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Asia Consolidates Its Passport Power

In a resounding demonstration of Asia’s growing power and influence on the world stage, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea now hold joint top spot on the Henley Passport Index , with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 189. These latest results consolidate 12 months of Asian dominance, after Japan first climbed to the top spot in February last year.

Following a visa-exemption from Uzbekistan, Germany currently sits alone in 2nd place, with a score of 188. Five countries now share 3rd place on the index – which is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) – with a score of 187: Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, and Sweden. The UK and the US look increasingly unlikely to regain the top spot they jointly held in 2015, with the UK now siting in 5th place with a visa-free/visa on arrival score of 185, and the US in 6th , with a score of 184. Afghanistan and Iraq remain at the bottom of the ranking with a score of just 30, a position they have occupied throughout the index’s 14-year history.

The UAE continues its upward trajectory and is now just one spot away from entry into the index’s top 20. After the recent formalization of a mutual visa-waiver agreement signed with Russia, UAE passport holders are now able to access 165 destinations without a prior visa. China’s ascent is less dramatic, but it is a change experts believe to be far more significant from a geopolitical point of view: the country now sits in 68th spot, having moved up 11 places since 2008.

Dr. Parag Khanna , Founder and Managing Partner of FutureMap says, “With all Asian countries topping the index, there is a clear momentum behind the region taking center stage in globalization. The steady rise of China through its visa-waiver agreements shows how incremental and reciprocal measures can lead to significant progress in trust and recognition.”

The overall passport strength of countries with citizenship-by-investment (CBI) programs is another of the index’s success stories. Malta currently sits in 8th spot, ahead of Australia, Iceland, and New Zealand, and Montenegro , which is due to launch its CBI program soon, has climbed 19 places since 2009 to 43rd place with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 143. Moldova has jumped 21 places over the past decade and is now in 45th place on the index with holders able to travel to 121 global destinations visa-free.

Dr. Juerg Steffen , the CEO of Henley & Partners , says: “Investment migration programs help strengthen and diversify the economies of sovereign states, enabling governments to drive capital into domestic development projects, create new employment opportunities, encourage further investment, and improve the lives of ordinary citizens. For investors, the travel mobility afforded by a second passport is unmatched, and the opportunities it provides are unparalleled.”

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