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How powerful is your country’s passport?

FILE PHOTO: Thailand bans entry from 8 African countries over the coronavirus Omicron variant
Chalinee Thirasup
FILE PHOTO: Foreign tourists wait for their flight at the Bangkok’s International Suvarnabhumi Airport as Thailand bans entry from 8 African countries due to the…
  • Anne Quito
By Anne Quito

Design and architecture reporter

Published

For the third year in a row, Singapore and Japan have the most powerful passports in the world. According to data from the International Air Transport Association, analyzed by immigration consultants Henley& Partners, citizens of those two nations can travel to 192 of 227 destinations without having to secure a visa.

On the bottom of the list—seven places below North Korea—is Afghanistan, where nationals can gain visa-free access to just 26 countries and territories. Several states severed diplomatic ties with the beleaguered country after the Taliban seized power in August.

Henley’s analysts point out that the latest ranking reflects the greatest disparity between nations at the top and bottom of the list since it began the survey 17 years ago.

The top-ranked countries

RankCountryCountries nationals can visit without a visa
1Japan192
Singapore192
2Germany190
South Korea190
3Finland189
Italy189
Luxembourg189
Spain189
4Austria188
Denmark188
France188
Netherlands188
Sweden188
5Ireland187
Portugal187
6Belgium186
New Zealand186
Norway186
Switzerland186
United Kingdom186
United States186
7Australia185
Canada185
Czech Republic185
Greece185
Malta185
8Hungary183
Poland183
9Lithuania182
Slovakia182
10Estonia181
Latvia181
Slovenia181

The bottom 10

RankCountryCountries nationals can visit without a visa
101Congo (Democratic Republic)42
Iran42
102Lebanon41
Sri Lanka41
Sudan41
103Bangladesh40
Kosovo40
Libya40
104North Korea39
105Nepal37
Palestinian Territory37
106Somalia34
107Yemen33
108Pakistan31
109Syria29
110Iraq28
111Afghanistan26

Covid’s impact on borders

Of course, politics isn’t the only thing at play during a pandemic. Covid-19 has countries asking travelers to present an ever-changing list of entry forms, QR codes, and testing reports to secure entry, and the emergence of new variants has resulted in a number of wholesale travel bans between countries, however limited in duration.

Most recently, the highly transmissible omicron variant resulted in a kind of “travel apartheid” against poorer nations, UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said last month. Speaking in New York, Guterres decried blanket travel bans based on nationality as both “deeply unfair” and ultimately ineffective; he argued that only regular testing will slow the spread of covid.

Swiss health expert Andreas Brauchlin raised an additional point in a recent blog post: The freedom and mobility of a country’s citizens is likewise impacted by which vaccines they have access to, and whether they’ve been approved by the World Health Organization. “Vaccine passports, which once held the hope of negating the requirement for travel restrictions, are likely to expire after certain time periods,” Brauchlin wrote. “Seemingly, an individual’s health and vaccination status are as influential on mobility as their passport’s visa-free access.”

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