Which Are The Most Useful Passports?

Even though we know it’s there, that doesn’t stop us from checking a little too often, just in case. After all, to lose your passport on your travels would put you in a very sticky situation indeed. For many of us, momentarily thinking we’ve misplaced our passport is almost a pre-flight ritual! But which countries’ travel documents allow their citizens the greatest freedom?

Japan Airlines 787
Japan takes the top spot in the Henley Passport Index. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

How is passport power measured?

The Henley Passport Index is a global leaderboard that ranks countries’ travel freedoms. The Index was first published in 2006, and is updated on a quarterly basis. Henley & Partners compile the ranking in association with the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

They claim that their output represents “the original and most authoritative passport index” in the world. It compares the travel freedoms of 199 passports across 227 destinations. It ultimately ranks countries based on how many overseas territories their citizens can access on a visa-free basis.

In the context of the Index, visa-free can also mean when “passport holders can obtain a visa on arrival, a visitor’s permit, or an electronic travel authority (ETA) when entering the destination.” Using a binary scoring system, countries receive one point for every nation their citizens can access ‘visa-free,’ as per Henley’s definition.

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380-841 9V-SKR
Singapore is ranked second to Japan in the Henley Passport Index. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

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A score of 0 is assigned for every destination that requires a visa or “government-approved electronic visa (e-Visa) before departure.” This is also the case for destinations requiring “pre-departure government approval for a visa on arrival.”

Top of the pile

In the latest edition of the Henley Passport Index, Japan took the top spot with a score of 191. To re-iterate, this represents 191 countries that Japanese passport holders can either visit without a visa, or where they can obtain one on arrival.

Interestingly, Forbes reports that Japan is “one of about 50 countries” that doesn’t permit its citizens to hold multiple passports. 2021 represents the third consecutive year that it has held the top spot.

Korean Air Airbus A380
South Korea jointly occupies third place on the Henley Passport Index. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

In some instances, it has shared this with Singapore. However, this year, the Southeast Asian city-state is just below in second place, with a score of 190. South Korea and Germany round off the podium of the Henley Passport Index. Each of these nations jointly sits third, with a score of 189.

The best of the rest

According to CNN, the remainder of the Henley Passport Index’s top 10 strongest passports is listed as follows.

  • 4 – Italy, Finland, Spain, and Luxembourg (188).
  • 5 – Denmark and Austria (187).
  • 6 – Sweden, France, Portugal, Netherlands, and Ireland (186).
  • 7 – Switzerland, United States, United Kingdom, Norway, Belgium, and New Zealand (185).
  • 8 – Greece, Malta, Czech Republic, and Australia (184).
  • 9 – Canada (183).
  • 10 – Hungary (181).

The current ranking does not take into account the present ongoing reality of the coronavirus pandemic. As such, many nations have far lower scores than would normally be the case due to travel restrictions. For example, Forbes reports that the UK’s score in January 2021 was below 70. Here’s to hoping that the scores can be closer to their maximums sooner rather than later.

How did the rankings from the Henley Passport Index compare to your expectations? How many stamps does your passport have in it? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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