Japan has overtaken Singapore to take the top spot in the area of passport rankings, according to data from the 2018 Henley Passport Index that was released on Wednesday (23 May).
Japanese citizens currently have visa-free access or visa-on-arrival provisions to 189 destinations – including Benin as of March – while Singapore now shares the No. 2 spot with Germany in offering its passport holders access to 188 destinations.
“(Although) Singapore moved down slightly in ranking due to its loss of visa-free access to Kosovo, with the addition of new destinations to our database, such as Greenland, Faroe Islands, Monaco, Andorra, Liechtenstein, Palestinian Territories, Vatican City, and Monaco, we’ve seen Singapore’s score move up from 180 to 188 since Q1,” said Dominic Volek, managing partner of Henley & Partners Singapore.
The US and the UK are tied in fourth place alongside Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Portugal. Meanwhile, South Korea, Finland, France, Italy, Spain and Sweden share the sixth spot on the index.
Malaysia – ranked second in the South-east Asia region – took the ninth spot in offering its passport holders visa-free access to 180 countries.
“While Schengen Area countries have traditionally topped the index as a result of their open access to Europe, developed Asian nations have been able to secure equally high scores in recent years thanks to their strong international trade and diplomatic relations,” said Henley & Partners in its press release.
The firm noted that close to 40 visa-waiver agreements had been signed by various governments since the start of the year.
One example would be Russia, which is usually off-limits to nationals of most countries. The country announced in April that visas would be waived for all travellers holding tickets to the upcoming FIFA World Cup, which begins in June.
The UAE, in 23rd place, remains the fastest overall climber on the index, having ascended 38 places since 2008.
With access for its citizens being granted to the UAE, Oman and Bosnia and Herzegovina this year, China climbed from 74th to 68th position since Q1, said the firm.
The index, based on data from the International Air Transport Association, surveys 199 passports against 227 different travel destinations – including countries, territories, and micro-states – and ranks them according to the number of destinations their holders can access visa-free.