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Japan, Singapore retain top 2 spots in Henley Passport Index

6 Comments

Henley & Partners has released the latest results of the Henley Passport Index.

Since its inception in 2006, travel freedom has increased dramatically. In 2006, a citizen could travel to 58 destinations on average without a visa from the host nation; 14 years later, this number has almost doubled to 107.

The first ranking of the new decade, published in January 2020, confirmed that Japan had the top-ranking passport, offering its holders access to 191 destinations without requiring a visa in advance. Japan’s passport continues to hold the top spot on the Henley Passport Index as we enter the second quarter of 2020, but the reality is that with so many stringent travel restrictions being put in place around the world, relative passport strength becomes temporarily meaningless.

Dr. Christian H. Kaelin, Chairman of Henley & Partners and the inventor of the passport index concept, said, “A Swiss citizen can, in theory, travel to 185 destinations around the world without needing a visa in advance, but the last few weeks have made it apparent that travel freedom is contingent on factors that occasionally can be utterly beyond our control. This is, of course, something that citizens of countries with weak passports in the lower ranks of the index are all too familiar with. As public health concerns and security rightfully take precedence over all else now, even within the otherwise borderless EU, this is an opportunity to reflect on what freedom of movement and citizenship essentially mean for those of us who have perhaps taken them for granted in the past.”

Commenting on the latest Henley Passport Index, author and the Founder and Managing Partner of FutureMap, Dr. Parag Khanna, says the combined effect of the COVID19 pandemic on public health, the global economy, and social behavior could lead to much deeper shifts in our human geography and future distribution around the world.

“This may seem ironic given today’s widespread border closures and standstill in global transportation, but as the curtain lifts, people will seek to move from poorly governed and ill-prepared ‘red zones’ to ‘green zones’ or places with better medical care,” Dr. Parag Khanna said. “Alternatively, people may relocate to places where involuntary quarantine, whenever it strikes next, is less torturous. In the US, both domestic and international migration were surging before the pandemic, with Gen-Xers and millennials shifting to cheaper, second-tier cities in the Sun Belt or abroad to Latin America and Asia in search of an affordable life. Once quarantines lift and airline prices stand at rock bottom, expect more people across the globe to gather their belongings and buy one-way tickets to countries affordable enough to start fresh.”

This is supported by emerging research and analysis commissioned by Henley & Partners, which suggests that despite freedom of movement currently being restricted as a temporary measure, there is a risk that this will negatively affect international mobility in the long run.

Political science researchers Uğur Altundal and Ömer Zarpli of Syracuse University and the University of Pittsburgh, respectively, note that public health concerns have historically been used to justify restricting mobility, but governments usually adopt travel restrictions temporarily, in response to short-term health needs. Until now, health security has not been a significant determinant or requirement when negotiating visa waivers, but Altundal and Zarpli warn that “increasing public health concerns due to the outbreak of COVID19 may change this...the quality and level of health security of a country could be a significant consideration for visa waivers in future”. The unprecedented and overwhelming focus on health security and pandemic preparedness we now see may change the face of global mobility forever.

On the other hand, Prof. Simone Bertoli, Professor of Economics at CERDI, Université Clermont Auvergne in France, says that the necessity of international collaboration in fighting the pandemic could ultimately reduce current barriers to international mobility.

 “Humanity is confronted with a truly global challenge against which no country — irrespective of its level of income — can fully protect itself,” said Prof. Simone Bertoli. “This pandemic could therefore trigger renewed and more intense international cooperation, something that has (so far) not happened with the other main global challenge that the world is currently facing, namely climate change.”

The chaos caused by the COVID19 pandemic has cast further doubt on the timeline for the implementation of the UK’s post-Brexit immigration system, according to Madeleine Sumption, Director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford.

The UK, currently in 7th place on the Henley Passport Index, with citizens theoretically able to access 185 destinations without acquiring a visa in advance, was set to end free movement with the EU in January 2021. However, as Sumption says, “The UK can only implement its new immigration system when the post-Brexit ‘transition period’ is over, and if this is extended to give negotiators more time to discuss trade and other issues, we may not be seeing the end of free movement with the EU quite yet.”

In the US, also in 7th place on the Henley Passport Index, the impact of travel bans implemented at the beginning of the year appear to have been compounded by the pandemic, according to Greg Lindsay, Director of Applied Research at NewCities.

“For the children of a rising global middle class with more and more options, this pandemic may prove to be the tipping point in terms of choosing educational destinations,” Greg Lindsay said. “When the world gradually recovers — with China, South Korea, and Singapore already succeeding in slowing the outbreak through effective quarantines — don’t be surprised if the best and brightest take coronavirus responses into consideration when deciding on their future options.”

Commenting on the ever-expanding growth and popularity of the investment migration industry, Dr. Juerg Steffen, CEO of Henley & Partners, said, “We believe that in the post COVID19 environment, investment migration will take on a dramatically enhanced importance for both individual investors and sovereign states. Acquiring alternative residence or citizenship will act as a hedge against the significant macro-economic volatility that is predicted, creating even more sovereign and societal value across the world.”

© Asia Travel Tips

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

6 Comments
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Henley & Partners has released the latest results of the Henley Passport Index

Good luck using those passports in 22020. You would think this company would use its time for something more productive than issuing a passport index when a virus is gripping the world and making almost everyone afraid to travel and countries are closing their borders. Real clueless.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

They should develop a more sophisticated methodology which takes into account genuine travel demand and the cost/processing time of visas. Visa free access to major countries like the US, China or Russia (which charge significant fees and require lengthy and intrusive visa applications) should probably be weighted much more highly than access to tiny micro-nations that few ever visit and just charge every foreigner $20 on arrival with no questions asked.

Since all countries are weighted equally, it seems like most countries in the top 10 could easily jump to number 1 by negotiating visa free travel with just a handful of African countries. Is there some significant geopolitical reason why the Japanese have visa free access to Sao Tome, Benin, Ethiopia and Gabon while Singaporeans do not? Or why Singaporeans have visa free access to Angola, Burkina Faso, Gambia, Guinea, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Djibouti while the Japanese do not?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Another tone deaf report.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

And I still wouldn't give up my home passport for a Japanese one.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

The ranking of Japanese passport doesn’t matter when dealing with immigration officers especially in Australia, New Zealand and certain US airports! The questions and lack of understanding due to language barrier make the Japanese people confused and they spend a lot of time there. My Japanese friends were regularly held back every time they traveled with me to Aus because of the questioning process and their failure to hear and answer confidently ( despite having 900+ TOEIC scores ). Now as machines take over ( Electronic entry / smart gates ) it’s getting easier for them to pass immigration but they get stuck dealing with customs!

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

A split between visa-free for tourism or business would make a lot of sense. Many countries in Asia require a business visa even for an half day business meeting even if you have a so-called "privilege" passport.

I need a new "privilege" one every 3-4 years because it is full of 1-page visas.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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