British citizens have most freedom in the world to visit countries without a visa, latest index shows

by Ray Clancy on September 30, 2010

British citizens top the world in terms of visa free travel, able stay in 166 destinations for at least three days for business or pleasure without a visa, the latest index from consultants shows.

The UK has displaced Denmark from the top of the list whose citizens can visit 157 countries, with France, Germany and Italy making up the rest of the top five.

Japan, the US, Canada, Malaysia and Korea are the other countries in the top ten of the list that is compiled by consultants Henley & Partners that specialises in international immigration, consular and citizenship law, and analyses of visa regulations.

The US has been slipping since the first index was published in 2006, when it ranked at the top along with Finland and Denmark. It slipped to number three in 2008 and is now down to seventh place.

Among BRIC countries, Brazilians have the greatest freedom to travel, with no visa restriction in 130 countries and with a ranking of 28. Russia is ranked 48 with just 83 countries allowing entry for Russians without visa restrictions.

North Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan are at the bottom of the list with their citizens having access to under 40 countries in the world.

The index, which is published every two years, ranks a country according to the international travel freedom of its citizens or the number of countries their citizens have visa-free access to.

Henley & Partners said it has analyzed the visa regulations of all the countries and territories in the world. ‘In today’s globalized world, visa restrictions play an important role in controlling the movement of foreign nationals across borders.

Almost all countries now require visas from certain non-nationals who wish to enter their territory. Visa requirements are also an expression of the relationships between individual nations, and generally reflect the relations and status of a country within the international community of nations,’ it explained.

Professor Eric Neumayer of the London School of Economics believes though that states use visa restrictions to regulate mobility. ‘The poorer, the less democratic and the more exposed to armed political conflict the target country is, the more likely that visa restrictions are in place against its passport holders. The same is true for countries whose nationals have been major perpetrators of terrorist acts in the past,’ he says.

Henley & Partners also points out that a visa does not guarantee entry. ‘It merely indicates that your passport and visa application have been reviewed by a consular officer at an embassy or consulate of the country you wish to enter, and that the officer has determined that you are generally eligible to enter the country for a specific purpose.

‘A visa allows you to travel to the destination country as far as the port of entry (airport, seaport or land border crossing) and ask the immigration officer to allow you to enter the country. In most countries the immigration officer has the authority to permit you to enter. He or she usually also decides how long you can stay for any particular visit.’

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