The two Asian countries top the list of the world’s strongest passports. At the same time, two other nations from the region earn the dubious distinction of having the weakest passports.
According to the Henley Passport Index released by Henley and Partners, Japan and Singapore have the strongest passports in the global ranking, giving visa-free access to 193 and 192 countries respectively.
On the other hand, the citizens of Afghanistan can access only 26 countries. And the holders of a Pakistani passport can visit only 32 countries without securing a visa in advance, according to the rankings released by the London-based global citizenship and residence advisory firm.
Among the 110 countries on the list, Japan and Singapore bag the top two positions while Afghanistan and Iraq hold the bottom spots.
Strongest Passports (Top 10)
1. Japan (193 places)
2. Singapore (192)
3. Germany, South Korea (191)
4. Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain (190)
5. Austria, Denmark (189)
6. France, Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden (188)
7. Belgium, New Zealand, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States (187)
8. Czech Republic, Greece, Malta, Norway (186)
9. Austria, Canada (185)
10. Hungary, Lithuania, Slovakia (183)
Weakest Passports (Bottom 10)
101. Kosovo, Libya (40)
102. North Korea (39)
103. Nepal (38)
104. Palestinian Territories (37)
105. Somalia (34)
106. Yemen (33)
107. Pakistan ( 32)
108. Syria (29)
109. Iraq (28)
110. Afghanistan (26)
Southeast Asian nation Myanmar, despite a military coup, has secured the 94th position with access to 47 destinations whereas India and Bangladesh stand at the 84th and 100th ranks, respectively.
China and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) climb from the 90th position to 68th, and 65th position to 15th, respectively.
The report shows that the gap in travel freedom is larger than ever since Japanese passport holders can visit 167 more countries without getting a visa-in-advance than those with a passport from Afghanistan.
The index calculates the number of countries citizens can access without a visa. It also uses information from the International Air Transport Association (IATA). It does not factor in any temporary pandemic-related travel restrictions.
The strength of one’s passport is symbolic of the country’s power in terms of economy, military, technology, travel ease, and other factors like international relations, peace, and stability within the country.
While wealthy and advanced nations like Japan, Singapore, the US, the EU bloc lead the charge, countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, and Iraq get the bottom rankings in the list due to their negative image triggered by political instability, terrorism, and fragile economy.
Being one of the wealthiest countries globally with a very high disposable income, Japanese people automatically qualify as potential tourists who would be willing to spend more on their travels and for premium quality goods and services.
This disposable income becomes tourism revenue for the host country. Japan also performs well in the Better Life Index released by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, a global body. This means that Japanese passport holders are less likely to become illegal immigrants.
According to reports, Japan is also the fifth-largest donor of humanitarian aid worldwide. It has large trade markets giving new avenues for other economies to prosper.
On the other hand, countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Pakistan have the weakest passports owing to their negative global image. All the countries neither have a strong economy nor a stable political environment. The hostile situation within the country makes it unsafe for foreign tourists.
While terrorism and domestic turbulence remains a major concern in these nations, in recent days, France has requested its citizens to leave Pakistan. The threat of getting blacklisted by the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdogs, looms large over Pakistan.
Due to low disposable income and low quality of life, people from these countries are more likely to migrate, legally or illegally in search of a better life in the developed nations.
Although the passport index doesn’t take into account the current travel restrictions owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, the road to economic recovery and development is largely dependent on global mobility and the power of one’s passport plays a key role in this.