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Pandemic shakes up passport hierarchy

18 Oct 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the seemingly unshakeable hierarchy of global mobility that dominated the last few decades, resulting in significant changes in the strength of the passports of many countries. 

According to the latest Henley Passport Index: Q4 2020 Report, at the beginning of the year, the US passport was ranked sixth  and Americans could travel hassle-free to 185 destinations around the world. Since then, that number has dropped dramatically by over 100, with US passport holders currently able to access fewer than 75 destinations. 

The Henley Passport Index ranks all of the world’s passports according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Oman’s ranking, however, has improved by two places since the January 2020 report – from 64th earlier to 62nd now. Omani passport holders could travel to 79 countries without a prior visa before January 2020 and can travel to 80 nations now. 

In the GCC, UAE tops the index with a global rank of 18th, having access to 170 nations, followed by Kuwait (53rd, access to 96 nations), Qatar (54th, access to 95 nations), Bahrain (61nd, access to 83 nations), Oman (62nd, access to 80 nations), and Saudi Arabia (64th, access to 78 nations). 

Coronavirus-related travel restrictions are beginning to lift in some countries after more than six months of panic and uncertainty. 

The resumption of international cross-border travel may appear to be a signal that things are slowly returning to normal, but as the latest research from the Henley Passport Index shows, the pandemic has shaken the passport hierarchy and global mobility.

At the beginning of 2020, the Singapore passport was ranked second globally, with passport holders able to access an unprecedented 190 destinations globally. However, under the current travel restrictions, Singaporeans can travel to fewer than 80 destinations around the world.

‘Unsurprisingly, those countries whose coronavirus responses have been criticised for being inadequate have taken the greatest knock when it comes to the travel freedom of their citizens,’ stated the report. Brazilian passport holders were able to access 170 destinations without acquiring a visa prior to January. Currently, approximately only 70 destinations are accessible.

‘The decline in mobility and passport power for countries such as India and Russia have been less dramatic, but nevertheless indicative of an overall shift. Russian citizens had access to 119 destinations prior to the COVID-19 outbreak but can currently travel to fewer than 50. At the beginning of the year, Indian passport holders could travel to 61 destinations without a visa but due to virus-related restrictions, they currently have access to fewer than 30.’

Without taking the various pandemic-related travel bans and restrictions into account, Japan continues to hold the No 1 spot on the Henley Passport Index, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 191. Singapore remains in second, with a score of 190. 


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