton Passport Index, recently ranked Singapore’s passport as the most powerful, with Japan coming in joint-third place with Germany.