Which are really the strongest passports in the world?

Maciamo

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Every year I see different companies making lists of the most powerful passports in the world. The most famous of them is probably the Henley Passport Index by Henley & Partners, which has been ranking countries according to the travel freedom allowed by those countries' ordinary passports for their citizens since 2006. The problem with such ranking is that it only takes into account access to foreign countries as a tourist, not the right to live and work visa-free, as is the case for EU citizens in other EU countries.

According to Henley these are the 30 strongest passports in 2024.

2024
rank
Passport issuing countryVisa-free
destinations
1
23px-Flag_of_France.svg.png
France
194
1
23px-Flag_of_Germany.svg.png
Germany
194
1
23px-Flag_of_Italy.svg.png
Italy
194
1
23px-Flag_of_Japan.svg.png
Japan
194
1
23px-Flag_of_Singapore.svg.png
Singapore
194
1
23px-Flag_of_Spain.svg.png
Spain
194
2
23px-Flag_of_Finland.svg.png
Finland
193
2
23px-Flag_of_the_Netherlands.svg.png
Netherlands
193
2
23px-Flag_of_South_Korea.svg.png
South Korea
193
2
23px-Flag_of_Sweden.svg.png
Sweden
193
3
23px-Flag_of_Austria.svg.png
Austria
192
3
20px-Flag_of_Denmark.svg.png
Denmark
192
3
23px-Flag_of_Ireland.svg.png
Ireland
192
3
23px-Flag_of_Luxembourg.svg.png
Luxembourg
192
3
23px-Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom.svg.png
United Kingdom
192
4
23px-Flag_of_Belgium_%28civil%29.svg.png
Belgium
191
4
21px-Flag_of_Norway.svg.png
Norway
191
4
23px-Flag_of_Portugal.svg.png
Portugal
191
5
23px-Flag_of_Australia_%28converted%29.svg.png
Australia
190
5
23px-Flag_of_Greece.svg.png
Greece
190
5
23px-Flag_of_Malta.svg.png
Malta
190
5
23px-Flag_of_New_Zealand.svg.png
New Zealand
190
5
16px-Flag_of_Switzerland_%28Pantone%29.svg.png
Switzerland
190
6
23px-Flag_of_Canada_%28Pantone%29.svg.png
Canada
189
6
23px-Flag_of_the_Czech_Republic.svg.png
Czech Republic
189
6
23px-Flag_of_Poland.svg.png
Poland
189
6
23px-Flag_of_the_United_States.svg.png
United States
189
7
23px-Flag_of_Hungary.svg.png
Hungary
188
7
23px-Flag_of_Lithuania.svg.png
Lithuania
188
8
23px-Flag_of_Estonia.svg.png
Estonia
187

But the passports of EU, EEA and Schengen countries are clearly stronger than non-EU passports as they provide their carriers not only to travel visa-free for as long as they want (not just 30 days or 90 days as usual tourists) to all 27 EU countries + 3 Schengen countries (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland) + 4 micro-nations (Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino, Vatican). They can also live, study, work, get social security, health insurance and do basically anything they would be able to do in their home country throughout the European Union.

So EU passports are in a category of their own and are always stronger than a non-EU passport with an equal number of visa-free destinations.

Citizen of Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein can also freely live in an EU country without an EU passport, although they don't have all the rights of EU citizens.

Which countries?

Another thing to take into account when comparing the power of passports is which specific countries are in the list of travel-free destinations. It goes without saying that having the right to travel to a huge and populous country like the USA, India or China is more advantageous than being able to travel to tiny island nations like Tuvalu, Nauru, Niue or Palau, which are all less populous than Gibraltar, San Marino or Monaco. So not all destinations should get the same score. If micronations like that get one point, then regular countries should get maybe 3 points and large countries of over 300 million people like the US, India and China at least 10 points. That would also bring more balance with the EU passports.

I can imagine Americans say that they can live and work in 50 states, which is as good as the EU/Schengen's 30 countries. That's not completely true because the EU + Schengen is still considerably more populous than the USA (462 million vs 338 million), but it also provides more cultural, social, economic and political diversity - not to mention the huge historical heritage of European countries compared to the US, where a single country like Italy or Spain or France easily beats the US for its touristic attractivity.

So which passports are the strongest?
Ideally I should have attributed a certain score to each country based on its size and population, but that would take me too long and I leave it to companies like Henley who specialise in the passport ranking to do it. Nevertheless it's easy to sort at least the top 5 countries.

Among the countries with 194 visa-free destinations, Singapore and Japan are not EU countries and therefore their passports are less powerful than those of
France, Germany, Italy and Spain, which also have 194 visa-free destinations. Furthermore Japanese people can no longer travel to China without a visa since 2020. All five other countries can travel to China visa-free.

French, German, Italian and Spanish passport holders have basically all the same destinations in their lists with the same length of stay allowed in every country. In other words, these four passports are the strongest in the world.

The Dutch passport could also be considered as strong as Dutch people are among a handful of European countries who obtained visa-free travel to China from December 1, 2023 to November 30, 2024. It thus completes the top 5.

Other EU citizens who can travel to China visa-free are the Irish, Belgians, Luxembourgers, Austrians. On the other hand Danish, Swedish, Finnish and Portuguese citizens still cannot, and neither can British and Norwegian people.

Apart from visa requirements for China, there are only minor differences between Western and Northern European countries for travel limitations. I used the compare my passport tool on Henley & Partners to see which visas were needed for countries outside the top 5 (France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain):
  • Austrian, Belgian, Dutch, Greek, Luxembourg, Maltese, Portuguese and Swiss citizens need an e-visa for Vietnam.
  • Belgian, Danish, Greek and Portuguese citizens need a visa to go to Pakistan.
  • Norwegian and Swiss citizens need a visa for Gabon.
  • Swiss citizens need a visa to enter Sierra Leone.
  • Norwegians need to a visa for Iraq and Senegal.
  • Greek citizens need a visa for Lesotho.
  • Maltese citizens need a visa for Guyana, Namibia and Kiribati, but don't need one for Uganda (unlike other Western countries).
  • British and Irish citizens need an e-visa for Tajikistan.
  • British people need a paper visa to enter Iran and Russia, while other Europeans can get an easier to obtain e-visa.
Regarding other Western countries:
  • Americans, Australians, Canadians and New Zealanders all need a paper visa for Russia and China and an e-visa for Vietnam.
  • Americans and Canadians need a visa to travel to Iran and Venezuela.
  • Canadians need a visa to travel to Egypt.
  • Australians and New Zealanders need to a visa to enter Sao Tome & Principe.
  • New Zealanders need a visa for Gabon.
  • Americans can't travel to North Korea.
And East Asian countries:
  • Japanese, South Koreans and Singaporeans don't need any visa for Azerbaijan (unlike other developed countries).
  • Japanese and South Koreans don't need any for India (unlike other developed countries).
  • South Koreans don't need any visa for Russia (unlike other developed countries).
  • Singaporeans don't need any for Cuba, Ghana and Guinea (unlike other developed countries).
  • Japanese and South Koreans need a visa for China and Burkina Faso.
  • Japanese citizens need a visa for the Gambia.
  • Singaporeans need a visa for Gabon, Guyana, Iraq, Ukraine and Venezuela.
Singaporeans can travel to Cuba visa-free for 30 days, but it's not really more advantageous than EU citizens who get a 90-day tourist card, which is not properly speaking a tourist visa as it can be freely purchased online or through a travel agency and does not require approval from an embassy.

The Henley ranking failed to mention that South Koreans cannot travel to 8 countries (Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Ukraine) deemed too dangerous by the South Korean government. Apart from the US government prohibiting its citizens to travel to North Korea, South Korea is the only developed country that imposes complete travel bans to some destinations. From the way it is formulated the ban seems to apply to all South Korean citizens without exception, therefore also for humanitarian purposes, journalists, soldiers, etc. Among those 8 countries, Iraq and Ukraine do not require South Koreans to have a visa, but as they are banned from going there by their governments, there should be two countries less in the visa-free destinations than listed by Henley & Partners.
 
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I thought it would also be interesting to compare the price of passports by country. I checked the cost and validity period for each of them for adults (ordinary passports), then calculated the price per year in euro for each country. I chose the cheapest option when there were two prices (cheaper for online applications in Finland and Singapore, while Malta charges more between April and August!).

CountryCostValidityPrice per year
Czechia600 CZK (€23.5)10 years€2.30
Latvia€28.4610 years€2.84
Spain€3010 years€3.00
Poland140 zł (33€)10 years€3.30
Slovakia€3310 years€3.30
Hungary14000 HUF (€35)10 years€3.50
South Korea50000 KRW (35€)10 years€3.50
Bulgaria€205 years€4.00
Estonia€4010 years€4.00
Croatia€42,4710 years€4.24
Romania258 RON (€52)12 years€4.30
Singapore$80 (€55) or $70 (€48 online)10 years€4.80
Slovenia€4810 years€4.80
Lithuania€5010 years€5.00
Norway570 NOK (€50)10 years€5.00
Netherlands€63,4210 years€6.30
Cyprus€7010 years€7.00
Germany€7010 years€7.00
Malta€70 or 8010 years€7.00
Sweden400 SEK (€35)5 years€7.00
Ireland€7510 years€7.50
Austria€75.9010 years€7.60
Greece€84.4010 years€8.50
France86€10 years€8.60
Finland€50 (€44 online)5 years€8.80
Belgium€657 years€9.30
United Kingdom£82.5 (€95)10 years€9.50
Japan¥16,000 (€100)10 years€10.00
Luxembourg€505 years€10.00
Canada160 CAD (€110)10 years€11.00
New Zealand199 NZD (€110)10 years€11.00
Italy€11610 years€11.60
Denmark890 DKK (€120)10 years€12.00
Portugal€655 years€13.00
Switzerland140 CHF (€140)10 years€14.00
United States$165 (€155)10 years€15.50
Australia346 AUD (€210)10 years€21.00


US and Australian passports are the most expensive, costing three to four times more per year of validity than the average in other rich countries. But compared to the local salaries and cost of life in the country Portugal has the most expensive passports - almost the same price as Switzerland despite having a nominal GDP per capita 4 times lower!

Spain offers one of the cheapest passports and it is also ranked #1 in the world (alongside the ore expensive French, German and Italian passports).
 
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New ranking of strongest passports in the world

I have computed a new ranking of the most useful passports. I wondered how many extra points I should confer to EU/Schengen members for having unlimited stay, right to study and right to work in 30 countries. I thought it would be worth 3 points per country, so 26 x 3 (78 points) for each EU member state, but that seemed excessive. So I settled on 10 bonus points for EU and Schengen countries. That seems reasonable as it is not easy to obtain a work visa in most of the EU for non-EU citizens (even from other rich countries).

I also decided to award 5 extra points for passports that granted visa-free travel to China or India. I could not give as many extra points as for EU/Schengen members as China and India only allows a few countries visa-free travel, but in no circumstances visa-free work or study. Besides China only grants 15 days of visa-free travel to a few selected European countries, which is really not much. There was no need to add other countries as all developed countries already have visa-free travel to the USA, Canada, Australia, Japan, Brazil, etc. China and India were the only major country where visa policy differed for travellers from developed countries. For India it only concerns Japan and South Korea. Interestingly there isn't any country that has visa-free access to both China and India.

Whenever countries were tied in their score I took into account the price of passports to determine the ranking.

RankCountryVisa-free travelEU/Schengenincl. China/IndiaTotal points
1Spain194105209
2Germany194105209
3France194105209
4Italy194105209
5Netherlands193105208
6Ireland192105207
7Austria192105207
8Luxembourg192105207
9Belgium191105206
10Hungary188105203
11Sweden19310203
12Finland19310203
13Denmark19210202
14Portugal19110201
15Norway19110201
16Malta19010200
17Greece19010200
18Switzerland19010200
19Czechia18910199
20Poland18910199
21Singapore1945199
22Japan1945199
23Lithuania18810198
24Estonia18710197
25Latvia18610196
26Slovakia18610196
27South Korea1915196
28Slovenia18610196
29Iceland18610196
30Croatia18410194
31Cyprus18210192
32United Kingdom192192
33New Zealand190190
34Australia190190
35Bulgaria17910189
36Romania17910189
37Canada189189
38United States189189
39Malaysia1825187
40UAE184184
 
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Switzerland, Singapore, and Japan have the strongest passports. I heard people who promote immigration say that.
 
Switzerland, Singapore, and Japan have the strongest passports. I heard people who promote immigration say that.
Would you care to explain what you mean?
 
Those intermediaries claim that it is very difficult to obtain resident status in Switzerland, Singapore, and Japan.

Depends for whom. Switzerland is in the Schengen area, so all EU citizens and citizens of other Schengen countries can reside indefinitely in Switzerland.

I lived in Japan and obtained permanent residency after only 4 years. That was also relatively easy.
 
Those intermediaries claim that it is very difficult to obtain resident status in Switzerland, Singapore, and Japan.
As for Singapore, the country's population has increased from 3.04 million in 1990 to 4.02 million in 2000 to 5.67 million in 2020. That's an increase of 16% in 20 years and 86% in 30 years, although the birth rate is one of the lowest in the world. That means plenty of immigration. No Western country has had an even remotely similar population growth since 1990. The closest would be Australia, which saw its population rise by 47% from 1990 to 2020. That's almost half the growth of Singapore and it's one of the most immigrant-friendly country among Western countries. So it looks like it's much, much easier to migrate to Singapore than to any Western country.
 
As for Singapore, the country's population has increased from 3.04 million in 1990 to 4.02 million in 2000 to 5.67 million in 2020. That's an increase of 16% in 20 years and 86% in 30 years, although the birth rate is one of the lowest in the world. That means plenty of immigration. No Western country has had an even remotely similar population growth since 1990. The closest would be Australia, which saw its population rise by 47% from 1990 to 2020. That's almost half the growth of Singapore and it's one of the most immigrant-friendly country among Western countries. So it looks like it's much, much easier to migrate to Singapore than to any Western country.
These three are safe,clean,and no refugees
 
These three are safe,clean,and no refugees
In Japan and Singapore may not have a lot of refugees, but Switzerland is the 4th country with the most refugees in all Europe after Sweden, Malta and Norway. You can check the statistics for yourself. 8.45% of the Swiss population are refugees.

There may not be many refugees in Singapore but nearly half of the population is foreign born, which makes it one of the countries with the largest percentage of immigrants in the world (after countries like the United Emirates).

Anyway this thread is about the strengths of passports for citizens of a particular country who wish to travel or live abroad without a visa, not about the quality of life in each country, nor the number of immigrants or refugees in each country.
 

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