Japan ranks tops while Afghanistan is last
By Ricky Browne
A British passport now ranks as one of the seven best in the world, according to the 2021 Henley Passport Index.
In an ever-changing world, it is good to carry a passport with some heft. There has been some concern over the effect that Brexit would have on how British passports are viewed globally.
For 16 years, the Henley Passport Index has ranked the world’s passports according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a visa using data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
Britain’s passport got 185 points in the Henley Passport Index, which rates passports based on the level of visa-free travel that they allow. The points indicate how many destinations a British passport holder can visit without needing a visa.
Admittedly, Britain’s passport has room for improvement. But the country has done a lot better than Afghanistan, which ranks at the very bottom of the list at 110, with a total score of 26 points.
The value of the British passport has been slipping over recent years. From 2012 the British passport was ranked as the best in the world. But it slipped to third position in 2016, then to fourth in 2017, fifth in 2018, sixth in 2019 and then to seventh in 2020.
The good news is that this year the British passport has stopped slipping.
The other good news is that Britain’s score has actually been improving – from 183 points in 2019 when it ranked sixth, to 185 points now, when it ranked seventh.
British passport holders need visas for 41 countries, including places like China, India, Russia, a large group of African countries including Nigeria, and also the popular tourist destination of Cuba in the Caribbean.
To be fair, many of the countries that British passport holders need a visa for, aren’t places that many people want to visit anyway.
That includes Afghanistan and North Korea in Asia, the Central African Republic, Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea and South Sudan in Africa, Nauru in the Pacific and Yemen in the Middle East.
Top-ranking is Japan with 191 points, followed by Singapore at number two.
The highest ranked European Union country is Germany, with a score of 189. It shares third position with South Korea.
In fourth place are four other EU countries, Finland, Italy, Luxembourg and Spain, each with 188 points.
Fifth on the list are Austria and Denmark with 187 points.
Five other EU countries place ahead of Britain with 186 points – France, Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal and Sweden.
Tying with Britain in seventh place are a group of five other countries – Belgium, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland and the United States.
Just below Britain with 184 points are Australia, the Czech Republic, Greece and Malta.
Canada is in ninth place with 183 points. Hungary wraps up the top 10 positions with a score of 182.
While EU states perform well on the index, the two worst performing EU countries are Bulgaria and Croatia at 18th position with 171 points.
The highest rated passport from the Caribbean is Barbados at 23, with a score of 166. It shares that position with Israel, a country which is denied access to much of Arabia.
The second highest ranked Caribbean country is St Kitts and Nevis at 25, with a score of 156. The Bahamas is next at 26, with a score of 155.
Antigua and Barbuda has the fourth best passport in the Caribbean, ranked at 28, with a score of 151. It holds that position along with the Seychelles, the small island nation in the Indian Ocean.
Trinidad and Tobago is third at the 29th position and 150 points. It shares that position with Costa Rica.
St Vincent and the Grenadines is ranked 30th. It is followed by St Lucia at 31, a position it shares with the Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius.
Grenada ranks at 33, with a score of 144, a position it shares with Macao.
Dominica – as in the Commonwealth of Dominica, not its better known Caribbean neighbour, the Dominican Republic – is ranked at 34.
But you then have to scroll down quite a bit, past countries like Venezuela, North Macedonia, Russia, Micronesia and Albania, before hitting another Caribbean country. Belize, which is a part of CARICOM, is ranked at 54 alongside South Africa, with 101 points.
The next Caribbean country on the list is Guyana, which ranks 60th along with the Pacific nation of Fiji, and a score of 88.
Jamaica’s passport ranks as the 61st best in the world, with a score of 86. It ranks two places higher than in 2019 when it ranked 63rd with 83 points.
The next Caribbean country on the list is Suriname, also a member of CARICOM, ranked at 67 with 78 points.
The Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, is the next Caribbean country on the list, with the 77th best passport in the world with a score of 66 points. It shares that position with the Cape Verde Islands and the Philippines.
The socialist island state of Cuba ranks next with the 79th best passport in the world with a score of 64. Until recently, Cubans required exit visas to leave their country. It shares that position with Morocco.
Unsurprisingly Haiti, which is the poorest country in the Caribbean by a long shot, has the lowest ranked passport in the region at 94, with a score of 49 points. It shares that position with the African states of Cameroon and Liberia.
China with the largest population in the world, ranks as having the 70th best passport in the world, with a score of 75 points. It shares that position with the former Soviet states of Belarus and Kazakhstan.
But other regions of China, which carry their own passports for historic reasons, rank higher than China itself.
Hong Kong, which was previously a British colony that was handed back to China in 1997, ranks as having the 19th best passport in the world alongside Argentina and Brazil. Many of its citizens qualify for a British passport, which China says it no longer recognizes as of January 31.
Taiwan – a country that is recognised as independent by only a handful of countries – is ranked 32, with a score of 145. The People’s Republic of China believes Taiwan is a renegade province, while Taiwan believes that it should be recognized over China, and calls itself the Republic of China. To travel to China, Taiwanese need to acquire a special Chinese passport so do not need a visa.
Recently Taiwan decided to drop the reference to the Republic of China from the passport — at least in English. Its official name is still there in Chinese characters.
Meanwhile, tiny Macau, which was previously administered by Portugal, ranks as having the 33rd best passport in the world, with a score of 144.