Travel can be a stressful activity, but passing through borders and checkpoints is a breeze when you’ve got the world’s best passport. The handy little document opens doors, provides access to healthcare and grants the right to work and study abroad, provided you’ve got the right country of citizenship. Simply flash the picture, scan your name and you’re on your way, at least, that’s how it used to be. After two years spent at home, the easing of global restrictions and the spate of international border opens has the world reassessing its approach to overseas expeditions, and for good reason. An ongoing conflict waging across Europe is proving that not all passports are created equal.
For another year, the world’s best passport honours were shared between Japan and Singapore, while Germany and South Korea are second, with Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, and Spain sharing third. Down under, Australia came in seventh, just behind our neighbours New Zealand in sixth. So, what does it all mean?
What is the Henley Passport Index?
For international travellers heading to or from the traditionally non-tourist centric regions, restrictions are nothing new. Depending on the country in which your passport is issued, you may be prevented from entering a certain region, generally the result of geopolitical updates and safety concerns. The good news is that there are a number of organisations dedicated to tracking passport power across the globe, the most prevalent of which is the Henley Passport Index.
Developed using expert commentary and historical data spanning 17 years, the Henley Passport Index provides a ranking of the world’s passports according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa. The information in the index is based on official data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which harbours the world’s largest database of travel information and compares the visa-free access of 199 different passports to 227 travel destinations.
While it sounds simple enough, there is actually a points system at use here. According to Henley,
- If no visa is required, then a score with value = 1 is created for that passport. The same notion 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.
From there, the total score is calculated for each passport, equal to the number of destinations for which no visa is required (value = 1). For example, a passport that allows free travel between 40 countries with no visa is required will score 40 points.
A recent update to the Henley Passport Index revealed that many EU countries have dramatically reduced travel options for Russian passport holders, in light of the recent conflict in Ukraine. More specifically, Henley suggests that airspace has been blocked to Russian aeroplanes, while a number of regions have stopped processing visas and golden passport applications altogether. Conversely, Ukrainian passport holders now have new rights to live and work in Europe for up to three years, helping to combat “a gap that is likely to increase even further in the coming months as a result of the conflict”. According to Dr Christian H. Kaelin, chairman of Henley & Partners and the inventor of the passport index concept, the latest update provides a unique snapshot of a volatile and rapidly changing world.
“As the value of the Russian passport rapidly declines and the world opens its doors to Ukrainians, it is abundantly clear that the passport you hold determines your fate and dramatically impacts the opportunities you have,” Dr Kaelin said. “While it is impossible to predict what the world will look like in the shadow of a new Cold War, the latest index suggests that the divide between Russia and much of the Western world will only increase.”
Additionally, Dr Kaelin noted that other external factors, such as climate change and migration are also likely to play an important role in passport power over the coming years. Displacement is a major catalyst for change in this space and updates of this nature have the potential to challenge visa-free travel moving forward.
Best Passports in 2022
Short of opening your suitcase and cycling through the selection of identities, each of varying nationality and citizenship, the likelihood of scoring one of these comes firmly down to birth and location. That being said, changing citizenship can be done, it just requires some time and effort. Here are the best passports to have in 2022, according to the Henley Passport Index.
Holding joint first place in the index rankings, Japan and Singapore passport holders are able to access 192 destinations around the world visa-free. Importantly, the figures do not take temporary COVID restrictions into account, so while the data is up to date, it’s entirely reflective of the current situation. The high GDP countries offer flexible travel between neighbours, making border crossing far simpler.
Visa-Free Destinations: 192
2. Germany/South Korea
Similarly, Germany and South Korea have also negotiated extensive visa-free travel deals with accompanying countries. The two powerhouses from very different sides of the world each offer 190 visa-free travel destinations to passport holders, a significant amount for those lucky enough to hold the document.
Visa-Free Destinations: 190
Rounding out the top three is a four-way tie between Finland, Italy, Luxembourg and Spain. Each of the European nations offers passport holders a total of 189 visa-free travel destinations, with a vast majority of regions across their home continents available to visit.
Visa-Free Destinations: 189
Most Powerful Passports in 2022 (Full List)
What is the best passport to have?
According to the Henley Passport Index, the best passport to have is either Japan or Singapore. This is determined based on the 192 visa-free travel destinations that the passport offers, greater than all other countries.
What is the worst passport to have?
According to the Henley Passport Index, the worst passport to have is Afghanistan. With only 26 visa-free travel destinations on offer, the country has the least free movement of all destinations analysed in the study.