For the third consecutive year, Japan has secured
the top spot on the Henley Passport Index with a
visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 191.
Singapore holds onto its
2nd-place position with a score of 190, while South Korea drops
down a rank to 3rd place alongside Germany, giving their passport
holders visa-free/visa-on-arrival access to 189 destinations
The US and the UK continue their downward
trajectory on the index’s rankings. While both countries remain in
the top 10, their shared 8th-place position is a significant
decline from the number one spot they jointly held in 2015.
Elsewhere in the top 10, Finland and Italy share 4th place, with a
score of 188, while Denmark, Luxembourg, and Spain together hold
5th place, with a score of 187.
The index’s historic success story
remains the steady ascent of the UAE, which has climbed a
remarkable 47 places over the past 10 years and now sits in 18th
place, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 171.
On the other
end of the travel freedom spectrum, Afghanistan remains at the
bottom of the index, with its nationals only able to visit a mere
26 destinations visa-free.
Dr. Christian H. Kaelin, Chairman of Henley &
Partners and the inventor of the passport index concept, which is
based on exclusive data from IATA, says the
latest ranking provides a fascinating insight into a rapidly
“Asian countries’ dominance of the top spots is a
clear argument for the benefits of open-door policies and the
introduction of mutually beneficial trade agreements. Over the
past few years, we have seen the world adapt to mobility as a
permanent condition of global life. The latest rankings show that
the countries that embrace this reality are thriving, with their
citizens enjoying ever-increasing passport power and the array of
benefits that come with it.” Dr. Kaelin said.
As ongoing research shows, these benefits are
extensive. Using exclusive historical data from the Henley
Passport Index, political science researchers Uğur Altundal and
Ömer Zarpli, of Syracuse University and the University of
Pittsburgh respectively, have found that there is a strongly
positive correlation between travel freedom and other kinds of
liberties – from the economic to the political, and even
individual or human freedoms.
Altundal and Zarpli observe that
“there’s a distinct correlation between visa freedom and
investment freedom, for instance. Similar to trade freedom,
countries that rank highly in investment freedom generally have
stronger passports. European states such as Austria, Malta, and
Switzerland clearly show that countries with a business-friendly
environment tend to score highly when it comes to passport power.
Likewise, by using the Human Freedom Index, we found a
strong correlation between personal freedom and travel freedom.”
UK, Europe and Brexit
Following the Conservative government’s landslide
victory in the UK late last year, the future of mobility and
travel freedom between Britain and the EU remains uncertain.
Madeleine Sumption, Director of the Migration Observatory at the
University of Oxford, said, “The Conservative government has
promised an ‘Australian-style’ points-based system that would be
more liberal than current policies towards non-EU citizens, though
still much more restrictive than free movement. As with all big
migration policy changes, what this will mean for actual levels of
mobility, however, remains extremely difficult to predict.”
Noting that the looming threat of Brexit has
potentially made Britain a less attractive destination for EU
citizens, Sumption points out that net EU migration to the
UK fell by 59% between 2015 and 2018.
Prof. Simone Bertoli, Professor of Economics at
Université Clermont Auvergne (CERDI) in France, says that while
countries around the world insist that they are taking steps to
attract “the best and the brightest”, a rather different picture
is currently emerging: “When it comes to talent migration, a
worrying gap between policy and rhetoric has been opening up over
the past year. The sluggish improvement of labor market conditions
after the 2008 crisis, and the concomitant rise of nativist
political parties, is reinforcing the perception of immigration as
a threat rather than as an opportunity.”
Going into the new year, countries with
citizenship-by-investment programs continue to consolidate their
positions on the index.
Malta sits in 9th place, with access to
183 destinations around the world, while Montenegro holds on to
46th place, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 124. In the
Caribbean, St. Kitts and Nevis and Antigua and Barbuda secure 27th
and 30th spot, respectively.
Discussing the increasing popularity of investment
migration programs for both wealthy investors and the countries
that offer them, Dr. Juerg Steffen, CEO of Henley & Partners,
said, “Demand for these programs is accelerating, just as the
supply has grown globally. The past year has shown that,
increasingly, nations and wealthy individuals see investment
migration as more than a competitive advantage. Today, it is
viewed as an absolute requirement in a volatile world where
competition for capital is fierce, and it’s very clear that we
will see more of this in 2020.”
Download the full index
Henley Passport Index.