10 of the most powerful passports in the world

One of the hallmarks of any traveler is a well-worn passport, but not every country’s passport is the same. Depending on the country of origin, a national passport could carry significant weight and influence at customs — or sometimes not so much. The strength of the world’s passports is measured by the International Air Transport Association in its annual Henley Passport Index, which measures “visa-free access to 227 destinations across the world,” CNBC reported. 

The index uses a mathematical score that “indicates the percentage of global GDP each passport provides to its holders’ visa-free,” Henley & Partners, the company in charge of the index, said in a press release. “If no visa is required [for a destination], then a score of one is allocated for that passport,” said Henley. “Where a visa is required, or where a passport holder must apply for a government-approved electronic visa before departure, a score of 0 is assigned.”

Henley also factors in “mobility data” based on national GDPs and the percentage of global wealth each passport could provide access to. 

These are 10 of the world’s most powerful passports in 2023, according to Henley’s July update.



Singapore has claimed the top spot on the Henley Index as the world’s most powerful passport, with a Singaporean passport also allowing visa-free travel to 192 of 227 destinations. Many citizens of Singapore take advantage of these optics, with more than 2.8 million Singaporean passports in circulation, according to market research company Thales Group. However, Thales also noted that the passport’s ease of access also makes it a prime target for counterfeiters, though international groups have implemented biometric features to hinder this. 



Many European passports provide large-scale travel access, and Germany is no exception. The country is tied as the second-most powerful passport in the world, shooting up the rankings by allowing visa-free access to 190 of 227 destinations, according to the Henley Index. German nationals are also automatically citizens of the European Union, and those who want to stick around Europe have even more movement rights granted to them by Article 21 of the EU Treaty. This clause states that EU citizens “shall have the right to move and reside freely within the territory of the member states,” allowing Germans to work and live in any EU nation they choose. Most of the other European countries on this list fall under similar provisions. 

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Like its German counterpart, a Spanish passport has also gotten significantly more powerful, allowing visa-free access to 190 of 227 destinations, according to the Henley Index. An EU member state, Spain also allows its citizens to move freely under Article 21 provisions, and they are able to work and live throughout Europe. Like most European documents, a Spanish passport remains highly desirable, and up to 75 million Americans may be eligible for Spanish citizenship due to their ancestral heritage, management brand Global Capitalist reported. This privilege “also extends to Filipinos, Portuguese and Sephardic Jews,” the report added. 

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Japan saw a significant fall from grace in Henley’s July update, after having topped the list of the world’s most powerful passports at the beginning of the year. Still, a Japanese passport is nonetheless very strong and provides visa-free access to 189 of 227 destinations. Nearly 85% of the entire world accepts Japan’s passports without a visa, meaning most countries are easily accessible to the Japanese. However, in an interesting twist, most Japanese people don’t do that much traveling. In 2019, only 23% of Japanese citizens held passports, Nikkei Asia reported.

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South Korea

South Korea also saw a few countries fall off its visa-free list, bumping it down the rankings alongside Japan. That said, its passport still allows visa-free access to 189 of 227 destinations, Henley reported. South Korea’s is also one of the very few passports that allow visa-free travel to all of the G8 countries. One place you can’t enter with a South Korean passport, though, is North Korea. Like almost all other nations, South Korea does not allow travel to its northern neighbor. The majority of people trying to enter North Korea go in through China, the South China Morning Post reported.



Nordic countries enjoy a level of stability that affords them powerful passports. Finland is no exception, with the Henley Index reporting the country’s passport provides visa-free access to 189 of 227 destinations. This makes it the most powerful Nordic passport by the Index’s estimation, though the rest of the region is not far behind. And Finland is an EU member, allowing its citizens to similarly travel through the majority of the continent. It’s likely that Finnish passports will remain highly ranked, given the country’s recent admission into NATO has only heightened its position on the world stage. 

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Ireland is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations; the country’s travel bureau reported an estimated 11.3 million overseas visitors in 2019. However, as much as visitors travel to the Emerald Isle, many Irish people go abroad, and the country’s passport reflects this. An Irish passport provides visa-free travel to 188 of 227 destinations, the Henley Index reported. The number of Irish people applying for the documents is also rising. In 2022, the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs recorded just over a million yearly passport requests, “which sets a new annual record for the Irish Passport Service.”


United Kingdom

A passport from His Majesty’s government is another powerful document. A British passport, as with an Irish one, allows visa-free access to 188 of 227 destinations, the Henley Index reported. Part of this is due to the U.K.’s colonial history. Immigration management consultant Sable International noted that the legacy of the British Empire “has resulted in a myriad of immigration and nationality laws over hundreds of territories across the world,” allowing many people to claim British ancestry. One thing U.K. citizens don’t have anymore, though, are automatic EU privileges following Brexit. 

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The land down under provides its citizens an easy way to travel, with an Australian passport providing visa-free access to 186 of 227 destinations, according to the Henley Index. As powerful as Australia’s passports are, though, getting your hands on one is no easy task. Since the country reopened following the Covid-19 pandemic, the Australian Border Force “has seen unprecedented demand for the documents,” 9News Australia reported, “causing wait times to blow out.” In August 2022, there were reports of Australians having to wait up to four months for passports. 

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United States

An American passport provides visa-free access to 184 of 227 destinations, which is actually a decrease of three countries from the beginning of the year. Despite this surprisingly low ranking, the U.S. “is still an incredibly strong passport,” Dominic Volek, Henley’s group head of private clients, told USA Today in 2022. He added that this makes it easy for most Americans to travel for either business or pleasure, even to nations where Americans may not be well-liked. In comparison, Volek told the outlet that his own South African passport often requires visas that can cost hundreds of dollars. 

Updated July 20, 2023: This article has been updated to reflect the Henley Index’s 2023 third-quarter results.

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