What country has the most powerful passport in the world? Well, it depends who you ask. Earlier this year we reported that Singapore had moved to the top of the Passport Index list, claiming sole ownership of the most powerful passport in the world. The next several slots were ties, and the USA came in a multi-way tie for fifth.
If you ask the nice people over at Passport Index, not much has changed. Singapore still has the top spot, but the US has moved up two spots to third. We can currently visit 163 countries – according to this list – with just our passport or a passport and a visa on arrival.
The problem is that the Passport Index isn’t the only list. According to the Henley & Partners Passport Index, the number one country is actually Japan. Germany is second on both lists, but Singapore ties for second on the Henley list. Japan comes in third (along with us) on the Passport Index list.
So why the discrepancy? It turns out that categorizing all the countries in the world isn’t as straight-forward as you might think.
According to Henley’s list, Japanese passport holders can visit 189 destinations with just their passport. According to the Passport Index list, that number is just 163. The difference is that the Henley list doesn’t just include countries. It also includes territories and microstates that have their own passport and visa requirements.
This year the Henley list added eight new destinations to its list – Greenland, the Faroe Islands, Monaco, Liechtenstein, Palestine, Vatican City, and San Marino. Japanese passport holders can travel to all of these locations without a visa. In March, Benin also relaxed its visa requirements for Japanese passport holders, which gave Japan the edge over previous champion, Singapore.
Whichever list you use, it’s significant that two of the strongest passports are currently from Asian countries, which is a new trend. The European Union still dominates most of the top of the list, but Japan and Singapore’s presence at the top is worthy of note and may be a sign of a smaller, more connected globe.
Another fun tidbit from the current rankings is the placement of the United Arab Emirates. While currently in 23rd place according to the Henley list, the UAE has made significant progress since 2008, jumping 38 places. That’s no small feat. Hopefully recent changes in the Middle East like the arrival of movie theaters and women getting the right to drive in Saudi Arabia will lead to more positive change and more connection around the world for everyone.
And, of course, remember that your passport isn’t powerful at all if it’s expired. Give us a call if you need to expedite your passport renewal before a big trip. We can also help with expedited passports for first time applicants. Contact us any time to learn more.
Rob Lee is co-founder of Swift Passport and Visa Services. Originally from Michigan, Rob is an avid fisherman and SCUBA diver who enjoys adventure travel.