As the second half of 2019 unfolds itself, it becomes interesting to note that the index of the world’s most powerful passports has changed quite significantly. According to the Henley and Partners Passport Index (October 2018), this year has witnessed a strong competition among three contenders, all in Asia. As a pleasant surprise, Japan and Singapore have topped the world’s most powerful passport index 2019. They have successfully emerged as the world’s strongest passports, with South Korea following them in the second position.
List of the world’s most powerful passports as of 2019
- Japan and Singapore – 189 countries
- Finland, Germany, South Korea – 187 countries
- Denmark, Italy, Luxembourg – 186 countries
- France, Spain, Sweden – 185 countries
- Austria, Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland – 184 countries
- Belgium, Canada, Greece, Ireland, Norway, United Kingdom, United States – 183 countries
- Malta – 182 countries
- Czech Republic – 181 countries
- Australia, Iceland, Lithuania, New Zealand – 180 countries
- Latvia, Slovakia, Slovenia – 179 countries
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Earlier the topper of the world’s most powerful passport ranking, 2019 is seeing South Korea fight with Finland and Germany for the second position. All three countries grant their citizens visa-free entry to 187 countries. Finland has gained the advantage of the recent changes that took place in Pakistan’s former highly restrictive visa policy. Pakistan currently offers ETA, that is, The Electronic Travel Authority to citizens belonging to 50 different countries such as – Japan, Finland, Malta, Spain, Switzerland, and The United Arab Emirates. However, it is intriguing to know that this offer is not valid for the citizens of major countries such as The United Kingdom and The United States of America.
What makes a passport powerful?
A passport that gives citizens the privilege of visa-free entry into most countries of the world makes it strong and powerful. Japan and Singapore, with the world’s most powerful passports, offer to its citizen visa-free access to 189 countries. Most developed countries tend to have stronger passports in comparison with the weaker ones.
The third position in the passport index 2019 is occupied by three European countries – Italy, Denmark, and Luxembourg. Each of these countries has one of the strongest passports in the world, offering visa-free or visa-on-arrival entry to 186 countries. France, Sweden, and Spain occupy the fourth position in the world’s passport ranking 2019. As countries that occupy a prime position among the world’s strongest passports, these three countries offer their citizens access to 185 countries.
In 2014, The United States of America and The United Kingdom were the most powerful passports in the world, occupying the top position in the world passport index. However, in 2019, they do not remain as the world’s strongest passports. Instead, they have dropped down significantly to the sixth position, which is both of their lowest rankings in the world passport index since 2010.
Though the Brexit is yet to show its impact on the power of the United Kingdom’s passport, the Henley and Partners Passport Index press release says, “With its exit from the European Union now imminent, and coupled with ongoing confusion about the terms of its departure, the UK’s once-strong position looks uncertain.”
The United Arab Emirates, on the other hand, continues to move up the world’s most powerful passport ranking. For the first time in 14 years of the Henley and Partners Passport Index, The United Arab Emirates has gained itself an entry into the list of top 20 most powerful passports in the world. Across a period of only five years, the United Arab Emirates has more than doubled the number of countries into which its citizens are granted access without a prior visa. As one of the most powerful passports now, the growth of the United Arab Emirates’ passport is remarkable.
Occupying the bottom position in the world’s most powerful passport rankings, Afghanistan once again remains where it previously was. As a country on the other end of the scale, this country grants access to only 25 countries throughout the world without a prior visa. This has been a major concern for the citizens of Afghanistan for many years. Visa-free access is considered to be crucial as an indicator of economic and social progress. The alarming position of Afghanistan thus becomes the cause of serious worry.
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The Chairman of Henley and Partners Passport Index, Dr Christian H. Kaelin, is the mastermind behind the entire concept of a passport index. In the press release of the world’s most powerful passport index of 2019, he said, “With a few notable exceptions, the latest rankings from the Henley Passport Index show that countries around the world increasingly view visa-openness as crucial to economic and social progress.”
Some of the weakest passports in the world grant their citizens visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to fewer than 40 countries.
Countries with the weakest passports in the world
101. Bangladesh, Eritrea, Iran, Lebanon, North Korea – 39 countries
102. Nepal – 38 countries
103. Libya, Palestinian Territory, Sudan – 37 countries
104. Yemen – 33 countries
105. Somalia – 31 countries
106. Pakistan – 30 countries
107. Syria – 29 countries
108. Iraq – 27 countries
109. Afghanistan – 25 countries
The Henley and Partners Passport Index is only one among several indexes to judge the position of countries in terms of the most powerful passport. Based on the data provided by the International Airport Transport Authority (IATA) covering 199 passports and 227 destinations, this index is updated regularly.
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Another index, the Arton Capital’s Passport Index takes into account the passports that belong to 193 countries, which are the members of The United Nations and six territories, ROC Taiwan, Macau (SAR China), Hong Kong (SAR China), Kosovo, Palestinian Territory, and the Vatican. The territories that are annexed to other countries have been excluded. The Arton Capital’s Passport Index of 2019 places the United Arab Emirates in the first position as it has a visa-free score of 173. After the United Arab Emirates, the most powerful passports belong to Finland, Luxembourg, and Spain. All three countries have a great score of 168. Denmark, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, Portugal, Austria, Switzerland, South Korea, Japan, The United States, and Ireland are placed together in the third position as the most powerful passports according to the Arton Capital’s Passport Index.
Now, you must be wondering how a country turns its passport from weak to strong. Through a laborious process requiring consistent efforts and effective planning, three steps can be taken to make a country’s passport strong. Though these three steps guarantee to increase the strength of a passport, the process does not guarantee the “most powerful passport” status.
Here are the steps that countries take to make their passports strong
1. Get The United States Visa or Canada Visa
The best and most prestigious part of the United States Visa is that, apart from guaranteeing access to The United States, quite obviously, it also grants countries access to 39 other countries. Hence, with a United States Visa, a country can add 40 more countries to its list of visa-free access. However, it is quite difficult for countries to get The Unites States Visa. They can always apply for an easier but almost equally powerful alternative – Canada Visa. With this visa, citizens with the passport can travel visa-free to 28 other countries inclusive of Canada.
Both of these visas are given for a long period. They stay valid for a term of a good ten years. To gain a higher position on the list of most powerful passports, these two visas can help strengthen your country’s passport to a great extent for as long as ten years.
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2. Get the Schengen Visa
With a Schengen Visa, your country’s passport grants you visa-free access to as many as 26 Schengen countries. Apart from the Schengen countries, this visa can also place your country in a good position on the list of most powerful passports by providing visa-free access to 39 non-Schengen countries as well. Hence, this visa offers a great total of about 65 countries to your country’s list of visa-free countries. This is because the 39 non-Schengen countries have adopted the Schengen Visa as their own visa. However, the Schengen Visa is given for a short period, unlike The United States Visa and Canada Visa. The validity here is only for a term of 90 – 180 days. The validity of the Schengen Visa can be increased through consistent applications.
When your country obtains both, The United States Visa and the Schengen Visa, about 80 countries usually get added onto the list of visa-free countries that you can travel to with your passport.
3. Build a travel history
When a country builds its travel history, it does not automatically mean that the strength of its passport can be increased. Instead, it provides a great advantage by increasing the chances of visa approvals. Quite obviously, the better the travel history of a country, the greater are the chances of gaining visa approvals from other countries. Indicative of the fact that the country does not have any intention of illegal immigration, the building of travel history is extremely crucial to fasten the process of moving up the list of the world’s most powerful passports. The basic belief behind this is that, if the country had any intention to indulge in illegality, it would have done so in other countries. A good travel history makes your country trustworthy to the consulates.
Some visa applications even specify the submission of a copy of your travel history. These include – the United Kingdom, The United States of America, Canada, Bahrain, and Malaysia. When the majority of a country’s citizens have strong passports with many visas and stamps, the country is more likely to have easier visa approvals.
Indeed, the countries with the most powerful passports have shown tremendous economic and social development. The strongest passports of the world are those that have a rich and great travel history. Countries with weaker passports must strive to improve their economic and social conditions in addition to establishing friendly international relations in a consistent and dedicated manner. As a country moves up the list of the most powerful passports, it gets placed at a prime position in terms of progress as well. The travel of its citizens can be made much easier by improving the strength of a country’s passport.