When German citizens say auf Wiedersehen to Germany, they can use their passports for visa-free travel to 177 other countries and territories, making it the most powerful passport in the world. Henley & Partners, a London-based residence and citizenship planning firm, has published its annual Visa Restrictions Index and, for the third straight year, Germany is on top, with visa-free access to 177 out of a possible 218 countries.
After Germany’s burgundy-colored passports, Sweden’s identically hued book is in second place, with visa-free travel to 176 countries. Finland, France, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom are tied for third with 175 countries on their visa-free itineraries. The United States is in fourth place — along with Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands — with access to 174 countries.
Henley & Partners said that the only changes to its inaccurately named Top 10 (which actually includes 28 different countries) was the appearance of Hungary (tied for 10th) and the loss of Malaysia, which slipped to 12th place.
“No country dropped more than three positions, indicating that overall, visa-free access is improving around the world,” Henley & Partners said in a statement.
Several countries, however, did surge to a much-improved ranking this year, including including Palau, which jumped 20 spots; Colombia, which climbed 25; and tiny Timor Leste, which moved from 89th in 2015 to 57th this year.
On the more dismal side of the spectrum, the bottom four countries were unchanged from last year: Somalia, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan are, according to the Index, “the worst passports in the world.” Afghanistan has been ranked as the worst passport every year since 2010; an Afghani passport only allows visa-free travel to 25 countries.
This is the 11th year that Henley & Partners has published its Visa Restrictions Index, which it produces in partnership with the International Air Transport Association (IATA). “Visa requirements are an expression of the relationships between individual nations, and generally reflect the relations and status of a country within the international community of nations,” Henley & Partners explains.