The UAE passport has seen the biggest rise on the list of the world’s most powerful passports for 2020 as revealed by the latest Henley Passport Index, which periodically ranks passports on the the level of travel access that they offer.
The UAE passport has soared 47 places over the past decade to sit in 18th position, up four spots from 22 last year, and currently offers visa-free access to 171 destinations worldwide.
The index, which is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), comes at a point when global travel is almost at a standstill due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Christian H. Kaelin, chairman of Henley & Partners said that “in an unprecedented global health emergency such as this, relative passport strength becomes temporarily meaningless”.
“A Swiss citizen can, in theory, travel to 185 destinations around the world without needing a visa in advance, but the last few weeks have made it apparent that travel freedom is contingent on factors that occasionally can be utterly beyond our control.
“This is, of course, something that citizens of countries with weak passports in the lower ranks of the index are all too familiar with. As public health concerns and security rightfully take precedence over all else now, even within the otherwise borderless EU, this is an opportunity to reflect on what freedom of movement and citizenship essentially mean for those of us who have perhaps taken them for granted in the past.”
While Japan was once again ranked first, with its citizens having visa-free/visa-on-arrival access to 191 destinations, Singapore comes second, with access to 190 destinations around the globe.
In the GCC, Kuwait and Qatar, with a global rank of 57 and visa free access to 95 destinations followed next after the UAE, while Bahrain ranked 64, Oman stood at 65 and Saudi Arabia was ranked 67 – up from 70 last year.
However, with stringent travel restrictions and coronavirus lockdown regulations, most non-essential travel is heavily curtailed across the world.
Philippe Amarante, managing partner for Henley & Partners Dubai office said: “With 3.5 billion people, nearly half the global population, presently living in voluntary or mandatory confinement, the latest results from the index raise challenging questions about what travel freedom and global mobility really mean, both currently and in a deeply uncertain post-pandemic future.”
Looking ahead, research and analysis commissioned by Henley & Partners suggests that despite freedom of movement currently being restricted as a temporary measure, there is a risk that this will negatively affect international mobility in the long run.
“We believe that in the post Covid-19 environment, investment migration will take on a dramatically enhanced importance for both individual investors and sovereign states,” said Amarante.
“Acquiring alternative residence or citizenship will act as a hedge against the significant macro-economic volatility that is predicted, creating even more sovereign and societal value across the world.”
World’s most powerful passports in 2020
(Score reveals the number of countries and territories citizens have visa-free/visa-on-arrival access to)
3. South Korea, Germany
4. Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain
5. Denmark, Austria
6. Sweden, France, Netherlands, Portugal, Ireland
7. Belgium, Norway, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States
8. Czech Republic, Greece, Malta, New Zealand
9. Canada, Australia
World’s least powerful passports in 2019
5. Yemen, Somalia
6. Palestinian Territory,Nepal, Libya
7. North Korea
8. Sudan, Lebanon, Kosovo
9. Bangladesh, Iran
10. Sri Lanka, Congo, Eritrea