Passports with more power

LONDON, 4 July 2019: Moving into the third quarter of 2019, Japan and Singapore share the top spot on the Henley Passport Index, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 189.

This latest ranking of passport power and global mobility– marks the culmination of an 18-month long winning streak, after the duo unseated Germany from its long-held top position at the beginning of 2018.

The index, based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), measures the strength of your passport in delivering convenient visa-free or visa-on-arrival travel.

Falling from the top spot it shared with Japan and Singapore last quarter, South Korea now sits in second place along with Finland and Germany, accessing 187 destinations without a prior visa.

Finland’s ascent is due to recent changes to Pakistan’s formerly highly restrictive visa policy.

In the hope of attracting tourists and boosting its struggling economy, Pakistan now offers an ETA (Electronic Travel Authority) to 50 countries, notably excluding the UK or the US.

With a score of 183, the UK and the US now share the sixth spot – the lowest position either country has held since 2010, and a significant drop from their first place ranking in 2014.

Denmark, Italy, and Luxembourg share third place, while France, Spain, and Sweden sit in jointly in fourth place.

In positive shifts elsewhere, the United Arab Emirates has entered the top 20 for the first time in the index’s 14-year history, more than doubling its number of visa-free destinations over the past five years.

Afghanistan remains at the bottom of the global mobility spectrum, with access to just 25 destinations worldwide. 

Out of the 109 countries monitored Thailand sits in the 70th slot with a score of 74 compared with Singapore the leader that has a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 189.

China in 74th place had a score of 70 and it happens to be the largest outbound travel market bar none.  Any improvement in visa-free or visa-on-arrival permissions for this passport would have a major impact on global travel.  

Brexit factor

Throughout most of the index’s history, the UK has held one of the top five places in the ranking. However, with its exit from the EU now imminent, the UK’s once-strong position looks increasingly uncertain.

The Brexit process has not yet had a direct impact on the UK’s ranking, but new research using exclusive historical data from the Henley Passport Index indicates that this could change, with consequences that extend beyond a decline in passport power.

Political science researchers Uğur Altundal and Ömer Zarpli, of Syracuse University and the University of Pittsburgh respectively, have found a link between visa-openness and progressive reform.

They say “the prospect of visa-waiver agreements with the EU has encouraged neighbouring countries to adopt important reforms in areas such as civil and political rights, rule of law, and security,” and they note that freedom of movement appears to be a vital pre-condition not only for economic growth but also for social integration and progressive political change.

With nationalism on the rise and global powerhouses like the UK and the US embracing policies that limit freedom of movement, this new research indicates that associated impacts on political rights, rule of law, security and democracy could be profound.

Henley & Partners chairman Dr Christian Kaelin who created the passport index concept commented: “This latest research appears to confirm something that many of us already knew intuitively: that increased visa-openness benefits the entire global community, and not just the strongest countries.”

Source : TTR Weekly