Asian countries dominated the list of the world’s most powerful passports for 2019 as revealed by the latest Henley Passport Index, which periodically ranks passports on the the level of travel access that they offer.
While Japan was once again ranked first, with its citizens having visa-free/visa-on-arrival access to 190 destinations, Singapore and South Korea were in joint second place, with access to 189 destinations around the globe.
Among the GCC countries, the UAE ranked the highest at 22, up five spots from last year, and currently offers visa-free access to 164 destinations worldwide.
The UAE recently signed agreements with a number of countries, including Mexico, Japan, and Sierra Leone.
Its passport was also recently ranked as the world’s most powerful, according to a Passport Index released by Arton Capital in December. Citizens of the Emirates can fly to 167 countries without needing a visa, that report found.
Read more: UAE passport ranked world’s most powerful
“As is clear from the UAE’s continued upward trajectory, the Middle Eastern powerhouse has taken a similar approach to Asian high performers,” the Henley Index report said.
Kuwait, with a global rank of 56, and visa free access to 91 destinations came second, followed by Qatar (ranked 60), Bahrain (63), Oman (67) and Saudi Arabia (ranked 70).
The latest ranking shows that “despite rising isolationist sentiment in some parts of the world, many countries remain committed to collaboration”, said Christian H. Kalin, group chairman of Henley and Partners.
“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. South Korea and the UAE’s 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.”
According to historical data from the Henley Passport Index in 2006, a citizen, on average, could travel to 58 destinations without needing a visa from the host nation. By the end of 2018, this number had nearly doubled to 107.
Looking ahead, the report opined that the trend towards visa-openness is unlikely to slow down.
“Overall, 2019 looks set to hold some surprises in the travel freedom space as more countries and citizens embrace the benefits of global mobility,” it added.
World’s most powerful passports in 2019
(Score reveals the number of countries and territories citizens have visa-free/visa-on-arrival access to)
2. Singapore, South Korea
3. France, Germany
4. Denmark, Finland, Italy, Sweden
5. Luxembourg, Spain
6. Austria, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States
7. Belgium, Canada, Greece, Ireland
8. Czech Republic
10. Australia, Iceland, New Zealand
World’s least powerful passports in 2019
1. Afghanistan, Iraq
2. Somalia, Syria
6. Palestinian Territory, Sudan
8. Bangladesh, South Sudan, Lebanon, Libya
9. Ethiopia, Iran, North Korea
10. Sri Lanka, Congo