The Henley Passport Index ranks all of the world’s passports according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa. The ranking is based on data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which maintains a worldwide  database of travel information.  The data covers 199 passports and 227 travel destinations and is updated as visa policy changes occur.

The Henley Passport Index website provides comprehensive, printable lists of the countries you can access visa-free, with an electronic visa (e-Visa), with a visa on arrival, or with a normal visa. It also allows you to compare the strength of passports and understand how you might improve your travel freedom with alternative citizenship.  More on that later.

The rankings hold some surprises.  Five years ago, the United States and the United Kingdom were at the top of the list.  Now they are not even in the top 10.  As of the beginning of 2020, the best countries for visa-free  travel are two prosperous Asian countries followed by several countries from the EU.

Japan and Singapore share first place with visa-free access to 190 destinations.  Tied for third with 188 are Finland, Germany and South Korea.  Denmark, Luxembourg, and Italy have access to 187.  France, Spain and Sweden are tied with visa-free access to 186 jurisdictions.

Joint 12th place with access to 184 countries belongs to the United States and the United Kingdom along with Belgium, Canada, Greece, Ireland, Norway and Switzerland.  The trend is expanding visa-free travel.  Many countries recognize that is important for economic and social progress.

Afghanistan and Iraq are at the bottom.  Holders of these passports have can access only 26 and 28 jurisdictions, respectively, visa free.

Here is the full list.2020-03-02 (1) Click to enlarge.

You can check visa requirements for your country and destination here.

Alternative Citizenship?

In addition to compiling the passport index, Henley & Partners advises clients on the benefits of and process for obtaining alternative citizenship or residency.  Basically, if you have enough money many countries allow people to “buy” citizenship or residency.  You can increase your visa-free travel by holding a passport from a country like Japan.

For example, the United States has a HB-5 visa.  It grants the holder US residency and later citizenship if the following requirements are met.

  • Investment of at least $1,000,000 ($500,000 if the investment is in a targeted employment area),
  • In a new commercial enterprise in the U.S.,
  • Which creates at least 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers.

Other countries offer similar programs.  The cost can be more or less expensive.  I hate applying for visas, and visa on arrival can sometimes involve long wait times, but these programs are very expensive and time consuming ways of avoiding visa requirements, if that is the sole purpose. Consult an immigration attorney if you are thinking of doing this.