Japan tops Henley Passport Index, offering its citizens access to record 189 destinations


Singapore has moved down one spot to 2nd place, alongside Germany, with visa-free access or visa-on-arrival to 188 countries, as Japan consolidates its spot at the top of the Henley Passport Index, now offering its citizens access to a record total of 189 destinations, including Benin as of March.

Third place is shared by six countries: one Asian (South Korea) and the rest European (Finland, France, Italy, Spain, and Sweden).

While Schengen Area countries have traditionally topped the index as a result of their open access to Europe, developed Asian nations have been able to secure equally high scores in recent years thanks to their strong international trade and diplomatic relations. With close to 40 visa-waiver agreements signed by governments since the start of the year, passport-holders around the world go into the summer season with greater collective access than ever before.

Boosting this trend, Russia — which is usually off-limits to nationals of most countries — announced in April that visas would be waived for all travelers holding tickets to the June–July FIFA World Cup. Nonetheless, the country has fallen from 45th to 47th position on the Henley Passport Index compared to Q1, thus far unable to catch up to regional leaders Ukraine and Moldova, both of which have signed a number of visa agreements since the start of the year.

The UAE, in 23rd place, remains the fastest overall climber on the index, ascending 38 places since 2008. The country has secured more new visa-waivers for its citizens in 2018 than any other jurisdiction in the world and is quickly closing in on the lead that Israel, in 19th place, has historically held within the Middle East region.

 The U.S. and the UK are tied in 4th place, along with Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Portugal; the US has climbed one place compared to Q1 while the UK has remained stable.

Having gained access to the UAE, Oman, and Bosnia and Herzegovina this year, China has significantly strengthened its position on the ranking, climbing from 74th to 68th position since Q1 — although the country’s relatively low score of 70 visa-free or visa-on-arrival destinations means that it still cannot compete with North Asian high-performers Japan and South Korea.

The Henley Passport Index is based on exclusive data from IATA, has recently been updated through extensive research to include eight new travel destinations. Dominic Volek, Managing Partner of Henley & Partners Singapore and Head of Southeast Asia, says that the continuous updates made to the index make it the most informative and dynamic index of its kind.

 “The index now encompasses almost all of the world’s destinations for which travel information is publicly available. The Henley Passport Index surveys a total of 199 different passports against 227 different travel destinations, including countries, territories, and micro-states. The index is innovating the way we map and measure travel freedom, making it easier for individuals to understand where exactly they lie on the spectrum of global mobility,” Volek said. “In order to ensure our index is the most robust, we’re continuously improving our methodology. With that said, although Singapore moved down slightly in ranking due to its loss of visa-free access to Kosovo, with the addition of new destinations to our database, such as Greenland, Faroe Islands, Monaco, Andorra, Liechtenstein, Palestinian Territories, Vatican City, and Monaco, we’ve seen Singapore’s score move up from 180 to 188 since Q1.”

China Starting to Open Up

So far, 2018 has seen little to no activity in the European and North American visa-policy space, although American and British foreign policy continues to dominate headlines. By contrast, dozens of new immigration and border policies have been legislated by countries in Asia and the former Soviet Union in recent months, as well as in Africa and the Caribbean.

Following the general pro-tourism trend emerging in the Middle East, governments in other regions are seeking to boost visitor inflows as a means of stimulating economic growth, strengthening diplomatic ties, and improving travel prospects for their own citizens.

Discussing the Caribbean region, Dr. Suzette Haughton, a Senior Lecturer in Geography at the University of the West Indies, notes that countries such as Grenada, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic are actively strengthening their passport power through engagement with powerful Asian and Middle Eastern states — and this engagement is visible in the migration space as well as in the travel space.

 “A major development to watch in the upcoming quarter concerns the increasing mobility of Chinese and Taiwanese business migrants into the Caribbean region, coupled with the alignment of individual Caribbean countries’ national interest concerns with those of either China or Taiwan,” Dr Haughton said.

China, which has historically been very difficult to access, is gradually reciprocating the warm welcome it has received on the global stage. On May 1, the government announced that citizens of 59 countries could travel to its popular Hainan province visa-free for a month — an unprecedented move for the traditionally closed-off nation.

Volek said, “Countries such as China and the UAE that are rapidly ascending the Henley Passport Index remind us that opening your borders to others results in reciprocal benefits and improved passport strength for your own citizens. The countries that perform well on the index are those that are embracing new models of global citizenship and adapting to, rather than shrinking away from, an increasingly globalized world. The index is a useful yardstick for intergovernmental policies and progress, and we expect to see further exciting developments with each quarterly update.”

© Asia Travel Tips

©2023 GPlusMedia Inc.

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These indicies of the 'most powerful' or 'best' passport are fundamentally flawed if they're based on visa free travel like Henley.

Many developing countries operate a policy of reciprocal visa free travel arrangements. To put it simply, 'if you make our citizens apply for a visa, we'll retaliate by doing the same to yours or charging a visa fee on arrival'. Naturally, it's the most prosperous and desirable first world countries who end up implementing strict visa programs first in order to avoid unwanted illegal migrants and asylum seekers from poorer countries. As these poorer countries retaliate by ending visa free travel for Americans or Australians, these passports then look less 'powerful' on paper.

Personally, I'd prefer to have the passport of a country that tightly controls its borders rather than one that tops the Henley Passport Index. The reason Japan tops the list is because they are one of the only countries who has been granted visa free tourist travel to China, and they haven't clamped down on India so have yet to be retaliated against.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

But Hawaii is all they want.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

My passport is red. What does that mean?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

" the largest numbers of Japanese tourists visit South Korea and Taiwan."

that is news, but how do you explain the following Stats:

Japan outbound visits by country.

USA 3.5 Million

South Korea 2.5 Million

Taiwan 1.8 Million

-2 ( +2 / -4 )


Who knows, the 3.5 million supposedly visiting USA could be evenly split between Hawaii, Guam, Alaska, the mainland and the US Virgin Islands. 3.5m divided by 5 equals a lot less.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

I am not sure you know this, but Hawaii, Guam, and Alaska are American states and territories, hence America. My point holds.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Good !

Japanese need to spend time travelling

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Look at the numbers SK 2.5m for Taiwan 1.8M and China ? If I am to believe your number of 8M, The number of Japanese tourist to China has to be 3.7m but number of Japanese tourists to China was only 2.5M and 2M of those went to HK only .5 went to the PRC .If you add all up it only comes to 6.8million combine to SK, Taiwan and China.

In 2017, Japanese made about 18m trips overseas only 37% went to either SK, Taiwan or China. The rest went to a western country.

Japanese people prefer to go to a western country.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

First, it is 2.5m not 3.7m Japanese tourist to China. Second, look at the stats more closely. Let us use SK as example. The stats say that 2.5m Japanese went to SK but 3.5m went to America. Doesn't this strike you as odd? SK is closer to Japan and cheaper than America yet more Japanese chose to go to America than SK.

Why? You can ask yourself the same question about the PRC. Why do more Japanese go longer and further and at greater expense for their vacations?

-4 ( +1 / -5 )


I am not sure you know this, but Hawaii, Guam, and Alaska are American states and territories, hence America. My point holds.

Oh, I had no idea they are all part of US.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Jan Feb March? Any long holidays during the period? In fact, there were only 5 national holidays. Business travelers vs tourists?

Well done Zichi! You took a small step in the big world of Data Analysis. You have discovered what we in the business call Seasonal factors. Let me help you:

Seasonality is a characteristic of a time series in which the data experiences regular and predictable changes that recur every calendar year. Any predictable change or pattern in a time series that recurs or repeats over a one-year period can be said to be seasonal.

Now go back to stats and you will see the same pattern for Jan-March for the last 20 years .But good Job.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Good. Note to young and/or healthy people: travel while you have health! I've done mine, but now health makes flying very difficult for me. Go now while you can. Enjoy the places in the world! Especially the local people and the food! Oh me, we've seen some fantastic places, met some great people and eaten some great food from China to Kenya!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Does Q1 mean the first quarter?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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