Power of SA passport continues to drop in global ranking

Leroy Wright
January 9, 2019

As the country heads to the exit, possibly without a deal, their ability to travel visa-free to European Union countries could be compromised.

The US and the United Kingdom continue to drop down the Henley Passport Index - which is based on authoritative data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) - and now sit in joint 6th place, with access to 185 destinations.

An annual index by Swiss-based research firm Henley and Partners shows the country's passport is considered the joint second most powerful in the world - up a notch from 2018, and tying with Singapore.

However, both the United Kingdom and U.S. passports have dropped down the ranking from fifth in 2018 and are both in sixth place now on 185 countries.

The UK and US share sixth place with the Austrian, Dutch, Norwegian, Portuguese and Swiss passports.

And it added that it is unlikely that either country will reclaim the top spot any time soon.

Meanwhile, Ireland was ranked seventh alongside Belgium, Canada and Greece all of which can travel to 184 destinations.

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This marks a new high for South Korea, which moved up the ranking following a recent visa-on-arrival agreement with India. Germany and France remain in 3rd place going into 2019, with a visa-free score of 188.

The "continued dominance" of Asian countries in the passport index reflects the "extraordinary effect that worldwide mobility and migration has had on the region", said Henley & Partners, a citizenship advisory firm.

Smit said, "The Henley Passport Index is an important tool for measuring not only the relative strength of the world's passports but also the extraordinary results that states can achieve when they work hand in hand with their global peers to build a more interconnected and collaborative world". It is updated in real-time, as and when visa-policy changes come into effect.

Its 2019 index put Saudi Arabia on top with a "visa-free score" of 167, followed by Germany on 166 and Singapore, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Luxembourg, France, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Norway, South Korea and the U.S. ranked third-equal with a score of 165.

As in 2018, countries with citizenship-by-investment (CBI) programs continue to hold strong positions on the index.

"In 2006, a citizen, on average, could travel to 58 destinations without needing a visa from the host nation; by the end of 2018, this number had almost doubled to 107".

At the far end of the table, Iraq and Afghanistan remain at the bottom of the rankings, with access to just 30 visa-free destinations.

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