Ranked: The World's Least Powerful Passports in 2019

A Japanese passport permits travel to 190 countries either visa-free or with a visa upon arrival. The weakest passport, by contrast, grants access to only 30.
Ranked: The World’s Least Powerful Passports in 2019 Getty Images/Newsweek

Amid President Donald Trump's incessant talk of building "the wall" between America and Mexico, and with such nationalist rhetoric resurgent worldwide—from Britain to Brazil, India to Hungary—it's easy to imagine that all the world's walls are going up, and the possibilities for global travel diminishing.

But, at least for now, the facts tell a different story. According to Henley & Partners Passport Index, in 2006 the average passport let you visit 58 countries without needing a visa, but the number has now almost doubled to 107.

As a global trend, it's impressive and counter-intuitive—despite the rise in nationalism and, in many cases, the strengthening of anti-immigration controls, visas are being liberalized and travel freedom is increasing. The world is becoming both more closed and more open at the same time.

Read more: The World's Most Powerful Passports in 2019

Yet this trend also amplifies the inequalities in the power of different passports: they are only growing more pronounced. Whereas passports from across the Asian continent are becoming more commanding—allowing their citizens to travel with ever-more ease to ever-more places—the relative weakness of other passports persists, with little hope of improvement.

"Despite the important progress made in overall global mobility," the academics Ugur Altundal and Omer Zarpli write in their contribution to Henley and Partners annual report on global mobility, "there remains a significant 'global mobility divide', with some passports much more powerful than others."

For example, a Japanese passport—which is now the most powerful worldwide—lets you travel to 190 countries either visa-free or with a visa upon arrival. An Afghan passport, by contrast, grants a citizen access to only 30, far below the global average. Similarly, while the average passport-holder in Europe can travel freely to 163 destinations, the number for Africa is just 61.

This slideshow runs through the countries with the weakest passports worldwide. Collectively, they show that, while the limited reach of a passport represents a disadvantage in itself, it is often the result of much deeper misfortunes: civil war, famine, endemic poverty, dictatorships, ecological catastrophes and unstable institutions.

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