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World’s Most Powerful Passports as Impacted by COVID-19

By Akshaya Devi - July 14, 2020

If there’s anything COVID-19 has made clear, it’s the world’s bygone privilege of freedom of movement. In its absence, it’s more present than ever. How would you term visa-free access to 190+ countries with a piece of paper? That’s how powerful a passport is. Or how burdensome. You guessed it right, COVID-19 travel bans have made once most powerful passports including the US passport step down in power. Although temporary, it’s intriguing to see which passports will remain powerful and which will be the first to bail out in the event of pressure.

In January, the Henley Passport Index published the survey results of the world’s most powerful passports 2020 in terms of how wide a spectrum of free movement they offer. In other words, the number of countries the passport-owner gets to travel without a prior visa.

The report ranked the world’s most powerful passports to hold in 2020 as follows — Japan ranked first (visa-free access to 191 countries), Singapore second, South Korea and Germany third, while Italy, Finland, Spain and Luxembourg placed fourth. You can see the details of the top 10 passports here:

  1. Japan – 191 countries
  2. Singapore – 190 countries
  3. Germany, South Korea – 189 countries
  4. Italy, Spain, Finland, Luxembourg – 188 countries
  5. Austria, Denmark – 187 countries
  6. France, Sweden, Portugal, Ireland, Netherlands – 186 countries
  7. US, Switzerland, UK, Belgium, Norway – 185 countries
  8. New Zealand, Greece, Malta, Czech Republic – 184 countries
  9. Canada, Australia – 183 countries
  10. Hungary – 181 countries

Two months into 2020 and countries called travel bans and border shutdown to flatten the curve of COVID-19 spread, thus throwing spanner in the works of the near-perfect passport strategy.

Interestingly, passports of countries like Japan and Singapore remain unaffected and powerful as ever before while big players including the United States and Brazil took a hit — more so than ever when the European Union excluded the US in the list of countries who can visit Europe in the foreseeable future.

The prestigious US passport now only grants visa-free access to 158 countries, bordering Mexico (159 countries) in the list.

Followed by the United States in the EU’s exemption list are Brazil and Russia, whose passport-holders only have visa-free access to 143 countries (previously 170) and 91 countries (previously 118) respectively.

While not set in stone and will change with the changing times, this is rather a fresh perspective to analysing travel in a situation with no parallel in history.


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