What does it mean to have the world’s most powerful passport? It means you have greater access to global travel than anyone else on the planet.
This post was originally published March 14, 2019 and updated on March 5, 2020.
Having the world’s most powerful passport means you can travel freely to 191 countries. In contrast, having the world’s least powerful passport means you can travel freely to only 26.
A passport is only as good as the nation that issues it. If other countries accept your nation’s passports without requiring a visa or with a guaranteed visa-on-arrival, global travel is available with little disruption.
But, if other countries accept your nation’s passports only with visas, you may be in for a serious headache as you plan global travel. You might experience lengthy visa applications and wait times, and you may also experience more intensive interview processes with immigration and customs agents as you enter other countries.
This could affect your business in multiple ways, including limiting access to potential new markets. To help you better understand how freely you and your team members can move around the world, here’s a look at the world’s most powerful passports (and its least).
The List of the World’s Most Powerful Passports
The world’s most powerful passports are ranked by Henley & Partners. The rankings are based solely on how many other nations a given country’s citizens can access without needing a prior visa. Japan ranks No. 1 on the list, with its citizens able to visit 190 countries without a prior visa:
- 191 countries: Japan
- 190: Singapore
- 189: Germany, South Korea
- 188: Finland, Italy
- 187: Denmark, Luxembourg, Spain
- 186: Frank, Sweden
- 185: Austria, Ireland, Netherland, Portugal, Switzerland
- 184: Belgium, Greece, Norway, United Kingdom, United States
- 183: Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Malta, New Zealand
- 181: Hungary, Lithuania, Slovakia
The United States ties 4 other nations for 8th place on this list of the world’s most powerful passports. But the power of a U.S. passport has diminished in recent years. In 2015, the United Kingdom and the United States ranked Nos. 1 and 2 on the list, respectively. Global travel is now slightly more challenging for citizens of the U.K. and U.S.
The List of the World’s Least Powerful Passports
While the power of a United States passport has fallen in the last few years, it’s nowhere near the bottom of the rankings. Here’s a look at the world’s least powerful passports:
- 26 countries: Afghanistan
- 28: Iraq
- 29: Syria
- 32: Pakistan, Somalia
- 33: Yemen
- 37: Libya
- 38: Nepal, Palestinian Territory
- 39: North Korea, Sudan
- 40: Kosovo, Lebanon
- 41: Bangladesh, Congo, Eritrea, Iran
A less powerful passport is typically a symptom of a larger issue facing a country, including political unrest, widespread poverty, famine, civil war and other challenges. The countries with less powerful passports are generally concentrated in the Middle East and Africa. For example, the average European can travel freely in far more countries than the average African.
A Helpful Resource
Curious to learn more about passports around the world and how much power they give their holders? Check out PassportIndex.org, which provides a beautiful gallery of passports from around the world in its homepage, plus helpful tools that assist you in analyzing passport mobility. See a full list of passports as ranked by mobility. This site uses a slightly different methodology for ranking passports, so the numbers will look different than on the Henley & Partners’ report. You can also compare passports from different countries and get the latest passport-related news.
Support for Your Company’s Global Travel
If your company does business around the world, you may quickly find that global travel can be rife with challenges. At JTB Business Travel, we help companies large and small save money on global travel while also supporting travelers before, during and after trips.
As part of our comprehensive suite of services, we even provide visa and passport assistance when you need it. Behind each of our services and all of our recommendations is a common sense approach to business travel.