Which countries have the most powerful passports in the world in 2023?

Image of passport and maps.

Image of passports and travel documents. Credit: Maxx-Studio/Shutterstock.com

The results of the Henley Passport Index for 2023 have been revealed, showing which countries have the strongest passports.

As revealed on Wednesday, January 11, in the latest results from the Henley Passport Index, for the fifth consecutive year, Japan tops the list. This makes the Japanese passport the most powerful passport in the world again for 2023.

The prestigious index is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and ranks the world’s 199 passports according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a visa.

This year’s results provide a fascinating glimpse into a world characterised by extraordinary turmoil and probably offer an eye-opening look at what lies ahead.

Japanese citizens can visit 193 destinations out of a total of 227 visa-free countries. Ranking joint second, South Korea and Singapore enjoy 192 visa-free/visa-on-arrival destinations.

Germany and Spain jointly rank third, with visa-free access to 190 destinations worldwide. The United Kingdom and the United States remain in 6th and 7th place, with 187 and 186 respectively. They both seem increasingly unlikely of being able to recapture the first place they jointly held almost a decade ago.

Afghanistan remains firmly at the bottom of the Henley Passport Index, with a score of just 27 – 166 fewer visa-free destinations than Japan. This is the largest difference in global mobility in the 18-year history of the index.

Dr Christian H. Kaelin, the chairman of Henley & Partners said that the company’s latest study on the relationship between visa-free travel and global economic access revealed what the power of the passport meant in concrete financial terms.

“For citizens around the world, a better measure of the economic mobility and tax opportunities offered by their passports is to analyze the percentage of global GDP that they can access without a visa”.

On a macroeconomic level, the new study by Henley & Partners reveals that only six per cent of the world’s passports give their holders visa-free access to more than 70 per cent of the world economy. Only 17 per cent of countries give their holders visa-free access to more than four-fifths of the world’s 227 destinations.

The Japanese passport gives visa-free access to 85 per cent of the world and collectively these countries account for a whopping 98 per cent of the world economy. Japan’s contribution to GDP is around 5 per cent.

By contrast, the Nigerian passport, at the bottom end of the index, only gives visa-free access to 46 destinations, approximately 20 per cent of the world. That represents just 1.5 per cent of the world GDP.

At the bottom of the ranking, Afghanistan’s passport provides visa-free access to only 12 per cent of the world and less than 1 per cent of global economic output.

In terms of the percentage of world GDP, the US and China take the cake. They lead, with 25 per cent and 19 per cent respectively, but US passport holders can access another 43 per cent of the world’s economic output without a visa, bringing their total to 68 per cent.

Meanwhile, Chinese passport holders can only access a further seven per cent visa-free, bringing their total to just 26 per cent of the world GDP.

In another order of comparisons, South Korea and Russia have similar national GDPs, around 1.9 per cent of world economic output. However, South Korea has a visa-free score of 192, giving its passport holders access to 81 per cent of the world’s GDP. Russia however, has a score of just 118, giving its passport holders access to only 19 per cent of the world economy.

India fares even worse, despite being the world’s fifth-largest economy, its holders can access only 59 destinations worldwide and 6.8 per cent of the world GDP, of which the country’s own GDP accounts for roughly half.

The war in Ukraine has not yet had a significant impact on the Henley Passport Index scores for Russia and Ukraine. Both countries hold roughly the same position ‘on paper’ since the invasion almost a year ago.

Russia is currently ranked 49th, with a score of 118, while Ukraine is 13 places higher, at 36th, with a score of 144. However, due to airspace closures and sanctions, Russian citizens are prohibited from travelling throughout most of the developed world, with the notable exceptions of the UAE and Turkey.


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Written by

Chris King

Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at editorial@euroweeklynews.com