The greatest passports of the decade: UAE is number one

The UAE has the strongest passport of the decade after 111 visa waivers were granted to Emirati citizens

Abu Dhabi - July 2, 2008. Studio photos of United Arab Emirates passports. ( Philip Cheung / The National ) *** Local Caption ***  PC0042-passport.jpgPC0042-passport.jpg
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It's been a good decade for the UAE passport.

According to the Global Passport Index, a platform that measures the global mobility score of nations, the Emirati passport has packed the most powerful punch over the last ten years.

It tops both the overall Global Passport Power Rank for 2019, and is also the most improved passport of the decade. The rankings consider the passports of 199 destinations around the world. It scored the UAE as the world's strongest passport of the decade, after the UAE added a total of 111 visa waivers for citizens in the last ten years.

In the ranking, each passport is scored for mobility, or the freedom that citizens have to visit other destinations around the world.

The UAE's mobility score has increased by 161 per cent from 2010 to 2019, with Emiratis now able to enjoy visa-free or visa on arrival entry across 90 per cent of the world.

2019 saw the UAE capitalise on its decade of growth, and the country was awarded 179 mobility points, the highest-ever score in the global ranking system.

In the last year alone, an additional 12 countries were added to the list of destinations that Emiratis can visit via visa-waiver or visa on arrival policies.

The rise of the underdogs: the passports that have risen in the ranks

Taiwan, the Republic of China, ranks as the second most powerful passport in the last decade. The country added 79 visa waivers between 2010 and 2019. 
Taiwan, the Republic of China, ranks as the second most powerful passport in the last decade. The country added 79 visa waivers between 2010 and 2019. 

The decade has also seen many smaller countries rise higher in the global rankings. In particular, island nations have shot up in terms of mobility.

Vanuatu in the South Pacific Ocean ranked in tenth place for growth over the last decade after gaining 53 visa waivers from 2010 to 2019. Timor Leste — one of the world's least visited countries — ranks in ninth position having secured 55 visa waivers in the last ten years. Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands also ranked in the top ten.

Elsewhere, Moldova and Georgia and Bosnia and Herzegovina ranked in sixth and fifth place, repetitively. Albania took fourth place with an additional 65 visa-free or visa-on arrival destinations added for passport holders over the decade.

Taking the third spot was Ukraine, with 141 points for mobility. Taiwan saw a 143 per cent increase in ranking score to come in second place.

The 10 most powerful passports of the decade, aka the most improved

  1. UAE
  2. Taiwan
  3. Ukraine
  4. Albania
  5. Bosnia and Herzegovina
  6. Moldova and Georgia
  7. Palau and the Marshall Islands (joint)
  8. Micronesia
  9. Timor Leste
  10. Vanuata

Saudi Arabia on the up

With the UAE flying the flag for global mobility for its citizens, neighbouring Saudi Arabia is also on the up. The kingdom was listed among the Fastest-Growing passports of 2019. In the last year, Saudi Arabia has secured visa waivers for nine countries around the world.

This is likely to be aided in the future by reciprocal visa arrangements after the country opened its doors to tourists for the first time in decades in 2019. Travellers from 49 countries can now visit Saudi Arabia thanks to a new on-arrival tourism visa.

Going down 

The British passport has slipped down the rankings in the last decade. 
The British passport has slipped down the rankings in the last decade. 

Several nations that have consistently ranked as some of the most powerful passports in the world started to falter in the last decade. In 2010, the UK dominated the highest-ranking list but this year it sits in fifth place. It will be interesting to see if the British passport falls further post-Brexit.

The last twelve months also saw Canada, Singapore and Sweden slip further down the top 10 list of the world's most powerful passports for 2019.

The top passports of 2019 are, in order, the UAE, then German, Finland, Luxembourg and tied Spain, and then Denmark, Italy, Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Switzerland, Japan, South Korea, Ireland and the USA tied.

World's Weakest Passports

The decade has been a troubling one for Syria, which fell to the world's third-weakest passport in 2019 despite not being included in the bottom ten in 2010.

Yemen, the Palestinian Territories and Libya also ranked in the bottom ten. North Korea and Iran, two countries facing long periods of unrest are also among the world's weakest, with citizens having access to less than 20 per cent of the rest of the world.

The last decade has also seen two countries remain on the bottom of the list when it comes to passport strength. Afghanistan and Iraq ranked bottom of the list in 2010 and remain there in 2019.