Revealed: These are the world’s most (and least) powerful passports in 2023

These passport rankings are based on visa-free access to destinations around the world.
These passport rankings are based on visa-free access to destinations around the world.   -   Copyright  Pexels
By Rosie Frost

For the fifth year running, Japan has the world’s most powerful passport.

The country came out on top of the Henley Passport Index’s 2023 rankings.

Japanese citizens can now visit 193 countries visa-free, which amounts to 85 per cent of the world and 98 per cent of the global economy.

How does the Henley Passport Index rank passports?

The yearly Index from global citizenship and residence advisory firm Henley & Partners uses exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to rank the world’s 199 passports. It is based on the number of destinations their holders can access without a visa.

If no visa is required, the country scores 1 point for its passport. This applies if citizens can obtain a visa on arrival, a visitor's permit or an electronic travel authority (ETA) when entering the destination.

When a visa is required or the passport holder has to obtain a government approved e-visa before departure, the passport receives a score of 0.

Which countries have the most powerful passports?

Just below Japan, with visa-free access to 192 destinations, come South Korea and Singapore in joint second place. In third are Germany and Spain with visa-free access to 190 different destinations followed by Finland, Italy and Luxembourg with a score of 189.

The UK and US didn’t move in 2023 from 6th and 7th place. They scored 187 and 186 respectively out of the 227 countries included in the Index. It seems unlikely these countries will reclaim the top spots they held around a decade ago.

Canva
The top passports had visa-free access to almost 200 countries.Canva

Which countries have the least powerful passports?

Firmly at the bottom of the Henley Passport Index is Afghanistan with a score of just 27 out of 227 destinations - 166 fewer than Japan. It is followed by Iraq with a score of 29 and Syria with a score of 30.

The bottom of the ranking is filled out by Pakistan (32 destinations), Yemen (34 destinations), Somalia (35 destinations), Nepal - Palestinian territory (38 destinations), and North Korea (40 destinations).

The Index finds that only 17 per cent of countries give their passport holders access to more than 80 per cent of the world without a visa.

Do other passport rankings give different results?

The Passport Index by Arton Capital looks at 193 United Nations member countries and six territories. It is updated throughout the year and the latest ranking put the United Arab Emirates at the top with a visa-free access or visa on arrival score of 181.

Second place is held by 11 countries - most of which are in Europe. The list includes Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and South Korea.

This Passport Index also put Afghanistan, Syra and Iraq at the bottom of its ranking. In 2022, it says, this was mainly due to turbulent international relationships, ongoing conflicts and the risk of people overstaying their visas.