Germany retains 1st place on the Henley Passport Index for the fifth year running, with its citizens enjoying visa-free access to 177 countries in total in 2018, up from 176 countries in 2017. Singapore ranks 2nd globally on the 2018 edition of the index, with visa-free access to 176 countries, while eight countries — Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Japan, Norway, Sweden, and the UK — share 3rd place, offering passport-holders of these countries visa-free access to 175 countries. Ranking jointly 4th on the index, Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Spain all provide their citizens visa-free access to 174 countries.
The Henley Passport Index is widely acknowledged as the original and most authoritative passport index published since 2005, with historical data spanning 13 years. The global ranking is the only one of its kind that is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which maintains the world’s largest and most accurate database of travel information. The index is enhanced by extensive in-house research. The index, which is updated regularly throughout the year, takes into account 219 different countries and territories, making it the most accurate available. Along with the Henley & Partners – Kochenov Quality of Nationality Index, the index is considered a global reference standard.
The US is among the countries holding 5th place on the 2018 edition of the index, improving its visa-free score from 172 in 2017 to 173 in 2018. The Russian Federation, meanwhile, climbed three places to 48th position. China has shown the most growth in North Asia over the past year, moving up 10 places compared to 2017 and now ranks 75th globally.
For the second year in a row, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan sit at the bottom of the Henley Passport Index, each allowing their citizens to access 30 or fewer countries visa-free.
Middle East and North Africa
Over the past 10 years, the UAE has climbed an impressive 28 places on the index — the biggest climb of any country in the world. The UAE passport, ranked 33rd in the 2018 edition of the index, offers Emirati citizens visa-free travel to 133 countries — up from 121 countries in 2017, gaining access to 12 new destinations in just one year.
The UAE’s success is linked to the fact that, between 1999 and 2018, visa restrictions on Emirati citizens were lifted by countries such as New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, Ukraine, and China, as well as those in the Schengen area. In the wider GCC region, all member countries have significantly improved their positions and rank within the top 70 positions on the index. Kuwait moved up to 58th position, with access to 83 countries visa-free and Bahrain ranked 63rd, offering its citizens visa-free access to 75 countries. Oman (65th) and Saudi Arabia (67th) follow closely behind, with visa-free access to 71 and 69 countries, respectively.
On the other end of the spectrum, Iraq has lost 15 places on the index over the past 10 years, Yemen 17 places, and Syria 20 places. Syria and Iraq, ranked 102nd and 103rd in the world, respectively, are the poorest performers in the MENA region, and they also both fall in the bottom five globally. Syria dropped one place from 2017, now offering its citizens visa-free travel access to just 28 countries. However, Iran has managed to improve its rank over the past decade, escaping the bottom four rankings in the 2018 edition.
In North Africa, Tunisia ranked 69th on the index – positioning it as the top-ranking country in the region, while Libya ranked 98th, making it the lowest-ranking country in the region. Morocco, in 74th place, is close behind Tunisia in the global ranking, while Egypt (87th), Algeria (88th), Sudan (94th), and South Sudan (95th) all lie on the bottom end of the index, with very low levels of travel freedom. North African countries have all fallen in the ranking since 2008; Libya by as many as 18 places.
Compared to 2017, however, all North African countries climbed in the ranking in 2018, with Tunisia and Morocco being the highest climbers in the region, each moving up four places. This is most likely attributed to the fact that all but one of the North African countries added new destinations to their visa-free lists in 2017: Sudan added four countries; Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia added three countries; South Sudan added two countries; Algeria added one country; and Egypt maintained its score. This trend suggests that global access for North African citizens is increasing year-on-year, but this growth is slower than that of other regions, and overall access for North Africans remains relatively weak.
Former Soviet Bloc states
The biggest movers in this year’s index were Georgia and Ukraine, which completed the visa‑liberalisation process with the EU in 2017 and gained access to 30 and 32 new countries, respectively. Georgia was the highest individual mover, climbing 15 places, while Ukraine ascended 14 ranks. China, Sierra Leone, Guinea, the Dominican Republic, and Indonesia also performed strongly this year, each gaining seven or more places compared to 2017.
On the other end of the spectrum, 14 countries — among others, Trinidad and Tobago, Greece, Lithuania, Taiwan, Iran, Bangladesh, Nepal, Yemen, North Korea and Syria — fared equally poorly in terms of downward movement on the index, all losing one place year-on-year. New Zealand descended the most but fell by only two places.
Africa, North Asian, Southeast Asia, the Caribbean
Of all the continents, Africa has suffered the most dramatic decline in travel freedom with African countries accounting for 19 of the 27 biggest fallers over the past decade. Only two African countries (the Seychelles and Mauritius) have improved their global rank since 2008, the Seychelles by 17 places and Mauritius by 16 places. The Seychelles is the highest-performing African country in 2018, ranking 27th on the index and moving up two places from 2017; the Seychellois passport provides visa-free access to 141 countries.
Mauritius, ranking 2nd in the region and 32nd globally, has visa-free access to 134 countries. South Africa is ranked 3rd overall in the region and 52nd globally, with visa-free access to 100 countries. With access to 32 countries, Somalia, ranked 100th, remained static compared with 2017.
Countries in Southeast Asia have remained stable. Offering visa-free travel to 176 countries, and ranked 2nd globally, Singapore remains the best-performing country in the region, achieving its highest ranking on the index in 10 years. Malaysia ranks 2nd in the region, and 12th globally, with Malaysian nationals enjoying visa-free access to 166 countries. Indonesia moved up the ranking by seven places and is now ranked 72nd globally, having signed visa agreements with countries such as Qatar and St. Kitts and Nevis in 2017.
North Asian countries performed well on the 2018 Henley Passport Index, with both Japan and South Korea retaining their positions in the top 10. With visa-free access to 175 countries, the Japanese passport moved up two places to rank 3rd globally (a position shared by seven other passports). South Korea also moved up by two places to occupy 5th place, offering its citizens visa-free access to 173 countries. China has shown the most growth in the region over the past year, moving up 10 ranks to 75th place on the global ranking.
The Russian Federation is ranked 48th overall, but the country has fallen to 2nd place within the Commonwealth of Independent States, sharing this position with Moldova. Ukraine has climbed 14 places since 2017 and now occupies the top spot in the region. The Ukrainian passport is ranked 44th globally, providing visa-free access to 114 countries. Georgia is the highest climber both in the region and globally, moving up 15 places compared to 2017 and now occupying 53rd place overall. With a visa-free score of 50, and ranked 85th globally, Turkmenistan has the lowest level of travel freedom within the Commonwealth of Independent States.
In the Caribbean, several countries showed improvements on the 2017 results. St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Grenada added three additional countries to their 2017 visa-free lists. St. Kitts and Nevis also climbed two places in the 2018 edition of the index, now ranking 4th in the region and 28th globally. The Dominican Republic was the highest regional climber, ascending seven places on the 2018 Henley Passport Index to secure the 73rd position on the global ranking. All countries in the region excepting Antigua and Barbuda and Trinidad and Tobago improved or maintained their visa-free score year-on-year.
199 countries in index
Of the 199 countries featured on the index, 143 improved their rank over the past year and 41 countries maintained their position. In terms of visa-free access, only seven countries saw their level of access reduced over the past year: Azerbaijan, New Zealand, Antigua and Barbuda, Laos, North Korea, and Syria all lost visa-free access to a single country. By contrast, 18 countries maintained their level of access year-on-year, and the remainder of countries (174 in total) saw an improvement in their level of access compared to 2017.
At a glance: Henley Passport Index (2018 v/s 2017)
- Germany retains the top spot on the Henley Passport Index for the fifth year in a row, offering its citizens access to 177 countries.
- Singapore ranks in 2nd place, with 176 countries on its visa-free list; rising two places year-on-year
- Eight countries — Denmark, Finland, Italy, Sweden, France, Norway, the UK, and Japan share 3rd place, with France, Norway, and the UK all moving up one rank compared with 2017 and Japan moving up by two ranks.
- 4th place is shared by six countries — Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Spain — all of which offer visa-free access to 174 countries.
- 143 countries improved their rank on the 2018 index, while 174 improved their visa-free score.
- Ukraine (44th) and Georgia (53rd) are the highest climbers on the index, moving up by 15 and 14 ranks, respectively, following their recent visa liberalization with the EU.
- 15 countries lost ground compared to 2017.
- 41 countries showed no movement at all.
- Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan occupy the bottom four ranks on the 2018 index, each having visa-free access to 30 or fewer countries.