Singapore has claimed the top spot on the Henley Passport Index, dethroning Japan for the first time in five years. The latest ranking based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association reveals that Singaporean citizens now enjoy visa-free access to an impressive 192 travel destinations out of 227 worldwide. This achievement marks a milestone for the Asian city-state, solidifying its position as the world’s most powerful passport. United States passport continues to slide in rankings.

Germany, Italy and Spain share the second position with visa-free access to 190 destinations. Japan, which was previously at the top, now finds itself in third place alongside Austria, Finland, France, Luxembourg, South Korea and Sweden, all boasting access to 189 destinations without a prior visa.

The United Kingdom has experienced a positive turn, climbing two places to the fourth spot, a position it last held in 2017. On the other hand, the United States faces a continuous decline, sliding another two places to the eighth spot with access to only 184 destinations visa-free. This marks a decade-long slide for the US in the index, raising concerns about its diminishing passport power.

While the global trend over the past 18 years has shown increasing travel freedom with the average number of visa-free destinations doubling from 58 in 2006 to 109 in 2023, there remains a significant disparity between the most powerful and weakest passports. Singapore, with its top-ranked passport, enjoys 165 more visa-free destinations than Afghanistan, which holds the weakest passport.

The decline of the US passport

Christian H. Kaelin, chairman of Henley & Partners and the pioneer of the passport index concept, emphasizes that the value of a strong passport extends beyond travel freedom. A powerful passport also opens doors to international investment and business opportunities, essential features of wealth creation and preservation.

The decline of the US passport’s standing is a notable concern, as it has seen the smallest increase in its score on the Henley Passport Index over the past decade among the top-ranking countries. Singapore, on the other hand, has experienced significant growth in its passport’s power, climbing five places in the last ten years to secure the top spot.

Experts in the field point out that the lack of demand for policy changes within the U.S., coupled with political risks and security concerns as contributions to the country’s stagnant state. These factors could lead to a decline in U.S. soft power, making it less attractive for international business and tourism.

Henley & Partners’ research also delves into the relationship between a country’s openness to foreigners and its own citizens’ travel freedom, as measured by the Henley Openness Index. While the correlation is complex and non-linear, countries like Singapore and South Korea, which have increased their passport power significantly, also exhibit relatively high degrees of openness.

The report sheds light on the disparity between a country’s visa-free access for its citizens and the access it grants to other nationalities. The U.S., Australia, New Zealand and Japan are among the top countries with the largest differences, indicating room for improvement in their visa policies.