These are the most powerful passports in the world this year

Jan 9, 2020

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What’s in a passport?

Shakespeare famously said that a rose, by any other name, would still smell just as sweet. But the same cannot be said for passports: When it comes to travel, not all passports are created equal — not by a long shot.

When it comes to international travel, a strong passport allows you to enter and depart various foreign countries without going through the hassle of applying for visas, entry permits and other such red tape.

And depending on what you know about international relations, it might surprise you to realize that a U.S. passport isn’t even amongst the top 10 countries with foreign access.

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The Henley & Partners Passport Index ranks the world’s 199 passports on their “value of citizenship,” based on a weighted approach. Amongst other criteria, one factor evaluates the number of countries a passport holder can access without having to apply for a visa.

You can read all about the methodology here, or we can cut straight to the chase: Japan takes the gold — again — for 2020. Passport holders from the Land of the Rising Sun can access a whopping 191 visa-free countries, while Singapore takes second place with visa-free access to 190 countries. Germany and South Korea tie for third place, as passport holders from both nations can easily travel to 189 countries.

Image courtesy of Henley & Partners.

The U.S. ranks in eighth place, tied with Belgium, Greece, Norway and the United Kingdom for 184 passport-accessible countries.

It’s surprising that none of the three East Asian nations — Japan, Singapore and South Korea — even made the top 10 list before 2017. In 2018, Japan shot to the top of the leaderboard, boasting 190 countries compared to its former 172 in 2017; Singapore had 189 visa-free countries to its previous 173 in 2017; and South Korea passports saw the most progress, with 188 accessible countries in 2018 against its 170 in 2017. (You can play around with the rankings yourself on the Henley & Partners site.)

The lowest-ranking passports in the world come from Yemen, with just 33 countries accessible without a visa; Pakistan and Somalia at 32; Syria at 29; Iraq at 28 and Afghanistan bringing up the rear with 26 visa-free countries.

Graphic courtesy of Henley & Partners.

Featured photo by Getty Images.

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