How Powerful Is Your American Passport?

King Henry V of England is said to have invented the first passport as a means of helping his subjects prove who they were in foreign lands. The earliest reference to these documents is found in a 1414 Act of Parliament.

Today, your passport is your entry into foreign countries as a tourist, student or worker.

Yet not all passports are created equally.

The Henley Passport Index is a ranking of the world’s passports according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a visa. The rankings are based on data provided by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which has the world’s largest and most accurate database of travel information.

Coming in at number 1 …. is NOT your American passport, but the passport of Japan. The passport of Japan allows visa free entry to 191 destinations. Coming in at number 2 is Singapore, at 190 destinations. At number 3 is South Korea and Germany at 189 destinations. In fact, the USA comes in at number 7 with 185 destinations. The full list is:

Number 1: Japan – 191 destinations

Number 2: Singapore – 190 destinations

Number 3: South Korea, Germany – 189 destinations

Number 4: Italy, Finland, Spain, Luxembourg – 188 destinations

Number 5: Demark, Austria – 187 destinations

Number 6: Sweden, France, Portugal, Netherlands, Ireland – 186 destinations

Number 7: Switzerland, United States, United Kingdom, Norway, Belgium, New Zealand – 185 destinations

Number 8: Greece, Malta, Czech Republic, Australia – 184 destinations

Number 9: Canada – 183 destinations

Number 10: Hungary – 181 destinations

Your American passport has been steadily declining in power

The Henley Index has been measuring the power of the world’s passports for 16 years, and over the past seven years, your American passport has dropped from number 1 place to now being number 7 in 2021. Where it once dominated world passports, allowing Americans like you unimpeded access to more countries around the world, visa free, than the citizens of any other country, it’s now the case that countries in the Asia Pacific region (APAC) have the most powerful passports. Japan has held the number 1 place for three consecutive years.

What are the worst passports to hold?

Don’t worry readers! Being number 7 and getting visa free access to 185 destinations is still amazing, in comparison to some other countries. Coming in at last place is the passport of Afghanistan, which gives visa free access to only 26 destinations. Other countries at the bottom of the list include Iraq (28 destinations), Syria (29), Pakistan (32), Somalia, Yemen (33), Palestinian territories (37), Libya, Nepal (38) and North Korea (39).

What about vaccine passports?

There’s been a lot of talk about passports also containing information about vaccinations you’ve had. Did you know that it’s been mandatory for many years to have certain vaccines when traveling to different countries? For example, it can be mandatory to have had the polio vaccination when entering India, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Egypt, Lithuania and Saudi Arabia.

With COVID-19 impacting international travel so heavily, it may soon become mandatory to have had the COVID-19 vaccine to both fly on some airlines and enter some countries. In November 2020, the CEO of QANTAS (Australia’s national airline) said that it would be mandatory to have had the COVID-19 vaccine to fly with QANTAS, and that this will become a necessity on most other airlines. It’s important to remember that Australia has done remarkably well controlling COVID-19, with less than 1,000 deaths in total since the start of the pandemic. The population of Australia is 25 million, which means the US population is 13 times greater (at 330 million). So to compare, it would be as if the US managed to only have 13,000 COVID-19 deaths — a pretty remarkable outcome for Australia with COVID-19.

We’ll try to update this story when new information comes to hand.