The latest from the Henley Passport Index is out, and for the fifth year running, Japan crowns the index, which is based on data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
The index ranks all the world's 199 passports according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa.
Japanese citizens can visit 193 destinations out of 227 visa-free, while those of South Korea and Singapore, which are tied in second place, enjoy a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 192.
Germany and Spain are joint third, with visa-free access to 190 destinations worldwide.
The U.K. and the U.S. remain in sixth and seventh places, with scores of 187 and 186, respectively, and “appear increasingly unlikely” to regain the top spot they jointly held nearly a decade ago, Henley & Partners said in a release Tuesday (Jan. 10).
Canada ranked eighth place with a score of 185.
Afghanistan remains at the bottom of the Index, with a score of just 27 — 166 fewer visa-free destinations than Japan — the widest global mobility gap in the index's 18-year history.
"For global citizens, a better measure of economic mobility and fiscal opportunity afforded by their passports is to look at the percentage share of global GDP accessible to them visa-free,” said Chairman of Henley & Partners Dr. Christian H. Kaelin.
“Our latest research into how much global economic access each passport provides is a useful tool for investors and gives new insight into the ever-widening inequality and wealth disparity that defines our world."
Passport strength & economic power
The new study reveals that just six per cent of passports worldwide give their holders visa-free access to more than 70 per cent of the global economy.
And only 17 per cent of countries give their passport holders visa-free access to more than four-fifths of the world's 227 destinations.
The Japanese passport gives visa-free access to 85 per cent of the world and, collectively, these countries account for 98 per cent of the global economy (Japan's own GDP contribution is around five per son).
In contrast, the Nigerian passport at the lower end of the index provides visa-free access to only 46 destinations (20 per cent of the world), which account for just 1.5 per cent of global GDP.
The lowest ranked Afghanistan passport provides visa-free access to just 12% of the world and less than one per cent of global economic output.
In terms of percentage of global GDP, the U.S. and China have the lion's share, with 25 per cent and 19 per cent, respectively, but American passport holders can access a further 43 per cent of the world's economic output visa-free, bringing their total to 68 per cent, whereas Chinese passport holders can access only an additional seven per cent visa-free, taking their total to just 26 per cent of global GDP.
South Korea and Russia have similar national GDPs of around 1.9 per cent of global economic output.
But South Korea has a visa-free score of 192, giving its passport holders access to 81 per cent of global GDP, while Russia has a score of just 118, providing its passport holders with access to only 19 per cent of the world's economy.
India fares worse, despite having the world's fifth-largest economy: its passport holders can access just 59 destinations worldwide and only 6.8 per cent of global GDP, of which the country's own GDP accounts for around half.
The research proves the causal relationship between the ability to travel, foreign investment in a country, increased trade, and economic growth, said Prof. Trevor Williams, former chief economist at Lloyd's Bank Commercial Banking.
"These links are mutually reinforcing and agglomerative. Skills and talent go where there is the ability to work, invest, and travel, attracting others wishing to do the same and creating a positive loop,” Williams said.
The war in Ukraine
The Ukraine war is yet to have a significant impact on the Henley Passport Index scores of Russia and Ukraine, with both countries retaining roughly the same position 'on paper' since the invasion nearly a year ago.
Ukrainians have been granted the right to live and work in the EU for up to three years under an emergency plan in response to what has become Europe's biggest refugee crisis this century.
Already one of the biggest climbers on the Henley Passport Index, moving up 24 places over the past decade, Ukraine would likely break into the Top Ten most powerful passports in the world if it were to join the EU, the company said.
Negotiations for membership are due to begin in earnest in the next few months after the EU approved Ukraine's application for EU candidate status in record time last June.
While Asian countries still dominate the very top of the index, the growing passport strength of Gulf states has been identified as a key trend in the coming year.
The UAE has climbed an astonishing 49 places over the past 10 years. Ranking 64th in 2013, with a visa-free score of just 72, the UAE now sits in 15th place, with a score of 178 and access to nearly 70 per cent of global GDP.
Analysts anticipate that Kuwait and Qatar will sign a visa-free deal with the EU this year — a move that will dramatically enhance their Henley Passport Index scores.
To view the Henley Passport Index, click here.