Now that international travel is back in full swing, passports are now back to being every traveler’s best friend. But not all passports are created equal. Some have the ultimate power to get their holders into every dream destination while some only give easy access to a limited number of countries.
A Henley Passport Index released regularly by financial institution Henley & Partners ranks all the world’s passports according to the number of destinations their holders can travel to without a prior visa and those that allow visa-on-arrival or eVisa. The rankings are based on exclusive and official data from the International Air Transport Association, which maintains the world’s largest database of travel information.
Its new ranking showed Japan retaining its reputation as the world’s most powerful passport, with a record-high visa-free or visa-on-arrival score of 193. Singapore and South Korea came in joint-2nd place, with a score of 192.
Vietnam, which has unilateral and bilateral visa exemption policies with several countries, took the 92nd spot. Vietnamese passport holders can easily travel to 55 countries — including ASEAN member states. Vietnam climbed three spots from 95th place in 2021. While this showed improving access to more countries, the new ranking was still way below Vietnam’s position at 78 in 2006, when the first Henley Passport Index was published.
Here’s where Vietnamese passport holders can travel completely visa-free according to the index: Cook Islands, Micronesia, Niue, Oman, Barbados, Haiti, Dominica, St. Vincent, and the Grenadines, Brunei, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Cambodia, Kazakhstan, Laos, Singapore, Thailand, Ecuador, Chile, Panama.
Aside from Vietnam, the countries of Guinea, Mali, and Togo were also in the 92nd spot. Vietnam’s neighbor Cambodia sat below at 93.
Henley & Partners also revealed that access to different territories is now roughly back to pre-pandemic levels, as countries scramble to reopen borders and revive tourism and trade.
Chris Dix of VFS Global, a visa processing provider, said visa application volumes between January and May this year grew by more than 100% compared to the same period last year. “With the opening of international borders, easing of travel restrictions, and the resumption of regular international flights, the industry is currently witnessing peak ‘revenge travel’.”
Peaceful countries have more powerful passports
Along with its new passport index, Henley also released the result of unique research intended to show the strong correlation between a nation’s passport power and its peacefulness and stability. All of the nations sitting in the top ten of the Henley Passport Index can also be found in the top ten of the Global Peace Index. Likewise, for the bottom ranking nations.
Iceland, New Zealand, Ireland, Denmark, and Austria were ranked the most peaceful countries. Singapore and Japan took ninth and tenth place, respectively. Vietnam, meanwhile, was at number 44, with a “high” state of peace.
Afghanistan was named the world’s least peaceful country for the fifth consecutive year. It’s also at the bottom of the passport power list.
With the world still being shadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic and shaken by political chaos, social violence, and economic inflations, passports have become more than just a travel document. “The relative strength or weakness of a particular national passport directly affects the quality of life for the passport holder and may even be a matter of life and death in some circumstances," commented Stephen Klimczuk-Massion, fellow at Oxford University's Saïd Business School.
The ongoing conflict in Russia has severely affected its passport’s standing. Russian passport holders are more cut off from the rest of the world than ever before, as sanctions travel bans, and airspace closures limit Russian citizens from accessing all but a few destinations in Asia and the Middle East. The Russian passport currently sits at 50th place on the index.
Southeast Asian country Myanmar, currently mired in a military conflict with no end in sight, ranked 139th in the global peace index. Its passport is among the world’s least powerful.