Top passports lose their shine

LONDON, 15 October 2020: Even though easing international cross-border restrictions may appear to be a signal that things are slowly returning to normal, the latest research from the Henley Passport Index ­­shows, the pandemic has completely upended the seemingly unshakeable hierarchy of global mobility that has dominated the last few decades, with more change still to come.

At the beginning of 2020, the Singapore passport was ranked 2nd globally, with passport holders able to access an unprecedented 190 destinations globally. However, under the current travel restrictions, Singaporeans can travel to fewer than 80 destinations around the world.

Unsurprisingly, those countries whose coronavirus responses have been criticized for being inadequate have taken the greatest knock when it comes to the travel freedom of their citizens.

Back in January, the US passport was ranked in 6th position on the Henley Passport Index based on the number of destinations passport holders can access without a prior visa. Americans could travel hassle-free to 185 destinations around the world. Since then, that number has dropped dramatically by over 100, with US passport holders currently able to access fewer than 75 destinations,

“The precipitous decline of US passport power and American travel freedom is seen as a clear indication of its altered status in the eyes of the international community,” says Henley & Partners.

Brazilian passport holders were able to access 170 destinations without acquiring a visa in advance in January. Currently, approximately only 70 destinations are accessible.

The decline in mobility and passport power for countries such as India and Russia have been less dramatic, but nevertheless indicative of an overall shift. Russian citizens had access to 119 destinations prior to the Covid-19 outbreak but can currently travel to fewer than 50.

At the beginning of the year, Indian passport holders could travel to 61 destinations without a visa, but due to virus-related restrictions, they currently have access to fewer than 30.

If we ignore the various pandemic-related travel bans and restrictions, Japan continues to hold the number one spot on the Henley Passport Index, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 191. Singapore remains in second place, with a score of 190, while Germany and South Korea are tied third, each with a score of 189. EU member states continue to perform best overall, with countries from the bloc taking up most of the spots in the index’s top 10.

But as Covid-19 travel restrictions ebb and flow with second and third waves of infection, particularly in the Americas and Europe, the powerful passports based on the freedom of travel are being dramatically levelled down.

Commenting on the pandemic’s impact on global mobility, Henley & Partners chairman and the inventor of the passport index concept, Dr Christian Kaelin says recent developments represent an era-defining shift.

“For citizens of wealthy and democratic countries such as Canada, the UK, the US, and Western European nations, travel freedom is something that has been taken for granted for decades. The pandemic has abruptly changed this, and with the significant loss of access and privilege, it prompted a re-evaluation. As countries around the world battle to manage a new category of risk, there’s been a shift away from travel freedom being regarded as the prerogative of nationals with once-powerful passports, towards a realization that it is now a necessary luxury for those wishing to access first-class education, business opportunities, and quality healthcare for themselves and their families.”

About the 2020 Henley Passport Index

Using historical data spanning 15 years, the Henley Passport Index is the original ranking of all the world’s passports according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa.

The ranking is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which maintains the world’s largest and most accurate database of travel information, and it is enhanced by extensive, ongoing research by the Henley & Partners Research Department.

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