The gap in travel freedom is its biggest in decades and disparities in vaccination access between countries could make the situation even worse, says a new report. The Henley Passport Index, which has been regularly monitoring the world’s most travel-friendly passports since 2006, has released its latest rankings and analysis.
As the index doesn’t take temporary restrictions into account, Japan is once again top of the leaderboard, with its passport offering visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 193 destinations around the world. “With extensive travel restrictions still in place globally, any level of international travel freedom remains theoretical,” says Henley & Partners, the UK-based citizenship consultancy behind the index, in a statement. “It is somewhat ironic that Japan is ranked first, yet recently made the difficult decision to bar spectators from abroad from the rescheduled Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, now planned to commence in July.” Japanese passport holders have visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 167 more destinations than citizens of Afghanistan, who are at the bottom of the ranking as they can only visit 26 places without needing a visa in advance. That’s the biggest gap between countries since the index began, says Henley & Partners.
Singapore remains in second place (with a score of 192) and South Korea ties with Germany in third place (with a score of 191). As usual, most of the remaining top 10 spots are held by EU countries. The UK and the US shared the No. 1 spot back in 2014, but their passport strengths have steadily eroded in the years since. They’re currently in joint seventh place, alongside Switzerland, Belgium and New Zealand. In terms of travel freedom, the big success stories of the past decade have been China and the United Arab Emirates. Since 2011, China has climbed 22 places — from 90th position to 68th — while the UAE has gone all the way from No. 65 to No. 15. Its work on strengthening diplomatic ties around the world now means that its citizens are allowed easy access to 174 destinations, compared to the 67 destinations of a decade ago.