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Japan and Singapore deemed world's most powerful passports; US doesn't make top 5

Oct. 06, 2021
4 min read
Japan and Singapore deemed world's most powerful passports; US doesn't make top 5
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Of nearly 200 passports, Japan's passport reigns as the most powerful passport in the world for the fourth year in a row, according to the 2021 Henley Passport Index released on Oct. 5. The U.S. was again shut out of the top five.

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The 2021 Henley Passport Index. (Screenshot courtesy of Henley & Partners)

Henley & Partners, a global citizenship and residence advisory firm based in London, uses data from the International Air Transport Association to score passports based on the total number of destinations holders can access without having to apply for a visa. The index comprises 199 passports and 227 travel destinations.

"For each travel destination, if no visa is required, then a score of 1 is allocated for that passport. This also applies if passport holders can obtain a visa on arrival, a visitor’s permit, or an electronic travel authority upon entry," says the ranking's authors. "Where a visa is required, or where a passport holder must apply for a government-approved electronic visa before departure, a score of 0 is assigned. The same applies if they need pre-departure approval for a visa on arrival."

As is usually the case, three Asian countries — Japan and Singapore tied for first place with South Korea and Germany in second — topped the list, with mostly European countries rounding out the top 10, along with Australia and Canada.

A Singapore passport on March 29, 2020. (Photo by Roslan Rahman/AFP via Getty Images)

The top 10 most powerful passports and their visa-free scores are:

  1. Japan and Singapore, where passport holders can visit 192 countries visa-free.
  2. Germany and South Korea, where passport holders can visit 190 countries visa-free.
  3. Finland, Italy, Luxembourg and Spain, where passport holders can visit 189 countries visa-free.
  4. Austria and Denmark, where passport holders can visit 188 countries visa-free.
  5. France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal and Sweden, where passport holders can visit 187 countries visa-free.
  6. Belgium, New Zealand and Switzerland, where passport holders can visit 186 countries visa-free.
  7. Czech Republic, Greece, Malta, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States, where passport holders can visit 185 countries visa-free.
  8. Australia and Canada, where passport holders can visit 184 countries visa-free.
  9. Hungary, where passport holders can visit 183 countries visa-free.
  10. Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia, where passport holders can visit 182 countries visa-free.

It's particularly good news for Japanese citizens, as Japan does not allow citizens to possess dual nationality, in line with much of Asia.

The U.S. moved up one spot from 2020, when it ranked eighth for 184 passport-accessible countries.

Read more: These were the most powerful passports in the world in 2020

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Additionally, Henley looked at residence and citizenship by investment programs, which exist in nearly 100 countries, including 60% of the European Union. Residence and citizenship by investment programs are mutually beneficial for both the country and recipient: Countries grant residence or citizenship rights to individuals who have been vetted in exchange for a substantial investment; the former grants temporary residence to candidates that can be extended.

"For individuals, the key benefits of holding an alternative passport include expanded travel mobility, access to business and educational opportunities on a global scale, ease of asset diversification, and improved safety and security in a rapidly changing world," says the firm. "For host countries, the foreign direct investment secured through investment migration programs creates both sovereign and societal value."

In Austria, 3 million euros, or roughly $3.5 million, can buy you access to 188 destinations, followed by Malta at 738,000 euros with 185 countries. You can pay $750,000 to obtain a Jordan passport, which at 98th in terms of power, would grant access to 50 destinations.

Related: Learn from my experience: How to avoid a 7-week passport renewal saga

Featured image by AFP via Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.