Germany, Italy, and Spain have secured joint second place in the “Henley Passport Index 2023,” enabling their citizens to explore 190 countries and territories without the need for a visa. Singapore, however, has taken the top spot with access to 192 destinations, according to the annual ranking conducted by London law firm Henley & Partners.
For five consecutive years, Japan held the title of the world’s most powerful passport, but it has now slipped to third place, sharing it with Finland, France, Luxembourg, Sweden, South Korea, and Austria. Passport holders from these countries enjoy visa-free access to 189 other nations, allowing for hassle-free travel.
In an effort to simplify the process of obtaining German citizenship for non-EU foreigners residing in Germany, new citizenship legislation is expected to be passed later this year. This will represent a significant change, as, in most cases, individuals had to renounce their original citizenship when acquiring German citizenship. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom’s passport has climbed two spots to fourth place this year, reversing its previous downward trend in the rankings. However, the US passport has experienced a decline, dropping two places to eighth, permitting visa-free entry to 184 countries.
For nearly two decades, Henley & Partners has been tracking the most influential passports globally. The trend over the years has been a consistent increase in travel freedom, with the average number of visa-free countries nearly doubling since 2006, from 58 to 109.
Despite this general trend, the gap between the most powerful and weakest passports has widened significantly. Henley & Partners noted that “the global mobility gap between the countries at the top and bottom of the index is larger than ever before.” Singapore, at the top, offers its citizens access to 165 more countries without a visa compared to Afghanistan, which occupies the bottom spot. Over the past decade, Singapore has added visa-free access to 25 additional countries for its passport holders.
It’s essential to remember that a passport is not the sole determinant of travel freedom. This becomes evident during crises, as demonstrated by the COVID-19 pandemic’s travel bans and border closures. Poverty can also prevent individuals from having passports in the first place, rendering the concept of passport power theoretical for many. Furthermore, recent events, such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, highlight how rapidly a passport’s value can diminish for certain citizens. Additionally, rising travel costs have made travel unaffordable for many, underscoring that a passport, no matter how powerful, cannot address financial constraints. In Germany, for instance, more than one in five citizens cannot afford a week-long vacation, with single parents and pensioners being the most affected, according to Eurostat.