UK slides again as world's most powerful passports revealed

Oliver Smith
Only two nations have a more powerful passport than the UK - Copyright by Michal Krakowiak

Japan has knocked Singapore off top spot on the list of the world’s most powerful passport, according to new research, while the UK has slipped again to 11th.

The ranking by Henley & Partners, a citizenship and planning firm, takes into account how many countries can be visited without applying for a visa. Japanese citizens can travel to a record 190 out of a possible 218, having recently gained visa-free access to Myanmar, while Singaporeans can visit 189 and Britons 186.

Japan and Singapore had previously been neck and neck - both on 189 - following a visa-exemption from Uzbekistan, with Germany in third. Iran and Afghanistan continue to hold the bottom spot, with only 30 destinations accessible visa-free to their citizens.

Neither the UK or US, both with 186 countries, have gained access to any new jurisdictions since the start of the year, while visa-free travel among Asian countries has soared thanks to up to 40 visa-waiver agreements signed by governments in 2018.

“It seems increasingly unlikely that the US and the UK will regain the number one spot they jointly held in 2015,” the report said.

The UAE, in 21rd, is the fastest climber, ascending 38 places since 2008 after securing more visa exemptions for its citizens in 2018 than any other country in the world.

The UK topped the 2015 rankings, alongside Germany, but ceded that spot after several countries relaxed travel restrictions to the latter. It was leapfrogged by Sweden in 2016, and then Denmark, Finland, Italy and Spain in 2017, but now sits in 11th alongside Norway, Austria, Luxembourg, the US, Netherlands and Portugal.

2017 saw Belarus offer British citizens visa-free entry, Kazakhstan and Vietnam renew their visa-free arrangements with the UK, and Ethiopia offer a new e-visa option, helping boost the UK's overall position.

Afghanistan and Iraq prop up the table. Their passport holders can only enter 30 countries without a visa, just behind Syria and Somalia, who each have just 32 accessible countries on their list.

Overall, 143 countries saw the power of their passport improve over the course of 2017, while seven countries saw visa-free access reduced.

The UAE, of which Dubai is the largest city, is climbing the passport power rankings Credit: Markus_Gortz/MARKUS@MARKUSGORTZ.COM

Among the biggest climbers for the first quarter of 2018 were Georgia (111 visa-free countries, up from 99), Ukraine (128, up from 114), China (70, up from 60), and Indonesia (71, up from 63).

"As the world economy has become increasingly globalized, the need for greater visa-free access has grown steadily," said the report. "Across the economic spectrum, individuals want to transcend the constraints imposed on them by their country of origin and access business, financial, career, and lifestyle opportunities on a global scale."