Passports got more powerful in 2022, here’s why

Not all passports are created equal.

United Arab Emirates passport holders can travel visa-free – or ‘visa-on-arrival’ – to 180 countries. Citizens of Afghanistan can do so to just 38.

But despite this mobility gap, the passports of nearly every single country became more powerful this year, new research suggests.

According to Passport Index’s latest update, every country bar Vanuatu saw an increase in travel freedom this year.

On average, passport-holders were given access to 16 extra countries this year.

Passport Index co-founder Hrant Boghossian described the results as “cause for optimism.”

“The world has surpassed the benchmark of ‘openness’ set prior to the pandemic, and there are strong indicators that this upward trend is here to stay,” he said.

“It is particularly encouraging to see such growth at a time of heightened geopolitical tension and economic turmoil, indicating that countries agree that a world with less borders has the potential to address some of the defining challenges of the 21st century.”

The growth is partly down to the removal of COVID-19 restrictions, the index’s compilers conceded – but insisted that it is also due to a growing appreciation of freedom of movement and the popularity of working from anywhere as a digital nomad.

Which countries have the most valuable passports?

Despite the overall growth, there is still a massive ‘mobility gap’ between different passport holders.

With the right documents, a traveller can glide through security without a backward glance. But for the holders of less powerful passports, doors are closed.

Nine of the ten most powerful passports are issued by European countries, the index found.

1. United Arab Emirates

Visa free: 121

Visa on arrival: 59

2. Germany

Visa free: 127

Visa on arrival: 46

3. Sweden, Finland, Luxembourg, Spain, France, Italy

Visa free: 126

Visa on arrival: 47

4. Netherlands

Visa free: 125

Visa on arrival: 48

5. Switzerland

Visa free: 123

Visa on arrival: 50

Which passports are less powerful?

The index describes the United Kingdom as one of 2022’s ‘losers’.

Though the UK has seen its global mobility score rise, this upward trend has been slowed by the country’s post-Brexit struggle to strike visa agreements with European Union member states.

However, the UK still has visa free or visa on arrival access to 171 countries.

Afghanistan (38) Syria (39), Iraq (40), Pakistan (44), and Somalia (44) had the worst scores.

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