Skip to content

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
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

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.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

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.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

"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

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.

TPG featured card

Best Marriott card for Business Owners
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 6X points
6X6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
4X4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
2X2x points on all other eligible purchases.

Intro offer

Earn 100,000 points75,000 points
Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.

Annual Fee

$125

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent/Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

Pros

  • 6x points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • 4x points at restaurants worldwide, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. shipping
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases
  • Earn a free-night award each card renewal month (up to 35,000 points)
  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
  • Transfer Marriott points to 40+ airlines

Cons

  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best Marriott card for Business Owners
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

6X6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
4X4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
2X2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Intro Offer
    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.

    Earn 100,000 points
    75,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $125
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

Pros

  • 6x points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • 4x points at restaurants worldwide, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. shipping
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases
  • Earn a free-night award each card renewal month (up to 35,000 points)
  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
  • Transfer Marriott points to 40+ airlines

Cons

  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees