Travel | January 12, 2022 6:27 am

What’s the World’s Most Powerful Passport for 2022?

Spoiler alert: It's not the US ... for the eighth consecutive year

Two hands holding a passport against a yellow background. What's the most powerful passport in 2023? The list was just released.
Hint: It's now been the highest-ranking passport five years in a row.

The passport is the holy grail of personal identification. And yet, not all passports are created equal. Based on the country of issue, some passports are actually more powerful than others. Some people, as a sort of birth right, also have — or are eligible for — more than one passport, which in turn grants them various (and sometimes, a more abundant array of) freedoms while traveling.

So how does yours shape up? Thanks to the annual Henley Passport Index, you can know for sure.

Per their website, The Henley Passport Index is “the original, authoritative ranking of all the world’s passports according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa. The index is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) – the largest, most accurate travel information database – and enhanced by Henley & Partners’ research team.”

The ranking system is as follows: “For each travel destination, if no visa is required for passport holders from a country or territory, then a score with value = 1 is created for that passport. A score with value = 1 is also applied if passport holders can obtain a visa on arrival, a visitor’s permit, or an electronic travel authority (ETA) when entering the destination. These visa-types require no pre-departure government approval, because of the specific visa-waiver programs in place.”

It continues: “Where a visa is required, or where a passport holder has to obtain a government-approved electronic visa (e-Visa) before departure, a score with value = 0 is assigned. A score with value = 0 is also assigned if passport holders need pre-departure government approval for a visa on arrival, a scenario we do not consider ‘visa-free.’”

Per a new report from CNN, however, the index, which has been ranking passports since 2006, shows something else this year, too, and — surprise, surprise — it relates to the pandemic. “It says that increasing travel barriers that have been introduced over the course of the COVID pandemic have resulted in the widest global mobility gap in the index’s 16-year history,” Maureen O’Hare wrote. In other words: having a high-ranking passport is now more powerful than ever, given how weak some passports currently rank by comparison.

That said, the index itself doesn’t take any of the current COVID-related restrictions into account. The highlights of this year’s list:

  • Japan and Singapore are tied for first for the second consecutive year, with access — in theory — to 192 countries worldwide
  • Germany and South Korea came in second, with an access score of 190, also for the second year running
  • The U.S. passport jumped to sixth place — up from seven — at 186, tied with Belgium, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland and the U.K., and behind 15 other countries altogether. The last time the U.S. held the number-one highest-ranking passport was in 2014.
  • The lowest-ranking passport on the list belongs to Afghanistan, with an access ranking of 26

Of course, just because a passport does not grant its users access to a country doesn’t mean that they can’t arrive there by other methods — it just means that your destination country may require a visa in addition to a passport to visit. To check out the full list, you can enter your own passport info here.