After five years sitting pretty at the top, Germany has been knocked off its most-powerful-passport-in-the-world perch: A new “live index” shows that Japan is now number one, offering their citizens visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 190 destinations, having recently obtained visa-free access to Myanmar. Singapore and South Korea come in second, with visa-free access to just (sigh, just) 189 countries, while Germany and France round out the top three, offering visa-free access to 188 countries.
The index, created by London-based consulting firm Henley & Partners with the International Air Transport Association (which has the world’s largest database of travel information), judges the top passports in the world by how much visa-free travel they allow. Generally, visa requirements are indicative of a country’s relationship with another—reciprocity, as illustrated by the contentious battle over U.S. travelers’ visa-free access to Europe, is often an expectation. In the past, this was an annual list, released every January. Now, “the site is updated in real-time as visa-policy changes come into effect,” says a spokesperson for Henley & Partners, which is why the list changes every few months.
The United Kingdom and the U.S. have slid down one spot since last year—from fifth to sixth—with access to 185 destinations, largely because neither of them have gotten any new visa-free access since 2018. And though the countries once jointly held the top spot in 2015, their ascendance to number one yet again seems unlikely, in large part because “Asian high-performers such as Japan, Singapore, and South Korea” continue to open up (and in turn, receive) visa access to more and more countries.
The passport to watch? The United Arab Emirates, which has climbed from 62nd place in 2006 to its current rank of 22nd. On the lower end of the list are Iraq and Afghanistan, which sit at the bottom of the index and each have visa-free access to just 30 destinations worldwide. Here, a look at the top 27 countries.
1. Japan 190 countries can be visited without a visa =2. Singapore, South Korea 189 =3. Germany, France 188 =4. Denmark, Finland, Italy, Sweden 187 =5. Luxembourg, Spain 186 =6. Austria, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Switzerland, U.K., U.S. 185 =7. Belgium, Canada, Greece, Ireland 184 8. Czech Republic 183 9. Malta 182 =10. Australia, Iceland, New Zealand 181