The 10 Most Powerful Passports

June 13, 2016
Melinda Caliendo

Being properly prepared for border control is a process as simple as flashing a passport or as difficult as waiting six months for a visa, depending on where your passport was issued. So who has it easiest to breeze around the world, and who has to jump through the most government hoops?

The joys of international travel can sometimes be hampered by the bureaucracy of passports, visas, customs, and vaccination requirements. Not to mention being corralled into long lines with people you just spent eight or nine hours on a plane with, only to find your first “friendly” face in your new destination is a passport-control officer with a chip on their shoulder.

Being properly prepared for border control is a process as simple as flashing a passport or as difficult as waiting six months for a visa, depending on where your passport was issued. So who has it easiest to breeze around the world, and who has to jump through the most government hoops?

We pulled information from a few different places to put together a list of the most powerful and least powerful passports issued. The main driver of whether or not a passport is powerful or not is how many countries its holder can enter without a visa or with a visa-upon-arrival. The power ranking is based upon an average of 5 different groups’ power rankings released in the past year or so.

Along with our power ranking (which is based on a variety of data), we’ve included the Henley & Partners’ number of visa-free countries and territories that are accessible. Henley & Partners’ has a thorough explanation of how its numbers were calculated. To see if you need a visa for your next adventure, you can use this tool provided by the International Air Transport Association and Star Alliance Airlines or this page created by the U.S. Department of State.

Continue reading for the 10 most powerful passports:

10. Belgium and Spain (Tie) — 172 countries

These 2 countries have a long history together, as the country we now know as Belgium formerly was ruled by the Spanish monarchy. Being Western European countries, Spain and Belgium have the benefit of being full European Union members as well as Schengen Area members, meaning travel between other Euro states is nearly limitless.

9. Canada — 173 countries

Canada’s passport can get you just about anywhere, and the stereotype of politeness will usually get you positive reactions abroad. Perhaps that’s why so many Americans pretend to be Canadian when they travel.

7. Netherlands and France (Tie) — 172 countries

Belgium’s neighbors also rank highly on the list. Perhaps it is the passports, or perhaps it is the self-assuredness, but both the Dutch and the French seem to get through passport control rather quickly … if you can get them to form a line.

6. Denmark — 173 countries

Danes have nearly as much freedom to move as any other country in the world, as do the people living in the Danish territories of Greenland and the Faroes Islands. Because Denmark is part of the EU, Danes traveling in non-EU countries where there is no Danish embassy can seek help at any other EU embassy they can get to.

5. Finland — 174 countries

The second Nordic country to grace the list, Finnish passports are extremely valuable. And not just because the pages of their passport are a flip book showing a moose walking by. Finns have visa-free access to Vietnam, as well as a visa-on-arrival agreement with India.

4. Sweden — 174 countries

Most people wouldn’t consider that passports have a resale value, but Swedish passports are among the most popular and expensive on the black market. There are no limits on renewals, making it very popular. Sweden is among the 5 countries with the most visa-free travel available, with access to 174 countries. According to GoEuro.co.uk, Swedes only have to work one hour to be able to afford their passport.

3. Germany — 174 countries

Over the past decade, the number of countries Germans can travel to without a visa or with a visa-on-arrival has increased by 5 new countries: Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Myanmar, and India. A German passport is also handy for making friends while traveling; last year, fellow Europeans voted that they’d most like to meet up with Germans while traveling.

2. United States — 174 countries

While Americans can go to just as many places as Brits or Germans, it can be more expensive for them than their European counterparts. Because tourist entry visas to the US keep increasing in price, many countries increase their entry fees for Americans. Before Chile was included in the US visa waiver program, they charged Americans a “reciprocity” fee equal to the US entry visa. Currently, citizens from all but 41 nations are required to have a visa to enter the US, and even those nations are required to get an e-visa, except for Canadians and Bahamians.

1. United Kingdom — 174 countries

Your name doesn’t have to be Kate, William, or George to appreciate the value of a UK passport. The Brits have access to the most nations without a visa, along with the US, Germany, Sweden, and Finland. According to GoEuro.co.uk, when people were asked where they would prefer their second passport were issued, more than 20% said the UK. Many of those folks will be very disappointed; the British government issued fewer new passports to naturalized citizens in the past year than it has since 2002.

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