Rome: The privilege of holding on a U.S. passport falls short when compared to travelers from Italy, Japan, Singapore, France, Germany and Spain—which collectively ranked as the most powerful passports in the world, according to a report this week from global migration firm Henley & Partners.
The world’s wealthy have flooded residency-for-investment programs in recent years, buying homes or investing in economies from Singapore to Dubai with an eye to having a Plan B—whether to avoid geopolitical turmoil or onerous taxes.
Based on data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Henley & Partners’ 2024 Henley Passport Index found citizens from Japan, Singapore, France, Germany, Italy and Spain are able to visit 194 destinations out of 227 without a required visa. The four EU countries join the two Asian nations in a six-way tie for the top spot, which Japan and Singapore have held for the past five years.
South Korea also rose in the rankings, tying with Finland and Sweden for second place (193 destinations), and Austria, Denmark, Ireland and the Netherlands share third place (192 destinations). The remainder of the Top 10 is largely composed of European countries.
The U.S. was tied with Canada and Hungary for seventh place. Passport holders from those countries can travel to 188 visa-free locales. It has been a decade since the U.S. and U.K. jointly held first place on the index in 2014.
The United Arab Emirates is the biggest climber on the index over the past decade, jumping 44 places from No. 55 to No. 11, with 183 destinations.
This listing could be a useful tool for high-net-worth individuals considering alternate residency or citizenship. According to another recent report by Henley & Partners, approximately 120,000 of the world’s millionaires moved to a new country in 2023, which was up from 84,000 in 2022.
Australia, the top migration destination identified in that study, has access to 189 visa-free destinations. The other top five countries on that list were the U.A.E., Singapore, the US and Switzerland (190 destinations).
Although the trend has been geared toward greater travel freedom since the creation of the ranking 19 years ago, the global mobility gap between top- and bottom-ranking countries is at an all-time high.
“The average number of destinations travelers are able to access visa-free has nearly doubled from 58 in 2006 to 111 in 2024,” said Christian H. Kaelin, chairman of Henley & Partners and the inventor of the passport index concept, in the report. “However, as we enter the new year, the top-ranked countries are now able to travel to a staggering 166 more destinations visa-free than Afghanistan, which sits at the bottom of the ranking with access to just 28 countries without a visa.”