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These Are the Most Powerful Passports in the World in 2020

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Asian and European passports dominate the Henley Passport Index rankings in 2020.

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Asian and European passports dominate the Henley Passport Index rankings in 2020.

With visa-free access to 191 countries, Japan tops the Henley Passport Index.

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Without taking recent EU travel restrictions and various other coronavirus-related border closures into account, a U.S. passport gives you visa-free access to 185 destinations. But it’s far from the most powerful passport in the world. In fact, as of July 7, 2020, it didn’t even break the top five of the Henley Passport Index, a ranking of the world’s passports in order of the number of destinations their holders can access without obtaining a visa prior to arrival.

The title of world’s most powerful passport goes to Japan—its holders can visit 191 destinations with visa-free or visa-upon-arrival access. Singapore follows closely behind in second place with visa-free access to 190 destinations. South Korea and Germany tied for third place with access to 189 destinations each.

The United States doesn’t make an appearance until seventh on the list, a ranking it shares in a five-way tie with the United Kingdom, Norway, Switzerland, and Belgium, which each have visa-free access to 185 destinations. The last time the United States held the top spot in the Henley Index Passport rankings was back in 2015, when it tied for first place with the United Kingdom. Since Brexit and the 2016 election, both countries have slid a few spots a year to their current place at the edge of the top 10.

The world’s most powerful passports in 2020 are:

  1. Japan (191 destinations)
  2. Singapore (190 destinations)
  3. South Korea, Germany (189 destinations)
  4. Italy, Finland, Spain, Luxembourg (188 destinations)
  5. Denmark, Austria (187 destinations)
  6. Sweden, France, Portugal, Netherlands, Ireland (186 destinations)
  7. Switzerland, United States, United Kingdom, Norway, Belgium  (185 destinations)
  8. Greece, New Zealand, Malta, Czech Republic (184 destinations)
  9. Canada, Australia (183 destinations)
  10. Hungary (182 destinations)

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In 2020, Afghanistan landed at the bottom of the rankings at 109th place with access to only 26 destinations. In comparison, Japanese passport holders can access 165 more places around the world. Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen also landed in the bottom five passports this year.

Note that these rankings do not take temporary coronavirus-related travel bans into account. But if you do consider those new restrictions, travel freedom for holders of many of these powerful passports looks very different. For example, when you factor in just the temporary EU travel ban, U.S. passport holders have about the same level of travel freedom as citizens of Uruguay normally do. Uruguay, which is included on the EU’s list of “safe” countries as of July 1, 2020, currently ranks 28th in this list with visa-free access to 153 destinations. While top-ranking Asian countries like Japan and South Korea were also deemed safe to enter Europe, the EU excluded Singapore, the number two-ranking country on this list.

“As we have already seen, the pandemic’s impact on travel freedom has been more drastic and long lasting than initially anticipated. This latest decision by the EU indicates that there is more upheaval to come,” Dr. Christian H. Kaelin, chairman of Henley & Partners, explained in the report. “We see an emergence of a new global hierarchy in terms of mobility, with countries that have effectively managed the pandemic taking the lead, and countries that have handled it poorly falling behind.” 

The Henley Passport Index bases its list on data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which maintains the largest database of travel information worldwide. To see the full rankings, visit henleypassportindex.com.

This article originally appeared on January 16, 2020; it was updated on July 13, 2020, to include current information.

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