Japanese passport tops power index

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LONDON, 9 January 2019: Japan starts 2019 holding the first place on the Henley Passport Index, with citizens enjoying visa-free/visa-on-arrival access to 190 destinations.

In a further display of Asian passport power, Singapore and South Korea now sit in joint second place, with access to 189 destinations around the globe.

This marks a new high for South Korea, which moved up the ranking following a recent visa-on-arrival agreement with India.

Germany and France remain in third place going into 2019, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 188.

The US and the UK continue to drop down the Henley Passport Index — which is based on authoritative data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) — and now sit in joint 6th place, with access to 185 destinations.

This is a significant fall from the first place position that these countries held in 2015.

Denmark, Finland, Italy, and Sweden now hold joint 4th place, while Spain and Luxembourg are 5th. As they have done for much of the index’s 14-year history, Iraq and Afghanistan remain at the bottom of the ranking, with access to just 30 visa-free destinations.  

Turkey’s recent introduction of an online e-Visa service has resulted in some interesting changes to the overall rankings.

As of October 2018, citizens of over 100 countries (including Canada, the UK, Norway, and the US) must apply for an e-Visa before they travel to Turkey, instead of being able to do so on arrival. While this specific change means that a number of countries have dropped slightly in the rankings, it does not alter the overwhelmingly positive effect of the wider global tendency towards visa-openness and mutually beneficial agreements.

Historical data from the Henley Passport Index shows that 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.

Henley & Partners Group chairman Dr Christian Kälin says this latest ranking shows that despite rising isolationist sentiment in some parts of the world, many countries remain committed to collaboration.

“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 United Arab Emirates’ 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.”

Asian countries’ continued dominance of the Henley Passport Index reflects the extraordinary affect that international mobility and migration has had on the region.

China’s steady ascent up the rankings over the past few years is a clear demonstration of this. In 2017, the country was ranked 85th, with citizens able to access just 51 destinations.

Going into 2019, China sits in 69th place, with its nationals now able to access 74 countries and territories around the world.

Finally, insights from the report show that the ever-growing 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.

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