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The jiggling and jostling atop the global passport rankings for 2023 just got a little more interesting.
For five long years, Japan has been sitting pretty in the No.1 position in the Henley Passport Index, which measures global travel freedom in terms of how much visa-free and visa-on-demand access the world’s different citizens enjoy.
But for summer 2023, Japan’s been knocked down into a third place and the new titleholder is Singapore, whose citizens are able to visit 193 destinations out of 227 around the world visa-free.
And while Asia has long dominated the top of the leaderboard in the index created by London-based global citizenship and residence advisory firm Henley & Partners, Europe is bouncing back. Germany, Italy and Spain have all moved up to second place with visa-free access to 190 destinations, while Japan and South Korea are joined in the No.3 slot by Austria, Finland, France, Luxembourg and Sweden. Citizens from that particular magnificent seven enjoy access to 189 destinations without needing a prior visa.
The United States and the United Kingdom have both been on a downward trajectory since the halcyon days when they jointly held the No. 1 spot way back in 2014, but the UK, at least, appears to be turning things around. It’s made a sprightly two-rankings hop to No.4 in the ranking, a position it’s not held since 2017. The US, meanwhile, has dropped a further two places to eight spots, with access to a mere 183 visa-free destinations.
The Henley Passport Index is based on data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and ranks 199 passports worldwide. It’s updated in real time throughout the year, as and when visa policy changes come into effect.
In its latest release, Henley & Partners notes that over the history of the 18-year-old ranking the average number of destinations travelers who are able to access visa-free has nearly doubled, from 58 in 2006 to 109.
However, the travel freedom gap between those at the top and the bottom of the ranking is wider than ever. Citizens of Afghanistan are only able to visit 27 destinations without a prior visa, just below Iraq (with 29 destinations) and Syria (with 30).
Cristian H. Kaelin, chairman of Henley & Partners, notes that Singapore has been busy securing greater travel freedom for its citizens over the past decade, gaining visa-free access to 25 new destinations.
“The UAE has added an impressive 107 destinations to its visa-free score since 2013,” he says. “Of the countries sitting in the Top 10, the US has seen the smallest increase in its score, securing just 12 additional destinations.”
Greg Lindsay, from Cornell Tech’s Jacobs Institute, says in the Henley & Partners release, “The story is a simple one — by more or less standing still, the US has fallen behind. America’s relentless slide down the rankings is a warning to its neighbor Canada and the rest of the Anglosphere as well.”