After Vietnam’s new passport faced a row of rejections from several countries because of its lack of birthplace information, it still managed to improve its ranking in this year’s Henley Passport Index, landing at 88th, up by four spots from the previous year.
Vietnam, along with African countries Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, Madagascar, and Togo, all landed in the same spot. And still ahead of its Southeast Asian neighbors Cambodia (89), Laos (93), and Myanmar (92).
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 consistent top two — 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.
Thanks to Vietnam’s unilateral and bilateral visa exemption policies with several countries, Vietnamese passport holders can easily travel to 55 countries — including ASEAN member states.
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.
The Henley Passport Index does the survey by comparing the visa-free access of 199 different passports to 227 travel destinations. If no visa is required, then a score with value = 1 is created for that passport. The same applies if you can obtain a visa on arrival, a visitor’s permit, or an electronic travel authority (ETA) when entering the destination.
Ordinary passports issued before January 1, 2023, according to previously issued forms, are still valid until the expiry of the period stated in the passport.
Changes in the blue passport
Earlier this month, the Việt Nam Immigration Department released an official statement saying the Ministry of Public Security and Vietnam’s overseas representative agencies will add 'place of birth' information in new passports (navy blue cover) from January 1, 2023.
The re-adding of birthplace information was Vietnam’s response to countries not recognizing the blue passport – mostly in Europe, such as Germany, Spain, and the Czech Republic – in August and September 2022 as they contested the removal of such information (compared to the old green cover passports of Việt Nam) would make it harder for immigration authorities to verify the identity of the new passport holders.
The public security ministry insisted that the change was consistent with International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) guidelines, which say birthplace information is not a mandatory field in the passport's main page, but eventually relented and added the field back in.
Moreover, ordinary passports issued before January 1, 2023, according to previously issued forms, are still valid until the expiry of the period stated in the passport.
In addition, to make it easier for Vietnamese citizens traveling abroad and avoid mistakes in transactions and document issuance, the Immigration Department confirmed the new passport would have the ‘surname,' 'middle name,' and 'first name' printed on two separate lines.