It’s not just the color of the outside or the number of pages inside, as each country negotiates with others, some passports become more powerful.
Whether citizens are able to flash their passport and breeze past customs or if it’s easy to get a visa upon arrival, every single country’s passport has its own unique set of regulations.
Passport Index, which ranks the world’s passports each year to identify which are the most powerful, released their most recent rankings in January.
Several countries tie each other in the global access they provide their passport holders, so to get into the top 25, a country must rank at least as the sixth most powerful.
Turkish passports are the most expensive in the world at £166, while UAE passports are the cheapest, costing a measly £9.
The Republic of Ireland’s passport office has issued a record-breaking 700,000 passports this year – that’s 30,000 more than in 2015.
The surge in demand is thought to be linked to the Brexit vote in June, as an Irish passport would allow the bearer to move and work freely within Europe after Britain leaves the EU. But while Ireland’s passports are hot property, which are the world’s most powerful identity documents?
According to an annual study, German citizens possess the world’s most powerful passport, with Britain and the US falling just short of the top spot.
The Republic of Ireland is in joint sixth place.
The ranking by Henley & Partners, a citizenship and planning firm, takes into account how many countries can be visited without applying for a visa.
German passport holders can travel to 177, out of a possible 218, while Britons can visit 175 and US citizens 174.
The UK topped the 2015 rankings, alongside Germany, but ceded the top spot after several countries relaxed visa restrictions to the latter.
It was also leapfrogged by Sweden and now shares third place with France, Italy, Spain and Finland.
Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands share fourth spot with the US.
The world’s least powerful passport belongs to citizens of Afghanistan, who can visit just 25 countries without a visa.
“Generally, there was significant movement across the board with only 21 of the 199 countries listed remaining in the same rank,” said Henley & Partners. “No country, however, dropped more than three positions, indicating that overall, visa-free access is improving around the world.
“Four countries in particular made huge gains; Tonga rising 16 spots, Palau by 20, Colombia by 25 and Timor-Leste being the highest climber with an increase of 33 ranks.
“Malta, the EU member country which runs the world’s most successful citizenship-by-investment program has gained visa-free access to another two countries since 2015, making it the 8th most powerful passport in the world. The leading country in the Caribbean, Antigua and Barbuda, meanwhile ranked 30th and its passport-holders may now travel to 134 countries visa-free.
“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 toglobal progress in travel freedom looks set to continue for citizens of all countries.”
The world’s most powerful passports
- Germany, 177 countries can be visited without a visa
- Sweden, 176
- Finland, France, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, 175
- Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, United States, 174
- Austria, Japan, Singapore, 173
- Canada, Ireland (Republic of), Korea (Republic of, South), Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, Switzerland, 172
- Greece, New Zealand, 171
- Australia, 169
- Malta, 168
- Hungary, Czech Republic, Iceland, 167
The world’s least powerful passports
- Afghanistan, 25 countries can be visited without a visa
- Pakistan, 29
- Iraq, 30
- Somalia, 31
- Syria, 32
- Libya, 36
- Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Nepal, Palestinian Territory, Sudan, 37
- Kosovo, South Sudan, Yemen, 38
- Bangladesh, Congo (Democratic Republic of), Lebanon, Sri Lanka, 39
- Burundi, Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of, North), Myanmar, 42