Singapore tops, India ranks 80th on Henley Passport Index

Visa free access for Indian passports falls
/ New Delhi
henley passport index
Singapore tops, India ranks 80th on Henley Passport Index

While India has climbed seven places from its spot at the 87th place last year to 80 in 2023, its access to visa-free travel to countries has decreased by one

Based on the latest ranking by the Henley Passport Index, Singapore is now the most powerful passport in the world, followed by Germany, Italy and Spain in the 2nd place and Japan securing the 3rd spot.
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Toppling all the previous contenders, Singapore now officially emerges out to be the most powerful passport in the world in the latest ranking by the Henley Passport Index. Its citizens are able to visit 192 travel destinations out of 227 around the world visa-free, according to the index. 

Based on data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the index ranks passports of countries, according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa.

While India has climbed seven places from its spot at the 87th place last year to 80 in 2023, its access to visa-free travel to countries has decreased by one. In 2014, India ranked 76 with 52 countries allowing Indian passport holders visa free access but its performance has been nonlinear. It ranked 88 in 2015, with visa free access to 51 countries), 85 in 2016, 87 in 2017, 81 in 2018, 82 in 2019 and 2020, and 81 in 2021.

The report says that Japan has been knocked off the top spot for the first time in five years and bumped into 3rd place. Germany, Italy and Spain all move up into 2nd place with visa-free access to 190 destinations and Japanese passport holders join those of six other nations, namely, Austria, Finland, France, Luxembourg, South Korea, and Sweden in 3rd place with access to189 destinations without a prior visa.

Following a six-year decline, the UK has jumped up two places on the latest ranking to 4th place, a position it last held in 2017. The US, on the other hand, continues its now decade-long slide down the index, plummeting a further two places to 8th spot with access to just 184 destinations visa-free. Both the UK and the US jointly held 1st place on the index nearly 10 years ago in 2014 but have been on a downward trajectory ever since. 

According to the index, the three weakest passports in the world start with Afghanistan, remaining entrenched at the bottom of the HPI with a visa-free access score of just 27, followed by Iraq at 29th ranking and Syria 30th.

The report adds that the general trend over the history of the 18-year-old ranking has been towards greater travel freedom, with the average number of destinations travelers are able to access visa-free nearly doubling from 58 in 2006 to 109 in 2023. However, the global mobility gap between those at the top and bottom of the index is now wider than it has ever been, with top-ranked Singapore able to access 165 more destinations visa-free than Afghanistan.

Christian H Kaelin, Chairman of Henley & Partners and the inventor of the passport index concept, says only eight countries worldwide have less visa-free access today than they did a decade ago while others have been more successful in securing greater travel freedom for their citizens. 

“The UAE has added an impressive 107 destinations to its visa-free score since 2013, resulting in a massive leap of 44 places in the ranking over the past 10 years from 56th to 12th position. This is almost double the next biggest climber, Colombia, which has enjoyed a jump of 28 places in the ranking to sit in 37th spot. Ukraine and China are also among the top 10 countries with the most improved rankings over the past decade. Far more than just a travel document that defines our freedom of movement, a strong passport also provides significant financial freedoms in terms of international investment and business opportunities. Global connectivity and access have become indispensable features of wealth creation and preservation, and its value will only grow as geopolitical volatility and regional instability increase,” says Kaelin.

Unwelcoming developed economies

While American passport holders can access 184 destinations visa-free, the US itself only allows 44 other nationalities to pass through its borders visa-free, putting it way down the Henley Openness Index in 78th place. The report adds that when comparing the two rankings, the USA’s disparity in access versus its openness is the second biggest, narrowly trailing only Australia, and barely outpacing Canada. New Zealand and Japan also make it into the Top 5 countries with the biggest difference between the travel freedom they enjoy versus the visa-free access they provide to other nationalities. 

The study goes on to say that these five nations have all either dropped down the Henley Passport Index rankings or remained in the same place over the last 10 years.

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