For the fifth year running, Japan crowns the Henley Passport Index, which is based on exclusive and official data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA). It is the original ranking of all the world’s passports according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa. Japanese citizens are now able to visit 193 destinations out of 227 around the world visa-free, while South Koreans and Singaporeans, whose countries are tied in second place on the index, enjoy a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 192. Germany and Spain are joint 3rd, with visa-free access to 190 destinations worldwide. The UK and the US remain in 6th and 7th places, with scores of 187 and 186, respectively, and it appears increasingly unlikely that either country will ever regain the top spot on the index which they jointly held nearly a decade ago in 2014.
With global travel now at around 75 percent of pre-pandemic levels, those with the opportunity to do so appear to be embracing what has been termed ‘revenge travel’. But deeper analysis of the index reveals the darker side to this optimistic picture. Afghanistan remains firmly at the bottom of the index, with a score of just 27 — 166 fewer visa-free destinations than Japan, which represents the widest global mobility gap in the index’s 18-year history. As indicated by exclusive new research conducted by leading residence and citizenship advisory firm Henley & Partners into the link between passport strength and access to the global economy, citizens of the index’s lowest-ranking countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq (visa-free score of 29), and Syria (visa-free score of 30) are effectively shut out of a shockingly wide breadth of opportunities for economic mobility and growth.
Chairman of Henley & Partners, Dr. Christian H. Kaelin, who invented the passport index concept nearly 20 years ago, says that this latest study enhances understanding of what passport power means in concrete financial terms. “The Henley Passport Index measures visa-free access to 227 destinations across the world, which of course makes it an extremely useful tool for travelers. However, for global citizens and international businesspeople, a better measure of economic mobility and opportunity afforded by their passports is an indication of what share of the world’s GDP is accessible to them visa-free. Our latest research into how much global economic access each passport provides is a useful tool for investors, in addition to giving new insight into the ever-widening economic inequality and wealth disparity that has come to define our world.”
By combining Henley Passport Index data and World Bank GDP data, the new research ranks all 199 passports in the world in terms of their Henley Passport Power (HPP) score, a term that indicates the percentage of global GDP each passport provides to its holders’ visa-free. Take the Japanese passport, for instance, that gives visa-free access to 193 destinations (85 percent of the world). Collectively, these countries account for a whopping 98 percent of the global economy (with Japan’s own GDP contribution being around 5 percent). To contrast this figure with a passport from the lower end of the spectrum, Nigerian passport holders can access only 46 destinations visa-free (20 percent of the world), with these countries accounting for just 1.5 percent of global GDP. At the bottom of the ranking, the Afghanistan passport provides visa-free access to just 12 percent of the world and less than 1 percent of global economic output.
On a macro level, the new study by Henley & Partners reveals that just 6 percent of passports worldwide give their holders visa-free access to more than 70 percent of the global economy. And only 17 percent of countries give their passport holders visa-free access to more than four-fifths of the world’s 227 destinations.
Prof. Trevor Williams, former chief economist at Lloyd’s Bank Commercial Banking, says the research proves the causal relationship between the ability to travel, foreign investment in a country, increased trade, and economic growth. “The analysis shows predictive power flowing from the Henley Passport Index and Henley Passport Power to economic growth. Moreover, these links are mutually reinforcing and agglomerative. Skills and talent go where there is the ability to work, invest, and travel, attracting others wishing to do the same and creating a positive loop.”