The Henley Passport Index*, is an annual ranking of the most powerful passport in the world which is officially released in real-time each quarter. In the latest quarter results, Singapore has regained the No.1 spot alongside Japan and South Korea, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 189.
These latest results consolidate 12 months of Asian dominance, after Singapore and Japan first climbed to the top spot in February last year.
Commenting on these developments, Dominic Volek, Managing Partner of Henley & Partners Singapore and Head of Southeast Asia, said: “The Henley Passport Index has also been a great indicator of bilateral ties and international relations between the countries of the world. A snapshot at the index’s top 20 today compared to what it was twenty years ago, tells an interesting story. European countries dominated the index then and were immovable – there were hardly any movements when you compared it to previous years. But today’s top 20 has seen significant movements especially in the last several years. The European countries have been surely but steadily dropping down the ranks as Asian countries improve to take their place.
“You only need to look at Singapore, between 2009 and 2019, to see it has improved by more than 30 score points to rise from 8th place to joint 1st place. South Korea is even more impressive improving by nearly 40 score points to rise from 13th place to joint 1st, and this trend will only continue. Studies have shown that visa restrictions can impact bilateral trade and foreign investment, so as globalization takes hold, countries that have more liberal visa policies are able to benefit from increased economic, scientific, tourism, and cultural exchanges with foreign countries.”
Following a visa-exemption from Uzbekistan, Germany currently sits alone in 2nd place, with a score of 188. Five countries now share 3rd place on the index – which is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) – with a score of 187: Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, and Sweden.
The UK and the US look increasingly unlikely to regain the top spot they jointly held in 2015, with the UK now sitting in 5th place with a visa-free/visa on arrival score of 185, and the US in 6th, with a score of 184.
The UAE continues its upward trajectory and is now just one spot away from entry into the index’s top 20. Afghanistan and Iraq remain at the bottom of the ranking with a score of just 30, a position one or both countries have occupied throughout the index’s 14-year history.
As well as illustrating the widespread adoption of open visa policies, the latest rankings reflect the transformative effect that Asian development and growth is having on networks of transcontinental cooperation and connectivity.
In Southeast Asia, Singapore, Malaysia, and Brunei respectively hold the top 3 spots, while Myanmar, in 91st place, remains the poorest performer in the region. The country has dropped six places over the past decade, while the Philippines has dropped 11.
Dr. Parag Khanna, Founder and Managing Partner of FutureMap and author of The Future Is Asian: Global Order in the Twenty-first Century, referred to China’s steady rise through its visa-waiver agreements and the impact of the multi-trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative that would “benefit both China and all states participating in the rising trade along the new Silk Roads”, with Asian countries “taking center stage in globalization”.
“We expect the interest and demand that we are seeing in Southeast Asia to continue with eight of the top 10 fastest growing wealth populations forecast to be in Asia over the next five years. (The Wealth Report, Knight Frank, 2019)”