Photo: Karen V Bryan
In an increasingly globalised world, visa restrictions have become more important than ever for tourists, business travellers and property investors.
“How powerful is your passport?” is a question that may have seemed daft 20 years ago, but people are increasingly living and conducting business on an international scale, with a second or even third residence or citizenship becoming an increasingly attractive option. For those who hold passports of countries with fewer visa waiver agreements, a second passport can open up travel to countries previously restricted by time-consuming visa application requirements and processes.
Not all passports are created equal, however, as new rankings from Henley & Partners demonstrates.
Visa requirements reflect strongly on each country’s relationships with others, taking into account diplomatic relationships between the countries, reciprocal visa arrangements, security risks, and the risks of visa and immigration rules violations.
According to Henley & Partners, Germany remains the top passport, with visa-free access to 177 countries out of a total of 218, while Sweden is the second best, (176 countries). The UK, meanwhile, dropped from first to third place, after three consecutive years in first place. A larger group of countries sit in third place, with Finland, France, Italy, Spain also offering visa-free access to 175 countries.
Generally, there was significant movement across the board with only 21 of the 199 countries listed remaining in the same rank. No country, however, dropped more than three positions, indicating that overall, visa-free access is improving around the world.
Henley & Partners highlights four countries as showing significant improvements: Tonga, up 16 places in the rankings; Palau (20); Colombia (25) and Timor Leste (33). Somalia, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan meanwhile, continue to hold the bottom four positions on the Index.
“The growing importance of investment migration can be seen in steady growth of those countries offering residence and citizenship-by-investment programs. Those countries with relevant programs continue to perform strongly and all now feature in the top 30 of the Index,” comments the report.
Indeed, Malta, the European Union member country which runs the world’s most successful citizenship-by-investment program with over EUR 1 billion in capital raised since its launch in 2014, has gained visa-free access to another two countries since 2015, making it the 8th most powerful passport in the world.
“Portugal, which holds the most attractive residence-by-investment program through its Golden Visa Program, has taken 6th position in the 2016 Index, gaining two countries to total 172 countries its citizens may travel to visa-free,” add Henley & Partners.
“The continued development of these countries demonstrates the critical nature of good visa-free access to countries offering investor migration programs. In turn, this speaks of the importance of due diligence in such programs, since the reputation of a country’s passport and its relationship with other countries is only as good as its newest citizens.”Google+