Can A Strong And Rich Economy Have A Weak Passport?


While it is a common notion that richer the country, the more powerful will its passport be; this is not always true. Henley and Partners, a global residence advisory organization, has ranked the passport of countries based on four parameters. Those parameters are:

  • Freedom of travel allowed for the country in question
  • Freedom of settlement in the country in question
  • Economic strength of the country
  • Human Development Index of the country

It is no surprise that Germany has topped the list in terms of visa-free travel across the globe. The German passport has visa-free access to 176 countries in the world. If only visa-free travel is considered, European countries occupy most of the spots in the top 10. The Swedish, Polish, US and Australia passport allow visa-free travel to 175, 163, 170 and 170 countries respectively.

Most of these countries are fairly well off and have a strong economy. However, there are some strong economies that literally lock their citizens in the country. Canada and China are examples of such nations. The Chinese passport allows visa-free travel to only 60 countries in the world with the Indian passport standing on 50 countries in that regard. Some of the smallest countries in the world such as Micronesia, Seychelles and Tonga have double the amount of countries across the globe that allow them visa-free access travel.

Saudi Arabia, one of the biggest economies in the world, is granted travel without a visa to 70 nations in the world. It is behind countries like Colombia, Botswana, and Samoa which do not nearly have a big enough economy as Saudi Arabia. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has a better position on the list than its neighbors after its citizens received visa-free travel to Schengen area of Europe.

While creating the list, Henley and Partners stated that no country’s passport can be considered strong enough until its citizens are granted visa-free access in the US and Schengen area of Europe. Also, another important factor the firm considered was the economic standing of the country by taking help of the data from the United Nations. Taking all the factors into account, Germany topped the list by obtaining a 99% travel freedom score.

Below is the list of countries with the score they received on Henley and Partners’ list of visa-free travel:

Position Name of the country Freedom travel scored
1 Germany 99.9
2 Japan 99.4
3 Sweden 99.4
4 Singapore 99.3
5 Norway 99
6 Spain 98.9
6 Italy 98.9
6 Denmark 98.9
9 Finland 98.4
9 Ireland 98.4

On the parameter of settlement freedom which is nothing but citizens of the country being able to live in and work in a foreign country without much paperwork and formalities, there were a few surprises. For instance, a developed economy such as Canada performing poorly as its citizens have settlement freedom in only 2 countries across the world. The list created by Henley and Partners for settlement freedom is as follows:

Position Name of the country Settlement freedom score
1 France 100
2 Netherlands 96
3 Iceland 93.5
4 Finland 93.5
5 Sweden 93.5
5 Denmark 93.5
5 Norway 93.5
8 Italy 91.5
9 Estonia 89.5
9 Latvia 89.5

Henley and Partners also created a list of countries that have no settlement freedom score at all. The major countries in this list are:

  • Bangladesh
  • North Korea
  • Kenya
  • Indonesia
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Ethiopia
  • Pakistan
  • Philippines
  • Vietnam
  • China

Citizenship and travel have changed a lot significantly in the years gone by. Countries across the world are now more open and welcoming to arriving citizens from other nations for varying purposes. Countries such as Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, and Seychelles have made giant progress in terms of increasing the power of their nationality. Colombia has now provided visa-free travel to 112 nations across the globe as compared to 59 in 2013.

While small countries continue to accept this trend of globalization, two major exceptions in the form of China and Canada still reject this and instead encourage their citizens to stay in the country. Well, who can say they are wrong when their economies are booming all the time.

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