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January 10, 2024

These are the six most powerful passports in 2024

Four EU member states — France, Germany, Italy, and Spain — join Japan and Singapore at the top of the annual Henley Passport Index

By Suzanne Elliott

An unprecedented six countries share the title for the world’s most powerful passports, according to the latest Henley Passport Index. Four EU member states — France, Germany, Italy, and Spain — join Japan and last year’s leader Singapore at the top of the international rankings.

The index uses data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to rank international passports according to the number of destinations to which they give access without the need for a visa. The publication gives an insight into the changing tides of international mobility.

The biggest climbers in the Henley Passport Index

Citizens from the six most connected countries are able to visit a record-breaking 194 destinations out of 227 around the globe visa-free. The UK ranks joint fourth with 191 destinations, up from 188 in 2023. A decade ago, the UK and the US were the joint holders of the world’s most powerful passport. (The US is now in seventh place with 188 destinations).

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There have been notable gains by Middle Eastern countries in recent years. The UAE was the biggest climber on the Henley Passport Index over the past decade, climbing 44 places in the ranking from 55th to 11th position, adding 106 destinations to its visa-free score since 2014.

Dubai skyline
The UAE is the biggest climber in the Henley Passport Index over the last 10 years / Image: Dubai skyline by Shutterstock

Countries with open-door policies do better economically, the report shows.

The Henley Global Mobility Report 2024 Q1, published in tandem with the world's most powerful passport index, shows a correlation between visa-free access and economic progress. 

Prof Trevor Williams, former chief economist at Lloyds Bank, said: ‘The overarching narrative that links greater economic performance with visa-free access and openness to international trade, investment, and the exchange of skills is once again powerfully highlighted, underpinned, and backed by the research shown in this year’s report.’

[See also: Money on the move: why the world’s wealthy are deserting the USA]

Nearly 60 per cent of G7 countries, which collectively account for 30 per cent of global GDP and have an average Henley Passport Power (HPP) percentage score of 82 per cent, offer some form of residence or citizenship by investment programme (RCBI). 

Nearly all 27 EU member states (with an average HPP score of 74 per cent) provide the right to reside in return for making some form of investment. Most of the 19 sovereign states in the G20 (with an average HPP score of 54 per cent) also offer residence rights in exchange for inward investment.

‘In many respects, future global economic progress depends upon lagging regions showing substantial improvement in their openness to each other, and on wealthier blocs and countries showing more openness to developing nations,’ Prof Williams added. 

Echoing Prof Williams' comments, Dr Juerg Steffen, CEO of Henley & Partners, said both visa-openness and investment migration are significant levers that governments can use to positively impact and improve their passport’s power, as well as their economic progress. 

More open borders through residence and citizenship by investment programmes can allow governments to improve public finances and support economic growth without increasing their debt,’ Dr Steffen argued. ‘Investment migration is a genuine win–win, long-term, sustainable solution for all stakeholders, whether they are investors or nation states and their citizens.'

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