Ranked: The World's Most Powerful Passports in 2019

In 2015, U.K. and U.S. passports were numbers one and two respectively, now they have both dropped outside the top five.
Ranked: The World’s Most Powerful Passports in 2019 Getty Images/Newsweek

In a world as unequal as our own, the passport that you have in your pocket—if you are lucky enough to have one at all—has a profound influence on the privileges and possibilities available to you.

With some passports, you are not only able to enjoy the rights, welfare and services provided by the relevant country, you can also travel beyond its borders relatively stress-free, gliding through border security with little more than a flick of a photograph; no dreary paperwork necessary.

With other passports, however, traveling abroad might mean an altogether different adventure: long waits for expensive visas, interrogations both before and after boarding flights, constant scrutiny that you might overstay your welcome.

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

The result of this variation in the power of passports is that, in effect, the world is open to some and closed to others. A nation's borders do not, on the whole, work like walls: keeping everyone out the same. Some are allowed through, while others are stopped.

So whereas an American citizen can travel spontaneously to, say, Tunisia, without any need for prior planning, a Vietnamese citizen cannot, and if either a Vietnamese citizen or a Tunisian citizen wanted to visit the U.S., they would have to pay $160 to make a visa application (irrespective of its success), fill out lengthy forms, and then wait a minimum of several weeks, and potentially many months, to hear back.

According to the latest passport index by Henley & Partners, which draws on data from the International Air Transport Association, the most powerful passport in 2018 let holders visit a remarkable 190 destinations either visa-free or with a visa-on-arrival. The weakest passport, by contrast, allowed its holders access to only 30.

A powerful country does not necessarily correlate to a powerful passport—not entirely, anyway. A Chinese passport, for example, is relatively weak despite the strength of its economy and global influence, ranking outside the top 50. (That said, in the last two years, it has climbed 20 places to rank 69th.)

Nor is the power of any passport set in stone. Recent convulsions in global politics have led to increased hostility between certain countries, despite broader trends that show the world becoming more open to tourism. Whereas in 2015, U.K. and U.S. passports were numbers one and two respectively, now they have both dropped outside the top five.

Here Newsweek runs through the most powerful passports in the world, and how their ranking has changed, based on the authoritative Henley & Partners index.

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