Japanese passport ranked the most powerful in the world

Cathy Adams

Japanese citizens hold the strongest passport in the world, followed by Singapore and South Korea, as Asian countries continue to dominate the world rankings.

Japan is in first place, with its citizens able to travel visa-free or obtain a visa on arrival in 190 countries, according to the 2019 Henley Passport Index.

Japan is followed by Singapore and South Korea in joint second place, whose citizens can visit 189 destinations without getting a visa before travel. Henley & Partners says that this is the highest position that South Korea has reached on the passport index, which is based on data from the International Air Transport Association (Iata).

The “continued dominance” of Asian countries in the passport index reflects the “extraordinary effect that international mobility and migration has had on the region”, said Henley & Partners, a citizenship advisory firm.

Germany and France are ranked in third place, with access to 188 destinations without a visa; while the US and the UK continue to falter, and now sit at joint sixth place with access to 185 destinations. It marks a significant fall from 2015, when American and British passports were ranked the strongest.

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In fourth place are Denmark, Finland, Italy, and Sweden, while Spain and Luxembourg are joint fifth.

At the bottom of the 2019 ranking is Iraq and Afghanistan, with access to just 30 visa-free destinations each.

China and the United Arab Emirates have also risen steadily over the past few years.

In 2017, Chinese passports were ranked 85th strongest; going into 2019, they’re ranked 69th, with citizens able to access 74 countries and territories without a prior visa.

UAE now has the most powerful passport in the world, according to Passport Index

It’s a similar story to the United Arab Emirates. The country now holds 22nd place (but first in the Middle East), with citizens able to access 164 countries thanks to recently inked agreements with countries including Mexico, Japan and Sierra Leone.

The October 2018 introduction of Turkish e-visas has influenced the 2019 rankings, said the passport index, as citizens of more than 100 countries – Canada, the UK and the US among them – now have to apply for a visa in advance.

But hearteningly, the index said there had been an “overwhelmingly positive” trend towards visa openness and mutual agreements between nations since the index began 14 years ago.

Historical data shows that in 2006, an average citizen could travel to 58 destinations without a visa; by the end of 2018, the number of possible countries was 107.

“The general spread of open-door policies has the potential to contribute billions to the global economy, as well as create significant employment opportunities around the world,” said Dr Christian H Kälin, group chairman of Henley & Partners.

“South Korea and the United Arab Emirates’ recent ascent in the rankings are further examples of what happens when countries take a proactive foreign affairs approach, an attitude which significantly benefits their citizens as well as the international community.”

Most powerful passports

1. Japan

2. Singapore

2. South Korea

3. France

3. Germany

4. Finland

4. Denmark

4. Italy

4. Sweden

5. Luxembourg

5. Spain

Least powerful passports

1. Iraq

1. Afghanistan

2. Syria

2. Somalia

3. Pakistan

4. Yemen

5. Eritrea