What Country Has the Most Powerful Passport on Earth?

The US just earned its lowest ranking in 15 years on the Henley Passport Index

What Country Has the Most Powerful Passport on Earth?

Passports are precarious documents. They’re considered to be a kind of holy grail of personal identification, yet some are considered more desirable than others based on the country where they were issued issued. Some people, by dint of sheer natal luck, have access to more than one passport, and are thus able to cycle between them to earn different privileges as they travel about the world.

Are you getting the most out of yours? There’s one good way to find out.

The Henley Passport Index, per their website, is an “authoritative ranking of all the world’s passports according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa.” The index, which is updated quarterly, includes 199 different passports and 227 different destinations and relies heavily on data provided by the International Air Transport Authority (IATA).

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.’”

So how do the various passports shape up?

To start, Japan and Singapore are tied for first in terms of the most dynamic passport, with access to 192 countries worldwide. Germany and South Korea came in second, with an access score of 190. The U.S. passport came in seventh, at185, tied with Greece, the U.K., the Czech Republic, Malta and Norway, and behind 18 other countries altogether. It’s the lowest ranking the U.S. has received in the last 15 years, with the exception being 2010. In 2014, it was the number-one highest-ranking passport.

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, and that — particularly for an avid traveler — is worth knowing. To check out the full list, you can enter your own passport info here.


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