Global travel restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in a “growing disparity” between countries in the global north and global south, according to the first 2022 report by London-based global citizenship and residence advisory firm Henley & Partners.
The firm’s Henley Passport Index, which based on data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), has been monitoring and ranking the world’s most powerful passports since 2006.
While 2022’s report shows “record-breaking levels” of travel freedom for top-ranking nations, such as Japan and Singapore, it also highlights the “widest recorded global mobility gap” since the index’s inception 17 years ago.
For instance: nationals from countries such as Sweden and the United States able to visit more than 180 destinations visa-free, while passport holders from Angola, Cameroon, and Laos are able to enter only about 50, the index reports.
“This deepening divide in international mobility between wealthier countries and poorer ones was brought into sharp focus late last year with the arrival of the highly infectious Omicron variant, which was met with a raft of punitive restrictions against mainly African nations that U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described as akin to ‘travel apartheid,’” says Henley & Partners. “This, despite the fact that over the past decade and a half, overall travel freedom levels have expanded significantly.”
How Canada ranks
Japan and Singapore share the top-ranking spot – citizens from those two countries can now enter 192 destinations around the world visa-free, which is 166 more than Afghanistan, which sits at the bottom of the index.
Germany and South Korea tie in second place, with passport holders having access to 190 destinations visa-free, while Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, and Spain rank third, with a score of 189.
U.S. and the U.K. passports have regained some of their previous strength after falling to eighth place in 2020 – “the lowest spot held by either country in the index’s 17-year history,” according to the firm. Both countries now sit in sixth place.
The index’s top ten mostly consists of EU countries, with France, Netherlands and Sweden climbing one spot to join Austria and Denmark in fourth place (with a score of 188). Meanwhile, Ireland and Portugal are in fifth place (with a score of 187).
Canada, Australia, the Czech Republic, Greece and Malta take the number seven spots, with Eastern European countries making up the rest of the top 10.
The Henley Passport Index, which doesn't take temporary restrictions into account, compares the visa-free access of 199 different passports to 227 travel destinations.
If no visa is required, then a score with value = 1 is created for that passport. The same applies if you can obtain a visa on arrival, a visitor’s permit, or an electronic travel authority (ETA) when entering the destination.
Where a visa is required, or where a passport holder has to obtain a government-approved electronic visa (e-Visa) before departure, a score with value = 0 is assigned.
This also applies if you need pre-departure government approval for a visa on arrival.
“Passports and visas are among the most important instruments impacting on social inequality worldwide as they determine opportunities for global mobility,” stated Dr. Christian H. Kaelin, chairman of Henley & Partners. “The borders within which we happen to be born, and the documents we are entitled to hold, are no less arbitrary than our skin colour. Wealthier states need to encourage positive inward migration in an effort to help redistribute and rebalance human and material resources worldwide, including improving the size and quality of their own workforces.”