Japanese passport tops power ranking

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LONDON, 11 October: Japan has overtaken Singapore to claim the top spot in the 2018 Henley Passport Index, having gained visa-free access to Myanmar earlier this month.

Japan passport holders now enjoy visa-free/visa-on-arrival access to 190 destinations, compared to Singapore’s total of 189.

Japan and Singapore have been neck-and-neck on the index since they both climbed to first place last February — following a visa-exemption from Uzbekistan.

That pushed Germany down to second place for the first time since 2014. This quarter, Germany has fallen further to third place, which it now shares with South Korea and France.

France moved up from fourth to third place last Friday when it gained visa-free access to Uzbekistan, while South Korea moved from fourth to third place on 1 October, when it gained visa-free access to Myanmar.

Germany, France, and South Korea all have a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 188.

At the other end of the power passport index, Iraq and Afghanistan continue at the bottom of the table (106th) spot of the Henley Passport Index, with only 30 destinations accessible to their citizens.

The US and the UK, both with 186 destinations, have also slid down one spot — from fourth to fifth place — with neither having gained access to any new jurisdictions since the start of 2018.

With stagnant outbound visa activity compared to Asian high-performers such as Japan, Singapore, and South Korea, it seems increasingly unlikely that the US and the UK will regain the number one spot they jointly held in 2015.

Russia received a boost in September when Taiwan announced a visa-waiver for Russian nationals (valid until July 2019), but the country has nonetheless fallen from 46th to 47th place compared to Q3, because of movements higher up the ranking.

The same is true of China.  Chinese nationals obtained access to two new jurisdictions (St Lucia and Myanmar), but the power of the Chinese passport fell two places this quarter to 71st overall. This is still an impressive 14-place improvement over the position that China held at the start of 2017.

What has been most remarkable in recent years is the UAE’s stunning ascent on the Henley Passport Index, from 62nd place in 2006 to 21st place worldwide currently. The UAE now holds the number 1 passport in the Middle East region.

The UAE and Russia consolidate their international position

Strengthening its position as the passport-power champion of the Middle East, the UAE signed a visa-waiver with Russia in July, which is due to come into effect in the coming months.

Commenting on the UAE’s latest visa-waiver agreement, Signal Risk director Ryan Cummings, said that it is aimed at “strengthening bilateral relations between the UAE and another global superpower”, following the visa-waiver signed with China earlier this year.”

Specifically, this latest agreement with Russia will help the UAE “lower its dependence on its hydrocarbon sector and continue its robust economic growth trajectory” by stimulating tourism and trade.

Looking ahead, the most dramatic climb on the Henley Passport Index might come from Kosovo, which officially met all the criteria for visa-liberalisation with the EU in July and is now in discussions with the European Council.

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