JAPAN goes into the new year holding the number one spot with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 190, making it the most powerful passport in the world once again.
Singapore and South Korea share a joint second place on the Henley Passport Index, with citizens enjoying visa-free/visa-on-arrival access to 189 destinations around the globe.
Germany and France, on the other hand, remain in third place going into 2019, with citizens able to access 188 countries and territories.
The US and the UK continue to drop down the Henley Passport Index — which is based on authoritative data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) — and now sit in joint sixth place, with access to 185 destinations. This is a significant fall from the first place position that these countries held in 2015.
Denmark, Finland, Italy, and Sweden now hold a joint fourth place, while Spain and Luxembourg are in fifth.
As they have done for much of the index’s 14-year history, Iraq and Afghanistan remain at the bottom of the ranking, with access to just 30 visa-free destinations.
According to Henley & Partners head of Southeast Asia and Singapore managing partner Dominic Volek, this latest ranking shows that despite rising isolationist sentiment in some parts of the world, many countries remain committed to collaboration.
“The ascent of countries such as South Korea and the UAE on the Henley Passport Index reminds us that opening your borders to others results in reciprocal benefits and improved passport strength for your own citizens,” Volek said.
“The countries that perform well on the index are those that are embracing new models of global citizenship and adapting to, rather than shrinking away from, an increasingly globalised world. The general spread of open-door policies has the potential to contribute billions to the global economy, as well as create significant employment opportunities around the world,” he added.
Countries continue to embrace mutually beneficial migration
Asian countries’ continued dominance of the Henley Passport Index reflects the extraordinary effect that international mobility and migration has had on the region.
The full scope of this impact is explored in the recently launched 2019 edition of the Henley Passport Index and Global Mobility Report.
It offers cutting-edge analysis and commentary from leading scholars and professional experts on the latest trends shaping international and regional mobility patterns today.
“China’s Thousand Talents scheme, Thailand’s entrepreneur visa, and similar initiatives from the UAE to Singapore show many states sustaining a high comfort level with mutually beneficial economic migration,” FutureMap founder and managing partner Dr. Parag Khanna commented.
China’s steady ascent up the rankings over the past few years is a clear demonstration of this.
In 2017, the country was ranked 85th, with citizens able to access just 51 destinations. Going into 2019, China sits in 69th place, with its nationals now able to access 74 countries and territories around the world.
What will the coming year hold in terms of visa freedom and travel access?
Experts anticipate that neither the US nor EU member states are in line to substantially revise their current visa policies, whereas countries in other parts of Europe (such as citizenship-by-investment newcomers Moldova and Montenegro), as well as those in Asia and the Middle East, look set to continue seeking visa-waiver agreements with diplomatic allies.
Insights from the 2019 edition of the Henley Passport Index and Global Mobility Report show that the ever-growing trend towards visa-openness is unlikely to slow down.
Overall, 2019 looks set to hold some surprises in the travel freedom space as more countries and citizens embrace the benefits of global mobility.
The Henley Passport Index is the original ranking of all the world’s passports according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa.
The ranking is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which maintains the world’s largest and most accurate database of travel information, and it is enhanced by extensive, ongoing research by the Henley & Partners Research Department.
This article originally appeared on our sister site Travel Wire Asia.