By Adrian Bishop
For the fifth year running, Germany tops visa-free mobility, a new survey reveals.
Holding a German passport opens up visa-free access to 177 countries, up one from 2016, according to immigration advisor, Henley & Partners.
Singapore is second in the 2018 Henley Passport Index with visa-free access to 176 countries.
Eight nations – the UK, France, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Japan, Norway and Sweden – share eighth place with 175 countries.
Joint fourth are Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Spain on 174 countries.
The Henley Passport Index, which is in its 13th
year, uses data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which maintains the world’s largest and most accurate database of travel information.
The United States is equal fifth place, with 173 countries – one more than previously. The Russian Federation climbed three places to 48th.
China was the best performer in North Asia, moving up 10 places to 75th globally.
Afghanistan comes bottom of the index, with visa-free access to 24 countries, followed by Iraq on 27, Syria with 28 and Pakistan on 30.
Source: Henley and Partners Passport Index
Dr. Christian H. Kälin, Group Chairman of Henley & Partners, says the need for visa-free access is greater than ever. “Across the economic spectrum, individuals want to transcend the constraints imposed on them by their country of origin and access business, financial, career, and lifestyle opportunities on a global scale. The Henley Passport Index shows individuals where they lie on the spectrum of global mobility, revealing the strength that their passport has in relation to other passports.”
The biggest mover was Ukraine, which completed the visa liberalization process with the EU in 2017 and gained access to 32 countries. It is followed by Georgia on 30 countries, which was the highest individual mover, climbing 15 places, with Ukraine on 14.
China, Sierra Leone, Guinea, the Dominican Republic, and Indonesia also performed strongly, gaining seven or more places compared to 2017.
At the other end of the spectrum, New Zealand descended the most, but dropped only two places. Another 14 countries — Cyprus, Trinidad and Tobago, Sweden, Spain, Greece, Lithuania, Taiwan, Iran, Bangladesh, Nepal, Yemen, Antigua and Barbuda, North Korea and Syria — fell one place year-on-year.
Of the 199 countries featured on the index, 143 improved their rank over the past year and 41 countries maintained their position.
Only seven countries had less visa-free access in the past year: Azerbaijan, New Zealand, Antigua and Barbuda, Algeria, Laos, North Korea, and Syria all lost visa-free access to a single country.
By contrast, 18 countries maintained their level of visa-free access year-on-year, and the remainder of countries (174) improved.
Of all the continents, Africa has suffered the most dramatic decline in travel freedom with African countries accounting for 19 of the 27 biggest fallers over the past decade.
Only two African countries (the Seychelles and Mauritius) have improved their global rank since 2008, the Seychelles by 17 places and Mauritius by 16 places.
The Seychelles is the highest-performing African country in 2018, ranking 27th, up two places, with visa-free access to 141 countries. Mauritius, is second and 32nd globally, with visa-free access to 134 countries. South Africa is third in the region and 52nd globally, with visa-free access to 100 countries.
Over the past 10 years, the UAE has climbed an impressive 28 places on the index. The UAE passport, ranked 33rd in the 2018 edition, offers visa-free travel to 133 countries — up from 121 countries in 2017.
Singapore, which offers visa-free travel to 176 countries, is second overall – its highest ranking in 10 years and top in East Asia. Malaysia is second in the region, and 12th globally on 166 countries. Indonesia moved up the ranking by seven places and is now ranked 72nd globally.
North Asian countries Japan and South Korea retained their positions in the top 10. Both moved up two places - South Korea to fifth place, with visa-free access to 173 countries.
Ukraine now occupies the top spot in the Commonwealth of Independent States. The Russian Federation is ranked 48th overall, sharing this position with Moldova. Georgia is the highest climber both in the region and globally, moving up 15 places compared to 2017 and now occupying 53rd place overall. With a visa-free score of 50, and ranked 85th globally, Turkmenistan has the lowest level of travel freedom within the Commonwealth of Independent States.
In the Caribbean, several countries showed improvements on the 2017 results. St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Grenada added three additional countries to their 2017 visa-free lists. St. Kitts and Nevis also climbed two places in the 2018 edition of the index, now ranking fourth in the region and 28th globally. The Dominican Republic was the highest regional climber, rising seven places to 73rd globally. All countries in the region, apart from Antigua and Barbuda and Trinidad and Tobago, improved or maintained their visa-free score year-on-year.
Dr Kälin concludes, “There is no denying that a global mobility divide exists. We are also seeing a growing tendency towards a more isolationist, immigration-hostile policy among traditional migrant-receiving countries such as the US, and 2018 will bring further uncertainty, with the UK still in the grip of ongoing Brexit negotiations.
“Nonetheless, only a small minority of countries on the Henley Passport Index lost visa-free access in 2018. By and large, countries either improved or maintained their access compared to 2017. These findings reflect the fact that, while certain countries are tightening their borders, most are in fact becoming more open, as they seek to tap into the immense economic value that tourism, international commerce and migration can bring.”