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Japan, Singapore, Germany and South Korea retain top spots in Henley Passport Index

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The latest results from the Henley Passport Index, a ranking of all the world's passports according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa, provide exclusive insight into what post-pandemic travel freedom might look like as countries around the world selectively begin to open their borders to international visitors.

Without taking temporary and constantly evolving COVID-19 travel restrictions into account, Japan firmly holds onto the number one spot on the index — which is based on exclusive data from IATA — with Japanese passport holders theoretically able to access a record 193 destinations around the world visa-free.

Singapore remains in 2nd place, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 192, while Germany and South Korea again share joint-3rd place, each with access to 191 destinations.

As has been the case for most of the index's 16-year history, the majority of the remaining top 10 spots are held by EU countries.

The UK and the U.S., both of which continue to face steadily eroding passport strength since they held the top spot in 2014, currently share joint-7th place, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 187.

The latest results indicate that the gap in travel freedom is now at its largest since the index began in 2006, with Japanese passport holders able to access 167 more destinations than citizens of Afghanistan, who can visit only 26 destinations worldwide without acquiring a visa in advance.

Although there has been very little movement in the Henley Passport Index for the past five quarters since the outbreak of COVID-19, taking a step back reveals some interesting dynamics over the past decade.

Q2 2021 saw China entering the biggest climbers in the past decade for the first time. China has risen by 22 places in the ranking since 2011, from 90th position with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of just 40 to 68th position with a score of 77.

The most remarkable turnaround story on the index by far, however, is the UAE, which continues its stellar ascendance. In 2011, the UAE was ranked 65th with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 67, while today, thanks to the Emirates' ongoing efforts to strengthen diplomatic ties with countries across the globe, it is ranked 15th with a score of 174.

Dr Christian H Kaelin, chairman of Henley & Partners and the inventor of the passport index concept, said the past year has demonstrated that no government is infallible — even the world's superpowers and wealthiest nations floundered — and many failed their citizens.

"While nobody expects a return to pre-pandemic mobility levels anytime soon, the outlook now is certainly more hopeful than it was even a few months ago. The latest ranking is a reminder that economic recovery and development are dependent on global mobility, including personal travel freedom, and that passport power should never be taken for granted," said Dr. Kaelin.

Looking ahead to what the rest of 2021 holds, experts commenting in the Global Mobility Report 2021 Q2 released by Henley & Partners, suggest that adaptability and responsiveness will be critical to future survival and success.

Dr Parag Khanna, Founder and Managing Partner of FutureMap, says the second half of the year may well see millions of people scattering again.

"The shifting patterns of migration in the post-COVID world (when it comes) will be non-linear and perhaps unpredictable," Dr Khanna said. "They will mimic the reality of a world in which there are many unfolding crises, from pandemics to climate change to political polarization. Countries facing fiscal pressures as well as skilled labor and investment shortages will seek to attract and recruit everyone from start-up entrepreneurs who can stimulate innovation to doctors and nurses who can boost public health services. The global war for talent is now well underway."

© Travel News Asia

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

9 Comments
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Why Japan is number 1? I suppose it's something to celebrate...

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Thomas GoodtimeToday  09:36 am JST

Why Japan is number 1?

2nd sentence.....

Japan firmly holds onto the number one spot on the index — which is based on exclusive data from IATA — with Japanese passport holders theoretically able to access a record 193 destinations around the world visa-free.

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Only 3 countries from Asia. Poor developing countries have hard time dealing with visas waiting for even about a year.

And main thing is how these people from those countries are being look at in such a suspicious way in the airport.

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As useful as it is to have a large number of countries one can visit visa-free, I think a true measure of a "strong" passport would be one where you can work in multiple countries (like many EU passports offer) and where you can acquire it or retain it without having to relinquish other citizenships.

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I'm happy with my own passport. It may not be number one, but I would not want to trade it with what's number one.

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I'm not so interested in my British passport anymore, since it's basically useless. Lost the right to vote. Can't get a spouse visa for my wife without meeting the criteria. Can't have NHS when I visit. When it comes up for expensive renewal I wonder what I get for my money.

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Very interesting. I doubt Japanese will be able to enter many countries from now on and until vaccinations will be done. With total inoculated standing around the 1% level, IATA's ranking means absolutely nothing. These are the same leaders who kept long term residents from going abroad, while allowing their own to freely go and come back, on the basis of a self assumed 'superiority',perhaps. Laughable ! There's a very interesting article out from a scholar (London Business School or LSE I don't remember), a Japanese national, who deemed his country's effort to tackle the Covid crisis as a failure: low testing, near zero vaccinations, etc. Mr Suga, Mr Aso and co might find it interesting reading, after an all too necessary translation ! Humility is what they need, not vaccines, humility and an open mind, two things no octogenarian Japanese leaders possess.

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It also reflects the fact that Japanese normally doesn't stay on illegally after end of their terms of stays. Lack of language mastery, adventurous mindset, and resourcefulness to survive in a foreign land, together with safety and stability to live in own country anyway?

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I knew Japanese people who were living illegally in the UK after their visas expired.

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