The war in Ukraine and the COVID-19 pandemic have shifted the passport power landscape. Japanese have the most powerful passports in the world, in 2022. Image: Unsplash/Nicole Geri
Explore and monitor how Travel and Tourism is affecting economies, industries and global issues
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:
Travel and Tourism
Listen to the article
- Japan is at the top of the Henley Passport Index 2022.
- The Ukraine war and COVID-19 have affected the rankings for the most powerful passports in the world.
- British passports have dropped 6 places since Brexit.
“The passport you hold determines your fate and dramatically impacts the options you have,” said Dr Christian Kaelin, chairman of Henley and Partners and inventor of the passport index concept, earlier this year.
Recent global shocks such as the war in Ukraine and the COVID-19 pandemic have shifted the passport power landscape. This is altering opportunities for many, according to the latest rankings from Henley and Partners, which gathers data from the International Air Transport Association.
The world’s most powerful passports
Asian countries currently hold the three highest passport rankings in 2022, with Japan taking the top spot. Before the pandemic, European nations dominated the rankings, signalling the lingering impact of COVID-19 and subsequent restrictions on the region.
Japanese citizens now hold the most passport power, as they are able to enter 193 nations visa free, or with visa-on-arrival. South Korea and Singapore hold joint second place, with both countries’ passports enabling their citizens to access 192 nations without restrictions.
Germany, which was previously at number 2, is now in group 3 alongside Spain. Elsewhere, Brexit has had a significant impact on the value of the British passport over the last few years. The UK now holds sixth position in the rankings alongside France, Ireland and Portugal. Back in 2015, pre-referendum, the UK held the top spot alongside Germany, according to the Passport Index.
Despite Japanese citizens possessing the most powerful passports, fewer tourists have left the country due to the pandemic, subsequent economic fallout and a weakened yen. According to immigration service Agency of Japan, there were 134,013 overseas travellers in May this year, a significant drop of -90.7% compared to 2019.
This trend is reflected in IATA’s data for the rest of the Asia-Pacific region. International passenger demand for March reached just 17% of pre-COVID levels, and was below 10% for most of the last two years.
What is the World Economic Forum doing to reduce aviation's carbon footprint?
Ukraine invasion has affected passport power
Meanwhile, Ukraine has moved up the rankings to 35 as the European Union voted for emergency measures to allow citizens to enter the bloc visa free for the next three years, following the outbreak of war with Russia.
In March, the EU agreed to implement the Temporary Protection Directive for Ukraine, which was introduced “to give immediate protection to persons who need it and to avoid overwhelming Member States’ asylum systems”, and more than 6 million people have so far fled the country to neighbouring nations, according to the UN.
Henley and Partners said the war “effectively condemns the Russian passport to junk status throughout much of the developed world”, warning of a “profound and perhaps irreversible impact on freedom of movement within the region as a new Iron Curtain descends”. Reflecting this, the Russian passport has dropped in the rankings since the onset of the conflict. It now sits in 50th place, after falling five places since last year.
Henley and Partners’ research has found that the countries with the most passport power tend to be those with the highest levels of peace.
The lower-ranked passports
Afghanistan has retained its position this year as the lowest ranked country on the Index. Afghan citizens can only access 27 countries without restrictions. Iraq and Syria are also low-ranked, at 29 and 30 countries, respectively.
Don't miss any update on this topic
Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.
License and Republishing
The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.
More on Travel and TourismSee all
Abeer Al Akel and Maimunah Mohd Sharif
February 15, 2024
February 8, 2024
Thea de Gallier
January 31, 2024
Maksim Soshkin and Marion Karl
January 12, 2024