Germany has overthrown Singapore as the world’s most powerful passport, according to the 2018 Henley Passport Index.
German citizens enjoy visa-free and visa-upon-arrival privileges in 177 countries, up from 176 countries the previous year.
Passport Index, a separate ranking published by financial advisory firm Arton Capital, briefly ranked Singapore as the most powerful passport last October. Singaporeans have access to 159 countries with no application, meaning no visa or visa-upon-arrival requirements are in place.
Arton’s Passport Index placed Germany back at the top of the list in December 2017. Singapore ranked second on the list.
Singapore still ranks number two on Henley’s list, with access to 176 countries. In August, Singaporeans gained the privilege of using Thailand’s Automated Gate service at Suvarnabhumi Airport when entering the country. Singapore is the first country to be allowed to use the passport scanning service, and may only be used by those traveling to Thailand for tourism purposes.
Thailand plans to make its Automated Gate system available to more countries in the future.
Several European countries tied Henley’s list for third place, including: Denmark, Italy, Finland, France, Norway, Japan, United Kingdom and Sweden. These countries have easy access to 175 countries.
Austria, Luxembourg, Belgium, Spain, Netherlands and Switzerland tied for fourth place, with access to 174 countries.
The United States came in at number five along with Portugal, Ireland and South Korea. These countries have access to 173 countries.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Afghanistan topped the list of countries with the least freedom of movement. Citizens have access to just 24 countries. Iraq came in at number two, with access to 27 countries.
The need for visa-free access is greater than ever, according to Dr. Christian H. Kalin, Group Chairman of Henley & Partners.
“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,” he said. “The Henley Passport Index shows individuals where they lie on the spectrum of global mobility, revealing the strength that their passport has in relation to other passports.”
China saw the most growth in North Asia, moving up 10 positions compared to last year and ranking 75th on the list.
Georgia and Ukraine, after completing visa-liberalization in 2017, gained access to 30 and 32 countries respectively. Ukraine ascended 14 ranks, while Georgia gained 15 places.
Among the 199 countries featured on the index, 41 countries maintained their positions and 143 improved their ranking.
Only seven countries reduced their visa-free access: New Zealand, Azerbaijan, Algeria, North Korea, Laos, Syria, and Antigua and Barbuda.
“As security threats become globalized, tighter border controls affect certain Caribbean countries more than others,” said Dr. Suzette A. Haughton, Senior Lecturer, Department of Government, University of the West Indies
Africa has seen the biggest decline in travel freedom among all continents, accounting for 19 of the 27 biggest declines over the last ten years. Since 2008, only two African countries – Mauritius and Seychelles – have improved their rankings.