Skip to main content
© deagreez, AdobeStock

Traveling without a visa: these passports open the most doors

The level of travel freedom a person enjoys can be determined by their passport. However, it also highlights certain limitations. Depending on one's nationality, there can be significant variations in the number of countries they can visit without needing a visa.

The Passport Index, an annual report by Henley & Partners, relies on data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to assess and rank the "most powerful" and "weakest" passports globally. This index is designed to offer citizens a clear understanding of their passport's capabilities. Each passport is evaluated based on the total number of countries a holder can visit without requiring a visa. Points are assigned for each destination that allows entry without a visa, even if travelers can obtain a visa or similar authorization upon arrival without much hassle.

Passports from Singapore and Germany offer the greatest freedom to travel

After Japan topped the rankings in previous years, Singapore has now taken the top spot. The Singapore passport provides access to 192 destinations. Germany makes it to second place, together with Italy and Spain. The German passport allows visa-free travel to 190 countries or territories. Japan now shares third place with Austria, Finland, France, Luxembourg, South Korea and Sweden, whose passports allow visa-free entry to 189 countries.

 WELTWEIT Passports 2023 EN

After several years of falling in the rankings, the British passport is now back in fourth place - two ranks better than last year. The situation is different for the US passport. "The USA falls another two ranks to eighth place, continuing its descent," says a statement on the ranking. In 2014, the USA was still in first place in the Passport Index together with Canada. A rise to the top therefore seems unlikely. "The US is falling behind because it is more or less standing still," comments Greg Lindsay, a researcher at Cornell Tech's Jacobs Institute in New York. With the US passport, it is possible to enter 184 countries without a visa.

As in previous years, Afghanistan brings up the rear. With an Afghan passport, entry without a visa is only possible to 27 countries. These are followed by Iraq (29 countries) and Syria (30 countries). Countries such as Pakistan (33 countries) and Somalia, as well as Yemen, with visa-free entry to 35 countries, are only marginally behind.

More travel freedoms possible than in the past

Henley & Partners' Passport Index has continuously listed the world's most powerful passports for 18 years. "The trend is towards more travel freedom," says the agency. The average number of countries to which visa-free entry is possible has almost doubled since 2006: then it was an average of 58 countries, today it is 109.

However, the differences between the "strongest" and "weakest" passports have widened. "The global mobility gap between the countries at the top and bottom of the index is larger than ever," Henley & Partners sums up. Top-ranked Singapore offers 165 more countries for its passport holders to travel to without a visa than Afghanistan, which is in last place. In the past ten years, Singapore, which has always been high in the ranking, has made 25 more countries visa-free for its citizens.

However, the United Arab Emirates show even greater progress. In the ranking, they are in 12th place with 179 countries that can be visited without a visa. In 2013, they were still in 56th place.

Ukraine and China are also among the countries with formerly weak passports that have gradually helped their citizens achieve significantly more freedom to travel over the last ten years.

Times of crisis inhibit entry opportunities

cHowever, a passport is not everything to be able to travel freely. Crises and society are also factors. People affected by poverty, for example, often have no passport at all. During the pandemic, the so-called power of passports was often only theoretical in the face of travel bans and border closures. The Russian war of aggression on Ukraine also shows how quickly a passport can lose value for individual citizens. The fact that travelling is becoming more and more expensive also contributes to the fact that many people can no longer afford to travel.

This article is from the 3/2023 issue of the magazine "Life Abroad".

The magazine is published four times a year free of charge with many informative articles on foreign topics.

It is published by the BDAE, the expert for protection abroad.