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Europe once offered the world’s most powerful passports. Not anymore

July 20, 2022, 4:45 AM UTC
Passengers wheel their luggage as they arrive at Terminal 5 of Londons Heathrow Airport.
Tejas Sandhu—SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

Japan, Singapore, and South Korea have the most powerful passports as the world continues to recover from COVID-19, reversing pre-pandemic rankings that were dominated by European nations.

A Japanese passport provides hassle-free entry to 193 countries, one more than those from Singapore and South Korea, according to the latest Henley Passport Index from Henley & Partners, an immigration consultancy.

Russian travel documents are ranked 50th, giving easy access to 119 nations. China placed 69th with access to 80 countries, India’s passport ranked 87th and Afghanistan’s passport is the least useful, getting the holder into only 27 countries. 

“The recovery and reclamation of our travel freedoms, and our innate instinct to move and migrate, will take time,” Henley & Partners Chairman Christian Kaelin said in a statement.

As recently as 2017, Asian countries barely featured among the world’s 10 most-accepted passports, according to the index. Europe’s domination has gradually eased and Germany now trails South Korea. The U.K. is sixth with access to 187 countries, while the U.S. is seventh with a score of 186, the latest ranking shows.

The index, which uses 17 years of data, helps wealthy individuals and governments assess the value of citizenships around the world based on which passports offer the most prolific visa-free, or visa-on-arrival access. Still, with global travel yet to fully recover from COVID restrictions, the index offers only a notional snapshot of the best documents to hold as the world emerges from the pandemic.

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