Singapore rises to the top of the Passport Index power rating

14 November, 2017

A recent decision by Paraguay to remove visa requirements for passport holders of Singapore means the Asian country now has the most powerful passport in the world, according to updated information from international residence and citizenship advisory firm Arton Capital. Its online interactive Passport Index tool says holders of a Singaporean passport can now visit 159 countries, either visa-free or by gaining a visa on arrival.

Singapore had previously been holding the top spot with Germany (158 countries), but the decision by Paraguay now means it is now out on its own at the top of the ranking that sorts and ranks the world's passports by their cross-border access. Sweden and South Korea are ranked equal third with a visa-free score of 157, while Denmark, Finland, Italy, Japan, Norway, Spain and the United Kingdom are ranked equal fifth with a Visa-Free Score of 156.

While Singapore has consistently climbed the ranking since it became independent in 1965 with a far-sighted foreign policy, the US passport is starting to fall down the index since President Donald Trump took office. Most recently Turkey and the Central African Republic revoked their visa-free status to US passport holders.

The Passport Index is one of a number of measures now available to reference passport power. Others include the Visa Restrictions Index from Henley & Partners in partnership with International Air Transport Association (IATA) and The Nomad Passport Index which looks a wide variety of factors alongside visa-free travel, including international taxation, perception, dual citizenship and personal freedom. The latest annual versions of these rankings continue to be dominated by European nations with Germany and Sweden the current respective leaders.

These may have more complex algorithms that deliver an overall ranking, but Arton Capital believes its simple visa-free score delivers everything that is required with such an analysis. "Visa-free global mobility has become an important factor in today's world," its founder and president, Armand Arton said at the recently held Global Citizen Forum in Montenegro. "More and more people every year invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in a second passport to offer better opportunity and security for their families."

The ranking has historically been dominated by European nations, but Asia is now increasingly opening its doors to visa-free travel. Alongside Singapore, Japan and South Korea are among the 'Top Ten' in Arton Capital's ranking, while Australia, Canada, New Zealand and USA all have a score of 153 or more and have among the 'Top 25' visa-free scores.

TABLE - The top and bottom nations of the world ranked by their visa-free scores in the rankingSource: Arton Capital Passport Index

In total the Passport Index ranks passports of 193 United Nations member countries and six territories - Hong Kong, Kosovo, Macau, Palestine, Taiwan and the Vatican. At the bottom end of the scale the passports that off the least mobility comprise Afghanistan with a visa-free score of 23, followed by Pakistan and Iraq (26), Syria (29), Somalia (33), Bangladesh and Yemen (35), and Iran, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Sudan (36).

There is actually quite a lot of movement each year in the rankings as nations remove restrictions as part of open skies policies or as part of a general tourism push or as doors closed due to political divides or conflict. In 2016, Arton Capital information shows Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau, Peru, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu all enhanced their visa-free scores by more than 30. At the other end of the spectrum the likes of Cyprus, Ghana, South Korea and Sri Lanka all removed visa-free deals with four other nations.

This year to date, Georgia (+39), Ukraine (+33), Dominican Republic (+10), St Vincent and Grenadines (+7), Tuvalu (+7), Guatemala (+6), Indonesia (+6), Kiribati (+6), Mauritius (+6), Peru (+6) and United Arab Emirates (+6), have seen the most positive movement, while Iraq (-2) and Yemen (-5) have seen visa-free arrangements ended.

In 2017, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced a daring goal - position the country's passport on the list of the five most important passports in the world by 2021. Although the UAE passport is already the most powerful in the GCC, it certainly has more room to grow on a global scale. After entering the year with a score of 122 it has already boosted that number to 128, but needs visa-free access to another 28 nations to fulfil that goal.

TABLE - Africa dominates The Welcoming Countries Rank 2017 which lists nations by how many passports they accept visa-free, with visa on arrival or with eTASource: Arton Capital Passport Index