The world's most and least powerful passports in 2021: UAE moves up in global ranking

Japan retains top spot in the Henley Passport Index in the second quarter of 2021

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The UAE has moved up one position in the Henley Passport Index, which ranks the strength of passports across the world.

In January, the UAE ranked 16th, but as of the second quarter of 2021, the results for which were released today, it comes in at 15th.

Take a look through the photo gallery above to see which countries claim the top 15 spots.

It isn't the only nation that moved up the ranks, but the report states the UAE is "the most remarkable turnaround story on the index by far".

The Henley Passport Index assesses the travel documents based on how many countries citizens can access without a visa, using information from the International Air Transport Association.

It does not take into account any temporary pandemic-related travel restrictions.

In 2011, the UAE was ranked 65th, with a visa-free and visa-on-arrival score of 67, but today it comes in 15th, with a score of 174, sharing the position with Romania, and just ahead of Bulgaria and Croatia, which have each moved up from 18th to 16th.

The index notes this "stellar ascendance" is "thanks to the Emirates' ongoing efforts to strengthen diplomatic ties with countries across the globe".

This was most recently seen in the signing of the historic Abraham Accords in September, which lead the country to broker a visa-free travel arrangement with Israel (22nd in the index), spurring other countries in the region to do the same.

China has also become one of the index's biggest climbers in its 16-year history, as it moved from 90th place in 2011, with a score of 40, to 68th position today, with a score of 77.

UAE only Arab nation in top 20

The UAE remains the only Arab nation in the top 20 of the index, with Kuwait and Qatar coming in next, at 55th and a score of 96.

Elsewhere in the Gulf, Bahrain ranks 64th, as its citizens can access 83 countries, with Oman just behind at 65th, with a score of 80, and Saudi Arabia at 66th and 79. These positions have remained the same since the last report came out in January.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - Reporter: N/A. Stock. A UAE visa in a passport. Monday, August 31st, 2020. Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
The UAE passport allows its citizens to get into 174 destinations across the world visa-free. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Regionally, both Jordan and Egypt have moved up the global rankings. Today, both Arab nations share 90th place with Burundi and Angola, as nationals can travel to 51 spots without the need for a visa in advance. A few months ago, Jordan came in 92nd and Egypt was 93rd.

Lebanon, Palestine, Yemen, Syria and Iraq are all among the bottom 10.

Japan and EU countries rank in top 10

Japan remains the world's most powerful passport in 2021, as Japanese nationals are able to access 193 destinations around the world visa-free.

Japan takes first place in the Henley Passport Index. Unsplash
Japan takes first place in the Henley Passport Index. Unsplash

Singapore is still in second place, just trailing behind Japan with a score of 192, while Germany and South Korea share third place, as passport holders of each nation can enter 191 locations.

The remaining top 10 spots are largely held by EU countries, including Italy, Spain, Finland and Luxembourg in fourth with access to 190 destinations, with Denmark and Austria coming in joint fifth, as nationals enjoy visa-free travel to 189 countries.

The UK and US share joint seventh place, with a score of 187, a marked decrease from 2014 when the nations held the top spot.

The gap in travel freedom is now at its largest since the index began in 2006, the report also notes, as Japanese passport holders can access 167 more countries than Afghanistan citizens, who can visit only 26 destinations without getting a visa in advance.

The world's most and least powerful passports in 2021

The world's most and least powerful passports in 2021

Global mobility in 2021

At the moment, much of this international travel freedom is theoretical, as Covid-19 restrictions remain ever-evolving across the world.

With the rollout of mass vaccination programmes, however, resumption of regular international travel is no longer an abstract hope, Henley & Partners's Global Mobility Report 2021 Q2, which was also released today, notes.

Passport power should never be taken for granted

It points to wealthy and advanced economies such as the EU, the UAE, UK and US as leading the charge.

"While nobody expects a return to pre-pandemic mobility levels anytime soon, the outlook now is certainly more hopeful than it was even a few months ago," says Dr Christian H Kaelin, chairman  of Henley & Partners and founder of the index.

"The latest Henley Passport Index ranking is a reminder that economic recovery and development are dependent on global mobility, including personal travel freedom, and that passport power should never be taken for granted."

The 20 strongest passports in Q2 2021

1. Japan (193)

2. Singapore (192)

3. South Korea, Germany (191)

4. Italy, Finland, Spain, Luxembourg (190)

5. Denmark, Austria (189)

6. Sweden, France, Portugal, Netherlands, Ireland (188)

7. Switzerland, the US, the UK, Belgium, New Zealand (187)

8. Norway, Greece, Malta, Czech Republic (186)

9. Canada, Australia (185)

10. Slovakia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland (183)

11. Slovenia, Latvia, Iceland, Estonia (182)

12. Malaysia, Liechtenstein (179)

13. Cyprus (176)

14. Monaco, Chile (175)

15. The UAE, Romania (174)

16. Bulgaria, Croatia (173)

17. Brazil, Argentina, Hong Kong (171)

18. San Marino (169)

19. Andorra (168)

20. Brunei (166)

The 10 weakest passports in Q2 2021

100. Bangladesh, Lebanon, Sudan (41)

101. Kosovo, Libya (40)

102. North Korea (39)

103. Nepal (38)

104. Palestinian Territory (37)

105. Somalia (34)

106. Yemen (33)

107. Pakistan (32)

108. Syria (29)

109. Iraq (28)

110. Afghanistan (26)