The world's most powerful passports in 2021: Japan retains the top spot

The Henley Passport Index noted that the UAE was one of the only countries to add visa-free travel waivers during the global pandemic

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Japan has the world's most powerful passport in 2021, according to the latest Henley Passport Index.

It's the third year in a row that Japan has topped the ranking of the world’s most travel-friendly passports. Using information from the International Air Transport Association, the Henley Passport Index assesses the travel documents based on how many countries holders can access without a visa.

Despite several coronavirus-related restrictions in place across the world due to the pandemic, the index does not take temporary travel curbs into account.

Japanese Passport isolated on white background. Getty Images

Second on the list for 2021 is Singapore, with visa-free travel allowed to 190 countries. Third place is tied between South Korea and Germany, both of which offer easy travel to 189 countries.

Click through the gallery above to view all of the nations that ranked in the top 20.

Finland, Italy, Luxembourg and Spain are ranked in joint fourth position. Each country offers its citizens access to 188 destinations. The top five nations are rounded out by Austria and Denmark.

European countries hold fast in sixth place with France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal and Sweden all giving nationals visa-free travel to 186 countries.

UAE ranks 16th after a notable year

The UAE was one of the only countries in the world to broker visa-free travel arrangements during the global pandemic. Unsplash

2020 brought a lot of uncertainty surrounding travel which led to very few high-profile visa agreements. However, the UAE was one of the only countries to make progress on this front during the global pandemic.

"The notable exception was the UAE, which has continued its remarkable upward trajectory on the Henley Passport Index," stated Henley & Partners in a media release.

The UAE's signing of the historic Abraham Accord in September last year saw the Emirates go on to broker a visa-free travel arrangement with Israel. The move also led the way for other countries in the region to follow suit.

Ranking in 16th place in 2021, the UAE passport gives holders visa-free access to 173 destinations around the world. That's an increase of 138 countries from when the Henley Passport Index first began in 2006. The UAE is also the only Arab country to rank in the top 20.

The most powerful passports in 2021:

MJ5JDX Passport of United Arab Emirates. Alamy

1. Japan

2. Singapore

3. South Korea, Germany

4. Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain

5. Austria, Denmark

6.  France, Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden

7. US, UK, Belgium, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland

8. Australia, Czech Republic, Greece, Malta

9. Canada

10. Hungary

11. Iceland, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia

12. Latvia, Slovenia

13. Estonia

14, Liechtenstein, Malaysia

15. Chile, Cyprus, Monaco

16. UAE

17. Romania

18. Bulgaria, Croatia

19. Argentina, Brazil, Hong Kong

20. San Marino

Elsewhere on the list of the world's most powerful passports according to Henley, Kuwait ranks 55th, as it allows citizens access to 96 countries. Qatar is right behind in 56th position. Bahrain is ranked in 64th place, followed by Oman. Saudi Arabia and Thailand tie in 66th with both countries offering visa-free travel to 79 countries for their respective passport holders.

Regionally, Jordan is 92nd and Egypt is 93rd. Further afield, the Philippines ranks in 77th place giving citizens access to 66 destinations visa-free. India is number 85 and neighbouring Sri Lanka is listed as the 100th most powerful passport in the world by the index.

At the other end of the scale, Afghanistan ranks in last place in the most recent Henley Passport Index. The passport allows its citizens access to 26 countries without a visa.

Afghanistan is the country ranked lowest for passport power in 2021. Unsplash

The least powerful passports in 2021:

1. Afghanistan

2. Iraq

3. Syria

4. Pakistan

5. Yemen, Somalia

6. Palestinian Territory

7. Nepal, Libya

8. North Korea

9. Sudan, Lebanon, Kosovo

10. Iran, Bangladesh