Legal 500

News & Articles

The effect of passport openness on social and economic growth

23-January-2020 12:23
in Aviation and Travel
by 4KBW

The Henley Passport Index ranks all of the world’s passports by the number of destinations that their holders can access without a prior visa. The Henley Passport Index for 2020 ranked Japan and Singapore as the world’s most travel-friendly passports offering access to 191 and 190 countries respectively.[1] The lowest ranked country is Afghanistan in which a citizen can only access 26 countries without a prior visa.

South Korea, which had shared pole position last quarter has dropped to third place alongside Germany. These passports offer access to 187 destinations around the world without a prior visa.  

One of the most notable shifts in the index was the United Arab Emirates. Over the past five years, the UAE has more than doubled the number of destinations its citizens are able to travel to without a prior visa, bringing it to a score of 171 and a ranking of joint 18th.

Dr Christian H. Kaelin, Chairman of Henley & Partners and the creator of the passport index concept said, “Countries around the world increasingly view visa-openness as crucial to economic and social progress.”[2] There is a direct correlation between visa openness and progressive reform. Countries moving towards nationalist isolationism and away from policies that encourage visa-openness generally experience reduced economic growth, social integration and progressive political change.[3] The higher rankings in countries such as Japan and Singapore are likely to reflect the introduction of mutually beneficial trade agreements. Over recent years, countries have been adapting to mobility as a permanent condition of global life, and countries holding this belief are thriving with their citizens enjoying ever-increasing passport power and the array of benefits that come with it.[4]

Countries generally relax their visa regime to promote fresh economic opportunities linked to the travel and tourism industry, including hospitality and conference sectors. The relaxation of a visa regime helps to grow the tourism sector, bringing greater economic advantages and more jobs for people nationwide.

An example of a country that has successfully implemented a visa-openness regime is Ethiopia whereby the country’s travel and tourism economy witnessed the largest growth of any country worldwide according to the WorldTravel and Tourism Council. The country’s dynamic economic growth has been mirrored in a rise in its rank in the World Bank’s Doing Business Index.[5] While discussions of passport power and mobility tend to focus on benefits for the countries with the strongest passports, increased visa-openness benefits the entire global community.

© 2020 Whitestone Chambers




[1] https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/passports-best-japan-singapore-most-powerful-visa-free-travel-a8986621.html

[2] https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/henley-index-world-best-passport-2019-intl/index.html

[3] https://www.henleypassportindex.com/assets/2019/Q3/HPI%20Report%20190701.pdf

[4] https://www.travelandleisure.com/travel-news/japan-most-powerful-passport-in-the-world

[5] https://www.visaopenness.org/our-findings/countries-moving-up/