How to evaluate travel freedom around the world? One of the most widely used measures of global access is provided by Henley & Partners’ (H&P) Passport Index . As of 2019, the Passport Index ranks 199 countries on a single scale, according to the level of access their passports provide to other countries. H&P’s Passport Index is based on data by the International Air Transport Authority (IATA) and it has been released annually since 2006. Even if it is not the only passport ranking in existence, H&P’s index is one of the key references in the field.
How the ranking works
According to H&P’s methodology , the score of each country depends on the number of destinations for which no visa is required. For each visa-free destination, a value of 1 is assigned to the country of departure. On the other hand, whenever a visa or government-approved e-visa is required, the country in question receives a value of zero. Likewise, a “null score” is assigned when “passport holders need pre-departure government approval for a visa on arrival”.
Specifically, the following visa scenarios can apply to a country:
- visa-free: no visa needed to enter this destination
- visa on arrival: a visa is needed to enter the destination, but travelers can apply for and receive the visa upon arrival
- e-visa: a visa is needed to enter the destination, but travelers can apply for it online (pre-departure approval necessary)
- visa required: a traditional visa is needed to enter the destination.
The global mobility report
Along with H&P’s Passport Index is their Global Mobility Report , providing qualitative insights into the current state of travel freedom around the world. According to professors Ugur Altundal (Syracuse University) and Omer Zarpli (University of Pittsburgh), who both contributed to the report, since the mid-2000s “travel freedom has expanded precipitously thanks to the rising number of bilateral visa-waiver agreements and unilateral decisions implemented by governments”.
According to the professors, “If in 2006, a citizen, on average, could travel to 58 destinations without needing a visa from the host nation, by 2018, this number had nearly doubled to 107”.
Taking a closer look at the data concerning the past few years, the report shows how, at the global level, Asian nations have been gaining ground in the H&P’s Passport Index . In the words of Dominic Volek (Managing Partner, Member of the Management Board, and Head of Southeast Asia at Henley & Partners), Japan (holding the first position in 2019) and Singapore appear to be “blazing the trail for other peaceful commercial powers in the region, such as South Korea”.
What about Europe?
“EU nations became conspicuous by their lack of activity in the visa-waiver sphere”, Volek writes. Crucially, the relative immobility of EU nations on the Passport Index in 2018 can be attributed to the “current political climate in the region, with a growing anti-immigration sentiment peppering the debates taking place in many EU member states”. That said, European countries still hold a strong footing overall, holding some of the most “powerful” passports in the world. Indeed, France and Germany come third in the global ranking in 2019. More generally, the 28 EU member states are all within the top 20 (the