By Moustafa Daly
Visa-free travel is considered a sought-after luxury in the modern era. Countries with powerful passports with visa-free or visa-on-arrival travel to most countries give their citizens distinct advantages when traveling abroad for business or leisure.
Thus, to assess the strength of a passport is to mainly weigh how many countries its citizens can travel to without the hassle of pre-approval or lengthy visa processes.
For years, European and U.S. passports were, by default, the most powerful in the world. While this remains true in most cases, they are now joined by several nations from across the world, particularly Asia and South America, that are continuously crowding out traditionally powerful passports from the world’s top rankings.
A recent report ranks the world’s most powerful passports in 2024; let’s dive in.
Europe continues leading the list of most powerful passports
2024 sees the return of European dominance in Henley and Partners’ passport index. Sharing the top spot this year are five countries: France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Singapore. Citizens of these countries can travel without visa or with visa-on-arrival to 194 global destinations, out of 195 countries overall.
In 2023, only Japan had the top spot with visa-free travel to 193 destinations.
This year’s second most powerful passports belong to South Korea, Sweden, and Finland, with visa-free travel to 193 countries. South Korea maintains its 2023 position, which then shared with Singapore, while the city-state is now at the top.
Also in 2023, Germany and Spain share third place in the passport index; however, 2024 sees three European countries sharing this position; Austria, Denmark, and Ireland. Each passport enables visa-free travel to 192 countries across the world.
Belgium, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, and the UK rank fourth, with their citizens enjoying visa-free travel to 191 countries. Fifth are Greece, Malta and Switzerland - with 190 destination countries.
This year, the U.S. maintains its 2023 ranking as the 7th most powerful passport, with access to 188 countries.
Most powerful passports in different world continents in 2024
Meanwhile, developed Asian countries have some of the world’s most powerful passports this year, while others still lag; having made big strides in the strength of their passports over the past few years.
China, the world’s second-largest economy, has a moderately strong passport - ranking 62nd with visa-free travel to 85 destinations, the same as India. Russia ranks 51st with 119 destinations.
In West Asia, the UAE maintains an exceptional performance on the ranking. The Gulf monarchy has the world’s 11th most powerful passport, with visa-free travel to 183 destinations.
Qatar is 53rd with 108 destinations, Saudi Arabia is 61st with 89 destinations, and Israel is 21st with 166 destinations.
Meanwhile, Turkey has the world’s 52nd most powerful passport, with 118 destinations.
Topping the list of powerful African passports is South Africa, with visa-free travel to 108 destinations, ranking as the 53rd most powerful passport. Botswana is next, ranking 59th with visa-free travel to 91 destinations. Third in Africa is Namibia, with 80 visa-free travel destinations and ranking at 65th.
North Africa had a mostly modest outcome with Morocco having the most powerful passport in the region, granting it visa-free travel to 71 global destinations, ranking 71st. Algeria is 86th, and Egypt 87th positions.
South American countries also fare nicely in the 2024 passport index, with three countries making it to the top 20 most powerful passports: Chile, Argentina, and Brazil, placed in the 15th, 16th, and 17th.
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