Japan has top passports for visa-free travel

by Ray Clancy on November 21, 2018

Japanese citizens are holders of the world’s most powerful passports in terms of the number of countries they can enter without a visa or getting a visa on arrival, the latest global travel index shows.

People with a Japanese passport can enter 190 countries without a visa or get a visa on arrival, taking the top spot in the Henley Passport index which ranks passports by assessing how easy it is to enter other countries, using data from the International Air Transport Association.

Japan Passport

By structuresxx/Shutterstock.com

Japan reached the top after Myanmar granted visa free access to its citizens, putting Singapore in second place with visa free access to 189 countries, with Germany, France and South Korea tied in third place.

Next is a group of European countries with Denmark, Finland, Italy, and Sweden all tied in fourth place and then Spain, the UK and the United States in fifth place, followed by Belgium, Switzerland, Ireland and Canada in sixth and Australia, Malta and Greece tied for seventh.

The UK and the US used to hold the joint top spot, a recently as 2015, but the number of new countries gaining access to these two nations is stagnant whereas Asian countries are actively expanding.

Iraq and Afghanistan sit at the bottom of the list with just 30 countries where their citizens can travel visa free.

In terms of improvements, the United Arab Emirates, ranked 21st, has climbed 40 places in the past 10 years and is now ranked first in the Middle East region.

The report points out that Kosovo, currently ranked 97, might see a dramatic rise in the index in the future as it has met the criteria for visa liberalisation with the European Union and the next step is being able to travel visa free across the EU but this could take some time.

‘The approval of the European Parliament is a recognition of the hard work done by the Kosovar authorities to fulfil the conditions set by the EU,’ said Florian Trauner, a research professor at the Institute for European Studies at the Free University of Brussels.

But he warned that discussions with the European Council could be difficult. ‘Several member states are reluctant to grant visa liberalisation. Relaxing visa rules may be criticized as being lenient on migration control, a criticism few want to risk in a time when right wing populist parties are on the rise,’ he explained.

‘As the world economy has become increasingly globalized, the need for greater visa free access has grown steadily. Across the economic spectrum, individuals want to transcend the constraints imposed on them by their country of origin and access business, financial, career, and lifestyle opportunities on a global scale,’ the report from residence and citizenship planners Henley adds.

It also reveals that countries with citizenship by investment (CBI) programmes in place all fall within the top 50 of the index and are continually rising up the ranking. Newcomer Moldova, for example, which launched its CBI programme in the second half of 2018, has climbed 20 places since 2008 and every CBI programme country has improved its visa-free and visa on arrival score since the start of the year.

‘CBI programmes offer access to some of the world’s strongest and most promising passports and the merit of these passports is a reflection of the underlying stability and attractiveness of the countries themselves,’ said Christian Kalin, group chairman of Henley and Partners.

‘The travel freedom that comes with a second passport is significant for individuals, while the economic and societal value that CBI programmes generate for host countries can be transformative,’ he added.

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