For five long years, Japan has been sitting pretty in the No.1 position, which means they have the most global travel freedom in terms of how much visa-free and visa-on-demand access to the world. Globe Aware volunteers may be surprised to find out who has taken up that spot!
The world’s most powerful passport for 2023 revealed
By Maureen O'Hare
July 18, 2023
The jiggling and jostling atop the global passport rankings for 2023 just got a little more interesting.
For five long years, Japan has been sitting pretty in the No.1 position in the Henley Passport Index, which measures global travel freedom in terms of how much visa-free and visa-on-demand access to the world different citizens enjoy.
But for summer 2023, Japan’s been knocked down into third place and the new titleholder is Singapore, whose citizens are able to visit 193 destinations out of 227 around the world visa-free.
And while Asia has long dominated the top of the leaderboard in the index created by London-based global citizenship and residence advisory firm Henley & Partners, Europe is bouncing back. Germany, Italy and Spain have all moved up into second place with visa-free access to 190 destinations, while Japan and South Korea are joined in the No.3 slot by Austria, Finland, France, Luxembourg and Sweden. Citizens from that particular magnificent seven enjoy access to 189 destinations without needing a prior visa.
The United States and the United Kingdom have both been on a downward trajectory since the halcyon days when they jointly held the No.1 spot way back in 2014, but the UK, at least, appears to be turning things around. It’s made a sprightly two-rankings hop to No.4 in the ranking, a position it’s not held since 2017. The US, meanwhile, has dropped a further two places to eight spot, with access to a mere 183 destinations visa-free.
The Henley Passport Index is based on data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and ranks 199 passports worldwide. It’s updated in real time throughout the year, as and when visa policy changes come into effect.
In its latest release, Henley & Partners notes that over the history of the 18-year-old ranking the average number of destinations travelers are able access visa-free has nearly doubled, from 58 in 2006 to 109.
However, the travel freedom gap between those at the top and the bottom of the ranking is wider than ever. Citizens of Afghanistan are only able to visit 27 destinations without a prior visa, just below Iraq (with 29 destinations) and Syria (with 30).
Cristian H. Kaelin, chairman of Henley & Partners, notes that Singapore has been busy securing greater travel freedom for its citizens over the past decade, gaining visa-free access to 25 new destinations.
“The UAE has added an impressive 107 destinations to its visa-free score since 2013,” he says. “Of the countries sitting in the Top 10, the US has seen the smallest increase in its score, securing just 12 additional destinations.”
Greg Lindsay, from Cornell Tech’s Jacobs Institute, says in the Henley & Partners release, “The story is a simple one — by more or less standing still, the US has fallen behind. America’s relentless slide down the rankings is a warning to its neighbor Canada and the rest of the Anglosphere as well.”
Henley & Partner’s list is one of several indexes created by financial firms to rank global passports according to the access they provide to their citizens.
Arton Capital’s Passport Index takes into consideration the passports of 193 United Nations member countries and six territories – Taiwan, Macao, Hong Kong, Kosovo, the Palestinian territories and the Vatican. Territories annexed to other countries are excluded.
It’s also updated in real time throughout the year, but its data is gathered by close monitoring of individual governments’ portals. It’s a tool “for people who travel, to provide accurate, simple-to-acess information for their travel needs,” Arton Capital’s founder Armand Arton told CNN last year.
Arton’s Global Passport Power Rank 2023 puts the United Arab Emirates in the top spot, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 180.
As for second place, that’s held by 11 countries, most of which are in Europe: Germany, Sweden, Finland, Luxembourg, Spain, France, Italy, Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland and South Korea.
The UK is at No.3, alongside Denmark, Belgium, Portugal, Norway, Poland, Ireland and New Zealand. The US and Japan are down in fourth place.
The best passports to hold in 2023 are:
1. Singapore (192 destinations)
2. Germany, Italy, Spain (190 destinations)
3. Austria, Finland, France, Japan, Luxembourg, South Korea, Sweden (189)
4. Denmark, Ireland, Netherlands, UK (188 destinations)
5. Belgium, Czech Republic, Malta, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Switzerland (187 destinations)
6. Australia, Hungary, Poland (186 destinations)
7. Canada, Greece (185 destinations)
8. Lithuania, United States (184 destinations)
9. Latvia, Slovakia, Slovenia (183 destinations)
10. Estonia, Iceland (182 destinations)
The worst passports to hold:
Three countries around the world have visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 30 or fewer countries. These are:
101. Syria (30 destinations)
102. Iraq (29 destinations)
103. Afghanistan (27 destinations)