How Powerful Is Your Passport?


Frequent travelers know well how important it is to have a passport. It gives the freedom to explore the world and meet new and exciting cultures and peoples. Or so it should. In reality, it’s much more complicated. Some passports are simply more powerful than others, as a recent report on visa restrictions reveals.

Emirates Airline Summer 2010 Image 1If you live in certain countries around the world, you will find it extremely difficult to travel. While often the nationality is an issue, resulting in very limited travel options, sometimes residents of certain countries don’t even have access to visas or passports. For example, people in Afghanistan are able to visit only 28 countries without having to apply for visa. This makes them the most travel-restricted nation in the world, even more restricted than let’s say North Korea, which is known as a secretive, closed-up communist country with harsh laws and little freedom. Still, North Korea comes at 86th place in the latest Visa Restrictions Index, while Afghanistan is at the bottom of the ranking. So, how is that possible?

The Visa Restrictions Index, compiled by consulting firm Henley and Partners, ranks countries based on the travel freedom their residents have. In other words, the score of every country equals the number of other countries its citizens can travel visa-free. The Index is created in cooperation with the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which has the largest database of travel information in the world. So, a country’s ranking is not only very real to travelers, but it also reflects its international image. So, where people are most privileged when it comes to travel abroad? The highest score in the Index is shared by five countries – Finland, Germany, Sweden, the UK, and the US, meaning their citizens can access 174 countries around the world visa-free and enjoy the greatest travel freedom.

Along with North Korea, another surprise in the ranking is the United Arab Emirates, which moved up after a 2014 decision allowed its citizens to enjoy short stays in the EU Schengen countries without a visa. So, today, the UAE stands at 55th place in the travel freedom index and people holding an UAE-issued passport can visit 77 countries visa-free. It’s also only second after Kuwait in the Middle East in travel freedom, which has 78 points. This is quite a high ranking for countries in the region, as the first places are traditionally occupied by countries from Europe, the Americas, as well as certain special-status countries and territories.

Other passports that grant easy, visa-free travel are those issued by the governments of Canada and Denmark, which are second on the list, followed by Belgium, France, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Portugal, and Spain.


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