Ranking the World’s Passports: Why Having the Right Passport is Important for Visa-Free Travel

The United States and Austria were fourth and fifth respectively

By Jesse Sokolow on 3 March 2016
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How many countries can you visit without needing a visa with your passport? If yours is a burgundy-colored passport book that has the words “Bundesrepublik Deutschland” on the cover, you can visit more – a total of 177 out of 218 – than holders of any other passport in the world.

For years, global payment technology company Visa, which assumed its current name in the 1970s, replacing the BankAmericard brand, to connote universal acceptance, has tried to convince people that its credit cards are accepted in “more places than American Express.” In a somewhat parallel vein, this underscores the importance of visa-free travel as the world increasingly becomes a global village.

The Henley and Partners Visa Restriction Index, sometimes referred to as a list of the world’s most “powerful” passports, is published each year in cooperation with the International Air Transport Association.

For 2016, Germany came out on top with 177, followed by Sweden in the number two spot with passport holders able to visit 176 countries visa-free, and Finland, France, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom as number three, having scored 175 counties.

The United States came in fourth, sharing the position with Belgium, Denmark, and the Netherlands, with its citizens able to visit 174 foreign lands and, rounding out the top five are Austria, Japan, and Singapore with 173 each.

Countries where doors will open to its citizens that ranked in the double digits include South Africa (97), Kuwait (82), Thailand (71), Philippines (61), Cuba (59), and India (52).

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