A month ago, Japanese passport holders could travel to 191 countries without a pre-approved visa. That made it the most useful passport for travel in 2020 according to the latest rankings by the Henley & Partners Passport Index. That has changed amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Nine countries that allowed Japanese nationals visa-free travel before now do not.
The number of countries that have opened their borders to allow visa-free travel has been on the rise for the past 20 years. The pandemic has sent the number of countries allowing visa-free travel to a historic low, according to Teresa Esmezyan, a spokeswoman for Arton Capital, an advisor of investor-visa seekers.
The index ranks the passports of 199 countries based on how many destination countries passport holders can access without applying for a visa in advance. Japan ranked the first, followed by Singapore, Germany and South Korea. Afghanistan ranked the last—behind Iraq and Syria—with access to just 26 countries.
Quartz analyzed the travel restrictions targeting citizens of particular countries that the International Air Transport Association had compiled as of April 12. The 199 countries on the index lost visa-free access to seven countries on average. All of them lost some access, but the most useful passports for traveling lost the most value.
The pandemic is equalizing the usefulness of passports. Some countries have revoked visas for citizens of particular countries. For instance, Botswana does not admit citizens of Austria, Belgium, China, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Iran, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the US.
Other countries have suspended visas-on-arrival or visa waivers. South Korea suspended visa exemptions for people of 90 nationalities. Nationals of Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden and UK have lost the ability to travel visa-free to 13 countries as coronavirus cases spread across Europe.
India’s nationwide lockdown at the end of March put a quarter of the world’s population in quarantine. The travel restrictions prohibit foreigners from entering the country and prevent citizens from leaving.