Residence and citizenship and planning company Henley and Partners has published the results of its annual Visa Restrictions Index, a survey of freedom of travel between countries since January 1, 2016.

Last year citizens in the UK, as well as Germany – in joint first place, had the fewest barriers to travel, although this year it slipped to joint third place. The latter has held on to the top position for the third year in a row, however, with German passport holders able to enter 177 countries without having to apply for a visa.

Henley and Partners says: “In today’s globalised world, visa restrictions play an important role in controlling the movement of foreign nationals across borders. Almost all countries now require visas from certain non-nationals who wish to enter their territory.

“Visa requirements are also an expression of the relationships between individual nations, and generally reflect the relations and status of a country within the international community of nations.”

Out of a ranking of 199 of 218 possible countries, supported by data from the International Air Transport Association, the study showed that EU countries tended to have the most powerful passports, with Sweden in second place, followed by Finland, France, Italy, Spain and the UK in joint third.

Henley and Partners: “Generally, there was significant movement across the board with only 21 of the 199 countries listed remaining in the same rank. No country however, dropped more than three positions, indicating that overall, visa-free access is improving around the world.

“Four countries in particular made huge gains; Tonga rising 16 spots, Palau by 20, Colombia by 25 and Timor Leste, a South East Asian nation, being the highest climber with an increase of 33 ranks.”

Unfortunately, people with passports from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia and Syria had the least freedom to travel, with just 25 to 32 allowing them access without a visa. This is extremely restrictive as not only are visas complicated to get because of all the paperwork, but expensive, costing hundreds of pounds in some cases.

Henley and Partners says: “There continues to be a huge disparity in the levels of travel freedom between countries, despite the world becoming more mobile and interdependent. Generally, visa requirements reflect strongly on each country’s relationships with others, and will take into account diplomatic relationships between the countries, reciprocal visa arrangements, security risks, and the risks of visa and immigration rules violation.”

Here are the destinations with the most powerful passports, and the number of countries their citizens can enter visa-free…

1. Germany, 177

2. Sweden, 176

3. Finland, France, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, 175

4. Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, United States, 174

5. Austria, Japan, Singapore, 173

6. Canada, Ireland (Republic of), Korea (Republic of, South), Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, Switzerland, 172

7. Greece, New Zealand, 171

8. Australia, 169

9. Malta, 168

10. Hungary, Czech Republic, Iceland, 167

Here are the destinations with the least powerful passports, and the number of countries their citizens can enter visa-free…

1. Afghanistan, 25

2. Pakistan, 29

3. Iraq, 30

4. Somalia, 31

5. Syria, 32

6. Libya, 36

7. Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Nepal, Palestinian Territory, Sudan, 37

8. Kosovo, South Sudan, Yemen, 38

9. Bangladesh, Congo (Democratic Republic of), Lebanon, Sri Lanka, 39

10. Burundi, Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of, North), Myanmar, 42

To find out why a rise in lost passports is costing Brits £3.5 million, click here.

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