World's most powerful passport: Singapore takes top spot as UAE rises

The Emirates ranks 12th, having climbed 44 places in the past decade

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

The Asian city-state knocked Japan off the top spot after five years at the summit with Singapore citizens able to visit 192 destinations out of the world’s 227 visa-free.

And the UAE passport has gone from strength to strength, climbing three places from last year to rank as the 12th most powerful passport.

Holders of Emirati passports can now visit 179 destinations visa-free.

Over the past 10 years, the UAE passport has climbed 44 places from 56th in 2013. It now ranks alongside Cyprus.

The study, which ranks the world’s passports according to the number of destinations their holders can access without obtaining a prior visa, is compiled using official data from the International Air Transport Association.

“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,” said Christian Kaelin, chairman of Henley & Partners, which compiles the data.

"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."

The most powerful passports in the world

1. Singapore (192 countries)

2. Germany, Italy, Spain (190 countries)

3. Austria, Finland, France, Japan, Luxembourg, South Korea, Sweden (189 countries)

4. Denmark, Ireland, Netherlands, United Kingdom (188 countries)

5. Belgium, Czech Republic, Malta, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Switzerland (187 countries)

6. Australia, Hungary, Poland (186 countries)

7. Canada, Greece (185 countries)

8. Lithuania, United States (184 countries)

9. Latvia, Slovakia, Slovenia (183 countries)

10. Estonia, Iceland (182 countries)

11. Lichtenstein, Malaysia (180 countries)

12. Cyprus, United Arab Emirates (179 countries)

The latest report puts Germany, Italy and Spain in second place, with holders able to travel to 190 destinations visa-free.

The UK has turned the table on a six-year decline, jumping two places from sixth to fourth. The US does not fare so well, plummeting a further two places to eighth. Both the UK and the US jointly held 1st place on the index in 2014.

India is also showing signs of strength, climbing to 80th, up five places from the previous list.

Overall, travel freedom is on the up for most nationalities with only eight countries in the world having less visa-free access today than they did a decade ago.

Gulf countries becoming more open

While the UAE is the only Gulf country to rank in the index's top 50, Middle Eastern destinations are becoming more open to other travellers.

The Henley Openness Index ranks countries according to the number of nationalities they permit entry to without a prior visa.

The UAE’s openness score has increased from 58 to 80 since 2018, with the Emirates ranking in 55th. Neighbouring Oman’s score has leapt 35 points, from 71 to 106 to put the sultanate 33rd, the highest in the region.

Qatar has also improved, ranking 42nd.

Other Gulf countries still lag behind for openness with Saudi Arabia in 72nd place, Bahrain in 60th and Kuwait in 68th.

“A Schengen-style visa to facilitate smoother travel between GCC countries is reportedly in the works,” said Robert Mogielnicki, a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. "Such a step would require greater harmonisation of region-wide visa regulations, potentially boosting the openness rankings of several GCC countries and placing the entire region more firmly in the global spotlight."

World’s least powerful passports

At the bottom of the scale with the world's least powerful passport is Afghanistan, with holders only able to travel visa-free to 27 countries.

Iraq, Syria and Pakistan round out the bottom four nations.

Updated: July 19, 2023, 6:03 AM