Each year I write about the world’s most powerful passport, a designation that has fluctuated over the last few years.
First, what makes a passport “most powerful” is the ability to travel to other countries without a visa or with a visa obtainable upon arrival. That is just one metric, of course, but a helpful one…visa processes are often arduous.
This year’s winner is not Singapore and Germany, the usual leapfrogging winners. Instead, this year’s winner is the United Arab Emirates. UAE passport holders can now visit 167 countries without a visa (113) or with a visa on arrival (54). That’s one more Singapore and Germany. UAE passport holders can visit Burundi, Liberia, Mali, Nauru, Niger, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen without a visa or with a visa on arrival. Meanwhile, Germans and Singaporeans require visas to visit each of those countries. There are other countries, mostly in the Caribbean but also including South Africa, that allow citizens of Germany and Singapore to enter without a visa while UAE passport holders require one.
Here’s a list of the top three most powerful passports, which is really a list of 14:
1. United Arab Emirates
3. South Korea
3. United States of America
For a full list, visit Passport Index. Rankings change as diplomatic breakthroughs (or setbacks) take place.
Quality versus quantity is a fair discussion…I think visa-free access to South Africa is likely more important than access to Syria and Yemen for most people. Furthermore, the UAE list includes Qatar. While Qatar and the UAE still have de jure reciprocal visa-free travel, the de facto position is that the two countries are closed off from one another. So does that mean we really have a three-way tie?
I’m not surprised to see the UAE at the top of the list. Furthermore, absolute numbers are likely the easiest metric in which to measure passport strength. But the bottom line is that all 14 countries listed above offer their citizens very powerful passports.