Move over, Singapore - Japanese passport opens the most doors now

Blanche Robertson
October 10, 2018

A powerful passport is measured by how many countries citizens can visit without a visa, says new research.

The South African passport dropped another two rungs in an update to the authoritative Henley Passport Index published on Tuesday, continuing a long slide in the global rankings since 2008.

After gaining visa-free access to Myanmar earlier this month, Japan now enjoys visa-free/visa-on-arrival access to 190 destinations, compared to Singapore's total of 189, pushing Singapore into second place on the index. With stagnant outbound visa activity compared to Asian high-performers such as Japan, Singapore, and South Korea, it seems increasingly unlikely that the U.S. and the United Kingdom will regain the number 1 spot they jointly held in 2015. France moved up from 4th to 3rd place last Friday when it gained visa-free access to Uzbekistan, while South Korea moved from 4th to 3rd place on 1 October when it gained visa-free access to Myanmar.

"Mauritius and the Seychelles both have very welcoming visa policies, and as a result of this openness, other countries reciprocate and make travel easier for Seychellois and Mauritian citizens".

Criteria on the list include which countries you can access with which type of visa, how your passport has changed over the past 13 years, how it compares to other such passports, why it has the level of access that it does and which additional passports would improve your global movements.

Ranking in fourth place, with a score of 137, were jointly Denmark, Finland, Italy, Spain and Sweden.

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The UK hasn't secured any access to new jurisdictions since the start of the year.

However, Asian governments have signed up to 40 visa waivers in 2018, dramatically increasing visa-free travel for Asian countries.

Iraq and Afghanistan share the position of the weakest passport in the world.

Countries with citizenship-by-investment (CBI) programs in place all fall within the top 50 of the Henley Passport Index and are continually rising up the ranking.

"As the world economy has become increasingly globalised, the need for greater visa-free access has grown steadily", said the Henley Passport Index report.

This is according to Henley & Partners' latest Passport Index which ranked South Africa 52nd in the world in 2018, with South Africans able to access 102 destinations around the world visa-free or with a visa on arrival.

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