The power of a passport

Quite obviously, a passport is fundamental to travel, but according to the Henley Passport Index (HPI), not all passports are created equal.

The HPI, compiled by Henley & Partners, is regarded as the authority on passport strength globally. Broadly speaking, the strongest passports are those that permit citizens to enter the most countries easily, without additional entry requirements.

The HPI ranks a passport highly if it permits the holder to visit many countries with any of the following entry criteria:

  • Where only a passport is required
  • Where an Electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA) / online visa waiver is applicable
  • Where travellers can apply for their visa on arrival.

So which countries boast the strongest passports?

In 2022, the HPI ranked the Japanese passport as the most powerful in the world. A Japanese passport allows citizens to travel to 193 countries without getting a visa in advance.

Singapore and South Korea are both ranked in second place, allowing visa-free travel to 192 destinations across the globe.

European Union countries account for many of the world’s top-ranked passports. German and Spanish passports share third place with 190 visa-free destinations, while Finnish, Italian, and Luxembourgish passports tie for the fourth spot with 189 visa-free territories. Austrian, Danish, Dutch and Swedish passports are ranked equally in the fifth position, where citizens can travel to 188 destinations without needing a visa.

French, Irish, Portuguese, and British are in sixth place, with 187 visa-free options.

British travellers can travel to 187 countries with no visa required in advance, with Australian and Canadian passports tied as the eighth strongest passports in the world, allowing access to 185 destinations without a visa.

There are relatively few countries where Americans require a visa. United States passport holders can travel to 186 destinations visa-free

Conversely, which countries rank as having the weakest passports?

Afghanistan has the weakest passport in the world ranked by travel freedom, where Afghani’s are only permitted to enter 27 countries without a visa.

Iraqi passports are only marginally better, allowing entry to 29 destinations without getting a visa before the trip.

Syria, Pakistan, and Yemen complete the bottom five in 2022, with 30, 32, and 34 visa-free destinations, respectively.

Where does South Africa rank according to the HPI? We are currently placed at fourty-fifth position, where South Africans can visit 105 destinations without a visa.