The Asia Pacific region has come out on top in the 2021 edition of the Henley Passport Index, which ranks passports according to the number of destinations its holders can access without a visa.
Japan holds the top spot, with Japanese passport holders able to enter 191 countries without a visa. Singapore comes in second with 190 countries, followed by South Korea and Germany with 189.
This year’s results do not take temporary travel restrictions caused by Covid-19 into consideration.
The ascendance of APAC countries in the Henley Passport Index rankings is a relatively new phenomenon. Over the index’s 16-year history, the top spots were traditionally held by EU countries, the UK, or the US.
Experts suggest that the APAC region’s position of strength will continue as it includes some of the first countries to begin the process of recovering from the pandemic.
With the US and the UK still facing significant challenges related to the virus, and the passport strength of both countries continuing to steadily erode, the balance of power is shifting. Over the past seven years, the US passport has fallen from the number one spot to 7th place, a position it currently shares with the UK.
Due to pandemic-related travel constraints, travellers from both the UK and the US currently face major restrictions from over 105 countries, with US passport holders able to travel to fewer than 75 destinations, while UK passport holders currently have access to fewer than 70.
Dr. Christian H. Kaelin, Chairman of residence and citizenship advisory firm Henley & Partners and the inventor of the passport index concept, says that the latest ranking provides an opportunity to reflect on the extraordinary upheaval that characterised 2020.
Kaelin commented: “Just a year ago all indications were that the rates of global mobility would continue to rise, that travel freedom would increase, and that holders of powerful passports would enjoy more access than ever before. The global lockdown negated these glowing projections, and as restrictions begin to lift, the results from the latest index are a reminder of what passport power really means in a world upended by the pandemic.”