Covid-19 has caused a dramatic upset to the world's most powerful
passports — and business travel freedom — as border lockdowns continue
to shake the global mobility hierarchy.
Singaporeans, for instance, enjoyed visa-free access to an
unprecedented 190 destinations worldwide in January 2020, earning the
envied red passport the second spot on the Henley Passport Index — a
ranking of the world's passports according to the number of destinations
their holders can access without a prior visa.
This number has since dropped to 68, impeding business travel plans,
even as the country slowly eases reopens its borders to selected groups
Prior to Covid-19, the US passport ranked sixth on the index, with
Americans freely entering 185 destinations worldwide. This number has
since dropped. With political tensions, criticisms over the government's
response of Covid-19 and the hotly-debated presidential elections, the
steady decline of the US passport might also be an indication of its
lowered status in the eyes of the international community.
Lower down the index, Russian citizens can now travel to 58
destinations as opposed to the original 119, while Indian passport
holders may currently access fewer than 20 destinations from an original
This general global decline in accessibility is decidedly more
apparent for wealthier democratic countries such the UK, the US, and
Western European nations, whose citizens have taken travel freedom for
granted, said Christian Kaelin, chairman of Henley & Partners and
inventor of the passport index concept.
"The pandemic has abruptly changed this, and there's been a shift
away from travel freedom being regarded as the prerogative of nationals
with once-powerful passports, towards a realisation that it is now a
necessary luxury for those wishing to access first-class education,
business opportunities, and quality healthcare for themselves and their
Should international travel resume without the various
pandemic-related travel bans and restrictions in place, Japan continues
to take the top spot on the Henley Passport Index, with a
visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 191.
Singapore remains in second place with a score of 190, while Germany
and South Korea are tied at third place with a score of 189. Overall
however, EU member stats continue to take the most spots in the index's
top 10 listing.
This story was first published in Travel Weekly Asia.