New research from Henley and Partners explores how the countries with the strongest passports benefit from the greatest economic opportunities. Rose Dykins reports

According to the 2023 Henley Passport Index, the Japanese passport remains the world’s most powerful (in terms of traveller freedom) for the fifth year running.

In addition, new research by citizenship advisory firm Henley and Partners reveals that just 6 per cent of passports worldwide give their holders visa-free access to more than 70 per cent of the global economy, highlighting the link between global mobility and financial freedom.

Using data from IATA, the Henley Passport Index ranks countries’ passports based on the number of destinations they can access visa-free.

In 2023, Japan continues to top the ranking. Japanese citizens are now able to visit 193 destinations out of 227 around with world visa-free, while South Koreans and Singaporeans, whose countries are tied in second place on the index, enjoy a visa-free-on-arrival score of 192.

Germany and Spain are joint third, with visa-free access to 190 destination worldwide. The UK and the US remain in sixth and seventh places, with scores of 187 and 186, respectively. These destinations jointly held the top spot on the index nearly a decade ago in 2014, and it is unlikely either country will ever regain that ranking.

However, the index also highlights how certain nations are effectively cut off from the same travel opportunities, and the potential it brings for economic growth.

Afghanistan remains at the bottom of the index with a score of 27, meaning citizens can visit 166 fewer visa-free destinations than Japan. The represents the widest global mobility gap in the index’s 18-year history. Meanwhile, Iraq and Syria have visa-free scores of 29 and 30, respectively.

The Henley Global Mobility Report Q1 2023 explores the link between passport strength and access to the global economy.

By combining Henley Passport Index data with World Bank GDP data, the study ranks all 199 of the world’s passport in terms of their Henley Passport Power (HPP) score, a term that indicates the percentage of global GDP each passport provides to its holders visa-free.

The Japanese passport, for example, gives visa-free access to 193 destinations, accounting for 85 per cent of the world. What’s more, collectively, these countries account for 98 per cent of the global economy.

By contrast, Nigerian passport holders can access just 46 destinations visa-free, which is 20 per cent of the world, and these countries account for just 1.5 per cent of global GDP. Afghanistan’s passport provides visa-free access to just 12 per cent of the world, and less than 1 per cent of its economic output.

The US and China have the majority of global GDP, accounting for 25 per cent and 19 per cent, respectively.

However, American passport holders can access a further 43 per cent of the world’s economic output visa-free, bringing their total to 68 per cent, whereas Chinese passport holders can only access an additional seven per cent visa-free – this means they can access  just 26 per cent of global GDP.

Two countries with similar national GDPs (around 1.9 per cent) are South Korea and Russia. However, South Korea’s visa-free score is 192, giving its passport holders access to 81 per cent of global GDP, while Russia has a score of 118, so citizens can access just 19 per cent of the world’s economy.

Despite having the world’s fifth-largest economy, India’s passport holders can access just 59 destinations worldwide (6.7 per cent of global GDP, of which the country’s own GDP accounts for approximately half).

South African passport holders have access to nearly double the number of destinations Indian passport holders do – 106 compared to 59 – but those destinations account for just 15 per cent of global GDP.

Commenting on the research from Henley and Partners, financial global investment expert, Jeff D Opdyke, says: “A stronger passport isn’t just about greater freedom of movement: it’s about greater financial freedoms in terms of investing and entrepreneurial opportunities.”