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UP, UP AND AWAY

These passports have become more powerful in 2018

Bosnia's biometric passport outside a police station in central Bosnian town of Zenica
Reuters/Dado Ruvic
On the move.
By Aamna Mohdin, Dan Kopf
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

The title of the world’s most powerful passport changes hands week to week. One moment Germany reigns supreme, then suddenly Japan edges through to clinch the top spot.

The ranking is based on the number of countries a passport holder can enter without a visa or for which they can obtain a visa on arrival. While the focus is usually on the passports at the top of the rankings, there is also interesting  movement among the middle and bottom.

China ranked 75th in the 2008 Henley Passport Index, the annual ranking by citizenship planning firm Henley and Partners. China now has climbed 44 places to rank 118th. And while China’s rise is impressive, it’s small European countries that have made the biggest strides.

Even the idea of the EU is a good thing

In 2008, Albania ranked 155th and has jumped 67 places in just 10 years. The jump is down to the fact that Albania is an official candidate to join the EU. Albania applied to join the bloc in 2008 and was granted visa-free access to the Schengen area in 2010.

While negotiations are also ongoing on when Bosnia and Herzegovina will become an EU member, the candidacy alone has also helped the country’s ranking. In 2008, Bosnia and Herzegovina ranked 143rd on the index, but jumped to 86th after it was given visa-free access to the Schengen area in 2010.

1
Albania
155
88
67
2
Bosnia and Herzegovina
143
86
57
3
United Arab Emirates
110
53
57
4
Timor-Leste
149
93
56
5
China
162
118
44
6
Colombia
120
80
40
7
Serbia
114
74
40
8
Georgia
127
89
38
9
Ukraine
114
78
36
10
Taiwan
93
59
34
11
Saudi Arabia
138
112
26
12
Cambodia
174
149
25
13
Palau
110
85
25
14
South Korea
26
4
22
15
Indonesia
135
114
21

Ebola has hurt Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone has tumbled the furthest down. In 2008, it ranked 90th and has now dropped to 132nd. The drop is partly due to the Ebola epidemic that hit the African nation in 2014. The outbreak, which affected Guinea and Liberia as well, killed 11,300 people in all three countries from 2014 to 2016. Soon after the epidemic took hold, countries such as Australia, Canada, and the US, issued some form of a visa restrictions against Sierra Leone.

1
Sierra Leone
90
132
-42
2
Nigeria
130
166
-36
3
Gambia, The
87
119
-32
4
Bangladesh
145
175
-30
5
South Africa
61
91
-30
6
Niger
122
149
-27
7
Lesotho
87
113
-26
8
Ghana
104
129
-25
9
Malawi
90
114
-24
10
Mali
122
146
-24
11
Senegal
120
144
-24
12
Bolivia
83
106
-23
13
Liberia
143
166
-23
14
Belize
70
92
-22
15
Jamaica
79
101
-22

A rising GDP is good

There’s a slight relationship between GDP growth and the passports that have gotten more or less powerful. While Yemen went further down the ranking following the outbreak of a devastating civil war and a shrinking of its GDP, China’s growth in GDP was correlated with a higher ranking in the index.

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