The Henley Passport Index has released the list of the most powerful passports in the world for 2023. This list, according to Business Today, is based on the data provided by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and presented by the London-based global citizenship and residence advisory firm, Henley & Partners.
“The index includes 199 passports and 227 travel destinations, giving users the most extensive and reliable information about their global access and mobility,” the statement accompanying the index read.
Note that this index is updated quarterly and it is considered the standard reference tool for global citizens and sovereign states when assessing where a passport ranks globally.
Top 10 most powerful passports in the world
So, below are the top 10 most powerful passports in the world, according to the renowned index.
Japan has been ranked to hold the most powerful passport in the world. Holders of the Japanese passport, also known as Nihonkoku ryoken, can travel to 193 countries and territories visa-free. Japanese passports have the Chrysanthemum Imperial Seal of Japan inscribed in the centre of the front cover, with the Japanese characters reading Nipponkoku Ryoken (日本国旅券) inscribed above in seal script. Its English translation JAPAN PASSPORT is in Latin letters below the Seal.
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Ordinary passports feature dark blue covers and are valid for five years. The crimson-coloured passports are valid for ten years. There are also official passports that feature dark green covers, and diplomatic passports that feature dark brown covers. Meanwhile, all Japanese passports issued after 20 March 2006 are biometric passports.
2. Singapore and South Korea
Singapore and South Korea are both adjudged to have the second most powerful passports, with 192 countries and territories visa-free for holders. The Singaporean passports are orange in colour, with “REPUBLIC OF SINGAPORE” inscribed at the top of the front cover, and the coat of arms of Singapore emblazoned in the centre of the front cover. The Singaporean anthem title, Majulah Singapura, is inscribed on the scroll of the coat of arms, while “PASSPORT” is inscribed below. Then, the biometric passport symbol appears at the bottom of the front cover. All issued Singaporean passports contain biometric features also known as BioPass since 2006.
The Republic of Korea passport, popularly known as the South Korean passport, is issued to South Korean citizens to facilitate their travels abroad. The ordinary passports are dark blue, with the national emblem of the Republic of Korea emblazoned in gold on the top right of the front cover. It has a one, five, or ten year-validity period, depending on the age of the bearer. Diplomatic passports are issued to diplomats and nationals who serve under diplomatic terms to guarantee them special treatments where they travel. Then there are the official passports issued to members of the national parliament and civil servants. Meanwhile, biometric passports have been issued to citizens since 2008.
3. Germany and Spain
Germany and Spain are the first two countries ranked to have the most powerful passports in Europe. However, they come third globally, with 190 countries and territories visa-free for passport holders.
The German passport follows the standard European Union passport design, with a burgundy red cover and the German Eagle emblazoned in the centre of the front cover. Europäische Union (German for European Union) and Bundesrepublik Deutschland (German for the Federal Republic of Germany) are words inscribed above the coat of arms. “Reisepass” (the German word for travel passport) and “Passport” and “Passeport” (English and French respectively, printed in a smaller font) appear below. A typical German passport is 32 pages long but a 48-page passport can be granted on request. Meanwhile, German passports are valid for 10 years for people over the age of 24 or six years for people under the age of 24.
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The Spanish passport has four types – ordinary passport (Pasaporte ordinario) issued for ordinary travel, such as vacations and business trips; collective passport (Pasaporte colectivo) issued for the occasion of pilgrimages, excursions and other acts of analogous nature in a single limited trip; diplomatic passport (Pasaporte diplomático) issued to Spanish diplomats, top ranking government officials and diplomatic couriers; official and service passport (Pasaportes oficiales y de servicio) issued to individuals representing the Spanish government on official business.
4. Finland, Italy and Luxembourg
Finland, Italy and Luxembourg have been ranked fourth, with the holders able to visit 189 countries and territories visa-free.
The Finnish passport has a five-year validity period. It shares the standardised layout and burgundy-red cover with other EU countries. Biometric passports have been issued since 2006.
The Italian passport is valid for ten, five or three years, depending on the applicant’s age. The biometric passport has been available since 2006. Like other European passports, the Italian passport is burgundy-coloured, with the emblem of Italy emblazoned in the centre of the front cover.
The Luxembourg passport is valid for five years for bearers aged four and over, and valid for two years for children under four.
5. Austria, Denmark, Netherlands and Sweden
Austria, Denmark, Netherlands and Sweden are ranked fifth, with its bearers able to visit 188 countries and territories visa-free. The Austrian passport has a two-year validity period after issuance for children up to the age of one; five years for children aged 2–11 and ten years for citizens aged 12 and older.
The Danish passport has a two-year and four months validity for children up to the age of one, five years and four months for citizens aged 2–17, and 10 years and four months for individuals above the age of 18. Biometric passports have been available since 2006.
The Dutch (Netherlands) passport is biometric with an embedded contactless smartcard RFID chip for storing biometric data. The biometric passport has been issued since 2006. It contains 34 pages, 28 of which may be used for visas. Validity is 10 years for adults and five years for minors.
The Swedish passport is issued by the Swedish police to citizens. Applications are made at police stations equipped with a passport terminal for taking photographs and fingerprints. Biometric passports have been available since 2005 and they are valid for five years.
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6. France, Ireland, Portugal, United Kingdom
France, Ireland, Portugal and the United Kingdom are ranked sixth, with 187 countries visa-free for passport holders.
The French passport is valid for 10 years for applicants aged 18 or over and five years for applicants under the age of 18. There are three types. The optical passport is the oldest and does not have a sign under the word “Passeport” on the front page. The Electronic passport contains an embedded chip with the chip logo under “Passeport”, while the biometric passport has the same design as the electronic passports but the word “Passeport” is underlined.
The Irish passport has been biometric since 2006. It is valid for ten years for adults and five years for children. Holders of the Irish passport are eligible to travel to any European Union country and UK visa-free.
On the other hand, the Portuguese passport is an electronic document known as Passaporte Electrónico Português (PEP) in Portuguese. It also contains enhanced security features like a contactless microchip. The Portuguese passport is valid for five years after issuance for individuals aged five and above; and two years for citizens four and under.
The United Kingdom passport, popularly known as the British passport or UK passport in Nigeria, has a biometric version issued since 2006. Unlike other European passports, the colour is navy blue following Brexit (Britain’s exit from the EU) in 2019. The passport is valid for ten years for adults and five years for children.
7. Belgium, Czech Republic, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland and the United States
Belgium, the Czech Republic, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland and the United States are ranked seventh, with 186 countries and territories visa-free for passport holders. The Belgian passport has the typical Burgundy colour of the European Union. It is available in 35 and 60-page formats and has a validity period of seven years.
The Czech biometric passport has been available for issuance since 2006. The passport is valid for five years for children up to 14 years and ten years for individuals from 15 and above.
The New Zealand passport, also known as Uruwhenua Aotearoa in Maori, has been biometric since 2005. Validity is up to 10 years. The Norwegian passport has seven types – ordinary, emergency, diplomatic, service, special, immigrant, and refuge travel documents. The passport is valid for 10 years for adults.
Meanwhile, the Swiss passport has been biometric since 2010 and it is valid for ten years for adults and five years for minors 17 and below.
The United States passport typically has 32 pages in a biometric version which has been issued since 2005. Validity is 10 years for individuals from 16 years and above and five years for minors under 16.
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8. Australia, Canada, Greece, Malta
Australia, Canada, Greece and Malta passports are ranked eighth, with 185 countries and territories visa-free for passport holders.
The Australian passport has been biometric since 2006. Its validity is ten years for individuals 16 years and above, five years for adults 75+ years and children.
The Canadian biometric passport has been available since 2008. It is normally valid for five or ten years for persons 16 years of age and older, and five years for children under 16.
The Greek passport has been biometric since 2006. The RFID chip includes two index fingerprints, as well as a high-resolution JPEG image of the passport holder. It is valid for 10 years for adults and three years for children up to 14 years old.
The Maltese passport is valid for 10 years.
9. Poland and Hungary
Poland and Hungary come ninth in ranking with 184 countries and territories being visa-free for travellers.
The Polish passport has a biometric variety which has been available since the mid-2006. It is also valid for 10 years for adults and five years for minors. You can also get a temporary passport but it is only valid for a year.
Meanwhile, in Hungary, the ordinary biometric passport is valid for two, five, or ten years, respectively.
10. Lithuania and Slovakia
Completing the top 10 most powerful passports in the world are Lithuania and Slovakia, with their passport allowing them 183 visa-free countries and territories. The Lithuanian passport contains 32 pages and a polycarbonate personal data page; personal data, a photograph, and a signature are laser engraved. The passport is valid for up to 10 years for adults and five years for children (aged between 5–16). Younger children can have passports that are valid for two years but can be extended up to five years. Lithuanian passports have been biometric since 2006 and they follow the standard EU format.
Finally, the Slovak passport is issued by the police force. Citizens are entitled to two passports but the second one is valid for only five years. Biometric passports have been issued since 2008 which are directly issued to passport owners due to the data acquirement.
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