Auf Wiedersehen, Germany: Singapore, Japan now ranked most powerful passport

Visa free travel

Man waves travel documents in the air as he arrives at airport terminal. Source: Shutterstock

THE ever-changing world of powerful passports and visa-free travel has once again delivered a blow to Europe as two Asian countries now top the passport charts.

Singapore and Japan have knocked long-standing Germany off the passport perch as citizens from both these Asian nations can enjoy visa-free travel to 180 countries. This is the highest number of countries accessible without a visa since borders were enforced, nations divided, and passports became mandatory.

The news was released by Henley Passport Index on Wednesday. While European countries still dominate the top ten spots, four of the top spots are held by Asia Pacific countries, namely Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Australia.

Visa-free travel

Source: Henley and Partners passport Index

The reshuffle of the chart came after Uzbekistan lifted visa requirements for citizens of both countries earlier this month.

However, it wasn’t just the citizens of Singapore and Japan that benefited from the repeal of visa restraints. Indonesia, Turkey, and Israel, among other Asian and Middle Eastern countries also now enjoy visa-free travel to Uzbekistan.

“In general, the Asian and Middle East regions have in recent months seen high levels of visa-policy activity compared with their European and American counterparts, where the signing of new cross-border agreements on short-term travel has been far less frequent,” said Henley & Partners in a statement.

So, what’s happened to the rest of the table?

Obviously, Germany has dropped to the second spot where it stands alone with access to 179 countries visa-free.

It has also bumped the UK down one place to fourth place with visa-free access to 177 countries. Whereas China and Russia have climbed up the chart slightly.

The bottom four countries on the index with visa-free access to less than 30 destinations remain as Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

South Africa has taken another blow as Colombia and New Zealand tighten visa restrictions. The nation has fallen 18 places since 2008.

While the index indicated that South Africans have the third strongest passport in Africa, traveling to any developed countries is very restrictive.

However, rules, regulations, and restrictions in visa-free travel are constantly changing to try to entice cross-border tourism, and 2018 is still young. So, it’s all still to play for.