Despite a tumultuous year so far, the Asian nation kept its number one spot on the Henley Passport Index, the original ranking of all the world’s passports according to the number of destinations their holders can access without needing a visa prior to travel.
The ranking is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (Iata), alongside research by the Henley team.
Japan, which gives access to 193 destinations visa-free (or with visa on arrival), was followed by Singapore (with a score of 192) and South Korea and Germany in third place (191).
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, which sits at the bottom of the index. Its passport holders are able to visit only 26 destinations worldwide without obtaining a visa in advance.
Since their glory days in 2014 when they jointly held first place, the UK and US have continued to slip down the list to joint seventh place with a score of 187.
What with the many travel bans in place as a result of the pandemic, however, UK passport holders in reality have access to fewer than 60 countries right now – the equivalent to Uzbekistan.
US passport holders have seen a 67 per cent decrease in their travel freedoms during the pandemic, with access to just 61 destinations worldwide – a passport power equivalent to Rwanda’s on the Henley Passport Index.
Although some progress has been made in terms of international travel opening up, it’s slow going: between January to March 2021, international mobility had been restored to just 12 per cent of pre-pandemic levels in the same period in 2019.
Commenting on the latest ranking, Dr Christian H. Kaelin, chairman of Henley and Partners, said: “In many countries, serious doubts have arisen as to the ability to handle a global crisis, with the subsequent embrace of more inward-looking priorities.
“Increasing isolationism and deglobalisation will no doubt have profound consequences, among them further damage to the world’s economy, a significant reduction in global mobility, and restrictions on people’s freedom to make the best choices for their families and their businesses.
“It is clear that more than ever, people need to expand their residence and passport options.”
Top 10 most powerful passports
- Japan (193)
- Singapore (192)
- South Korea; Germany (191)
- Italy; Finland; Spain; Luxembourg (190)
- Denmark; Austria (189)
- Sweden; France; Portugal; Netherlands; Ireland (188)
- Switzerland; US; UK; Belgium; New Zealand (187)
- Norway; Greece; Malta; Czech Republic (186)
- Canada; Australia (185)
- Hungary (184)
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies