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Many expats and seasoned travellers are so used to brandishing their passport sanguinely while gliding into yet another country as to take it for granted.
After all, isn’t a passport just a passport?
Apparently not, according to a new study by residence and citizenship experts Henley & Parts.
The firm recently published their annual “Visa Restriction Index” which aims to examine the “strength” of different passports.
In essence, the study looks at how many countries the holder of a specific passport can enter either without a visa of any form, or by applying on entry (rather than ahead of time).
Published in association with the International Air Transport Association, the recent study is the 11th annual edition, which helps to paint a fascinating picture of visa development policies over the years.
The survey does an excellent job of demonstrating the relationships between governments around the world, and provides an indication of the ties or tensions felt between different countries.
So which passports offer access to the greatest number of countries?
In first place comes Germany. Holding a German passport grants holders access to 177 different countries at present. This is only one more than the second-place, which is currently held by Sweden.
British readers can take heart that their UK passport is the third most-valuable passport for international travel, granting visa-free entry to 175 different countries. This same position is also held by citizens of Finland, France, Italy and Spain.
Note, however, that the UK has held the top spot for the last three consecutive years (tying with Sweden in 2013 and 2014), only being beaten this year by Sweden and Germany who have successfully gained additional countries.
All these countries surprisingly out-trump a US passport which offers entry to 174 countries.
At the other end of the scale there are a number of passports that expats and die-hard travellers certainly wouldn’t want to possess. At the very bottom of the heap is an Afghan passport which currently only allows visa-free entry to 25 destinations.
Following closely behind are passports issued by Pakistan (29), Iraq (30) and Somalia (31).
Generally-speaking the study found that countries with strong diplomatic ties on a global scale, especially those with historically low crime rates and steady governments, tend to enjoy the greatest degree of freedom in terms of visa-free international travel.
On the other hand, countries with few international relations, or who have suffered from significant political upheaval tend to be of least benefit to their holders, requiring visa applications to be filed for most countries long before travel is approved.
Interestingly, comparing this year’s results with those of last year found some significant variations with just 21 of the 199 countries being tracked showing no change whatsoever. The report is keen to point out that no country dropped more than 3 positions, suggesting that on the whole visa-free travel is improving for many nationalities around the world.
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