The Henley Passport Index for 2020 reveals Japan, Singapore and South Korea occupying the top three spots, while the United Arab Emirates leapt to 18th place--a leap of 47 over the past 10 years.
Holders of a UAE passport can now (in normal times) travel visa-free to 171 countries. For the second year running, Japan is number one, with access to 191 countries. In 2010 Japan was in 6th place.
Singapore holds on to the second spot, with 190 countries. In 2010 the country was 9th in the Henley ranking. Ten years ago the UK was first, and now sits at 7th on the list alongside the US, Norway, Belgium and Switzerland, with visa-free travel to 185 countries.
With 3.5bn people, nearly half the global population, presently living in voluntary or mandatory confinement, the latest results from the index raise challenging questions about what travel freedom and global mobility really mean, both currently and in a deeply uncertain post-pandemic future."
The top 10 in the Henley Passport Index for 2020 consists of:
1. Japan (visa-free travel to 191 countries)
2. Singapore (190)
3. South Korea, Germany (189)
4. Italy, Finland, Spain, Luxembourg (188)
5. Denmark, Austria (187)
6. Sweden, France, Ireland, The Netherlands, Portugal (186)
7. US, UK, Belgium, Norway, Switzerland (185)
8. Czech Republic, Greece, Malta, New Zealand (184)
9. Canada, Australia (183)
10. Hungary (182)
Japan's passport continues to hold the top spot on the Henley Passport Index as we enter the second quarter of 2020, but the reality is that current stringent travel restrictions mean that most non-essential travel for Japanese nationals is heavily curtailed.
This is true for almost every country of course, as more travel bans are implemented daily, and ever-more stringent coronavirus lockdown regulations are imposed by governments worldwide.
Henley said the latest results from the index — which is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) — raise "challenging questions" about what freedom of travel will really mean even in the post-pandemic world.
Philippe Amarante, managing partner for Henley & Partners Dubai office, said: "With 3.5bn people, nearly half the global population, presently living in voluntary or mandatory confinement, the latest results from the index raise challenging questions about what travel freedom and global mobility really mean, both currently and in a deeply uncertain post-pandemic future."
Dr. Christian H. Kaelin, chairman of Henley & Partners and the inventor of the passport index concept, points out that in an unprecedented global health emergency such as this, relative passport strength becomes temporarily meaningless.
"A Swiss citizen can, in theory, travel to 185 destinations around the world without needing a visa in advance, but the last few weeks have made it apparent that travel freedom is contingent on factors that occasionally can be utterly beyond our control. This is, of course, something that citizens of countries with weak passports in the lower ranks of the index are all too familiar with."
"As public health concerns and security rightfully take precedence over all else now, even within the otherwise borderless EU, this is an opportunity to reflect on what freedom of movement and citizenship essentially mean for those of us who have perhaps taken them for granted in the past," he added.