Henley Index reveals world’s most powerful passports amid COVID-19 pandemic

The European Union’s recent ban on US travellers has left the American passport with about as much power as passports from less developed nations, a new report has found.

Citizenship firm Henley and Partners, which periodically ranks passports according to the level of travel freedom they allow citizens, has published the second Henley Passport Index since the pandemic sparked border shutdowns and global travel bans.

Even though international travel remains impossible for millions of people due to the pandemic, the index still ranks nations according to the number of countries they theoretically allow visa-free access to.

The latest ranking, out this week, sees Japan remain on top, with visa-free access to 191 countries. Singapore is in second place with access to 190 countries, and South Korea and Germany are in equal third place, with access to 189 countries.

Even though international travel is still off the cards right now, Australians hold the world’s seventh most powerful passport.Source:istock

Australia’s position on the global ranking remains unchanged since January – it is in ninth spot along with Canada, with Australians able to travel to 183 countries visa free.

While the position of the US is also unchanged since last ranking – it remains in seventh spot – its recent exclusion from the European Union’s list of “safe” countries has taken a lot of wind from its passport’s sails, Henley and Sons said.

Last week, Australia was named among 14 countries whose citizens are now allowed to travel to the EU due to their success in managing the COVID-19 outbreak.

Henley and Sons said the notable omission of the US was a move perceived as a “stinging rebuke for its poor handling of the pandemic” and had prompted an “extraordinary shift” in passport power.

“It is eye-opening to consider what travel freedom currently looks like for the holders of once-prestigious passports,” the firm said.

US citizens still have visa-free access to 185 countries but the EU ban during COVID-19 diminishes their passport’s power.Source:istock

“For instance, before COVID-19, the US passport usually ranked within the top 10 on the Henley Passport Index in sixth or seventh place. However, under the current EU ban, the picture looks starkly different.

“US nationals now have roughly the same level of travel freedom as citizens of Uruguay – included on the EU’s list of welcome countries – which ranks 28th on the index, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 153.

“In another striking inversion, the US’s dramatic decline in passport power means that Americans find themselves with a similar level of travel freedom usually available to citizens of Mexico – 25th on the index, with a score of 159.”

Japan and South Korea, which topped the latest index, were also included on the EU’s “safe countries” list.

The EU has opened its borders to Australian citizens, even though Australia’s travel ban means we can’t get there just yet. Picture: Josep Lago/AFPSource:AFP

“Singapore has been excluded, which means Singaporean passport holders currently have far less travel freedom than their closest competitors on the index,” Henley and Sons said.

Henley and Sons chairman Christian H. Kaelin said the EU decision would have far-reaching effects on passport power.

“As we have already seen, the pandemic’s impact on travel freedom has been more drastic and long lasting than initially anticipated. This latest decision by the EU indicates that there is more upheaval to come,” he said.

“Look at the US passport, for example – in 2014, it held the number one spot in the world on our index, but US nationals currently have far less travel freedom than most citizens of other wealthy, industrialised nations and even of some less developed nations, being effectively locked out of Europe.

“We see an emergence of a new global hierarchy in terms of mobility, with countries that have effectively managed the pandemic taking the lead, and countries that have handled it poorly falling behind.”


1. Japan

2. Singapore

3. Germany and South Korea

4. Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain

5. Austria, Denmark

6. France, Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden

7. Belgium, Norway, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States

8. Czech Republic, Greece, Malta, New Zealand

9. Australia, Canada

10. Hungary


1. Afghanistan

2. Iraq

3. Syria

4. Pakistan

5. Somalia, Yemen

6. Libya, Nepal, Palestinian Territory

7. North Korea

8. Kosovo, Lebanon, Sudan

9. Bangladesh, Iran

10. Congo, Eritrea, Sri Lanka

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