By Salman Siddiqui
Southeastern countries and EU states are again dominating the list of nations whose citizens have the most powerful passports in the world, according to a new report. However, the investment immigration industry point out that while good global passport rankings help a country’s brand, other factors, such as safe investment environment and political stability, remain key to attracting investors.
Japan and Singapore are tied for the number one spot since passport holders from both these countries get visa free access to 192 destinations, according to the Henley Passport Index report, which ranks countries based on data from the International Air Transport Association. Germany and South Korea took second place with 190 destinations.
Ranking of the world’s passports
Most EU states did well on the index; Italy, Luxembourg and Spain all ranked third (189 destinations); Austria, Denmark, France, the Netherlands and Sweden all ranked fourth (188 destinations); Ireland and Portugal ranked fifth (187 destinations).
Other European countries such as Hungary and Poland were at number 8 while Lithuania and Slovakia at number 9, and Latvia and Slovenia at number 10.
Even though Cyprus has ended its CBI program, the country continued to rank high in the list at number 14.
Do strong passport index rankings help bring in investors?
Italian immigration attorney Alessia Ajelli, attorney at LCA Studio Legale, said recognition of a country’s strong passport is one of the factors that help in attracting investors.
“It is always a good thing to publicly remind and bring to the attention of other countries the positive aspects of Italy and its system, hence, I think that this could be an element that, among others, helps to attract investors and business to the country, even though Italy is well-known all over the world,” Ajelli told Uglobal.
But it’s not just a strong passport that did the trick for Italy; it was also government policy shaped over the years that helps in bringing in investment.
“During the last years, Italian government has taken a number of measures trying to boost the interest of foreign investors and entrepreneurs to attract them to the country – such as the so called ‘flat tax regime’ as well as changes to the investor visa program that are aimed at making easier the performance of the investment and the obtainment of the investor visa,” she said.
Ajelli added that Italy still needs to do more in terms of easing the process for obtaining visas to foreigners.
Need for robust economic, social policies
German immigration attorney Saeed Jaberi, who manages his own law firm Jaberi Lawyer, said a country’s ranking in a global index are a result of several factors.
“The fact that Germany ranks high in global rankings is the result of handwork, a solid foundation and robust economic and social policies,” Jaberi said.
He said the reason investors stay attracted to countries like Germany is due to its safe investment environment and strong economy.
“Germany is a safe investment environment, has a leading economy, is a global player (Germany is the third largest export nation – just behind China and the USA – after six years as export world champion!), has high productivity levels and an excellent infrastructure.
“Attracting more investors as well as giving privileges to German passport holders will not only stimulate the labor market and employment itself, but also strengthen the German economy,” Jaberi added.
Global networking, political stability key to strong global rankings
German investor immigration attorney Aykut Elseven, founding partner at Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwalte, pointed out other factors such as global networking and a country’s strong infrastructure are keys to attracting investment.
“It is difficult to say whether the strength of a German passport is decisive for entrepreneurs and investors to relocate to Germany. I would rather look at this aspect from a different perspective,” he said.
“Germany's good global networking, a good infrastructure, as well as the legal possibilities for foreign entrepreneurs to settle in such a progressive country on a long-term basis, have a great influence on Germany's attractiveness for investors and entrepreneurs,” Elseven said.
He also highlighted political stability as a crucial element in helping a country gain strength in global ranking.
“The political situation in Germany has been stable for a very long time now and the economic success of Germany as a business location is unmistakable. In my opinion, these are the most important reasons for Germany's attractiveness as a business location,” he said.
Passport ranking indicates country's ties with rest of the world
Japanese immigration lawyer Masahito Nakai, who is the managing partner of Nakai Immigration Services LPC, said a country’s strong ranking in the passport index gives an indication of its ties with the rest of the world.
About Japan’s number one ranking, Nakai said: “It could be one of the great pieces of evidence showing Japan has good relationships with countries all over the globe. I am really honored as a citizen of the country.”
He added that a strong passport opens doors to both business as well as pleasure. “Valuable passports which enable the holders to travel almost freely will create them for more chances in both business and pleasure without spending time and cost to receive any entry visas to the destinations.”
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