UAE ranks 16th on Henley Passport Index
Japan continues to hold the number one position on the index, with passport holders able to access 191 destinations around the world visa-free
The UAE’s agenda to establish itself as a global hub is evident in its remarkable upward trajectory on the Henley Passport Index which released its findings for 2021 today.
The UAE now has a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 173 and holds the 16th spot in the ranking, the country occupied the 18th position in 2020. This is a stunning ascent when compared to the position it held at the Index’s inception in 2006, when the country ranked 62nd, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of just 35.
The country signed several mutually reciprocated visa-waiver agreements last year, including a landmark US-brokered agreement establishing formal ties with Israel and granting citizens of each country visa-free access to the other.
Dr Robert Mogielnicki, Resident Scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, said: “A strong technology focus weaves together the economic agreements and memorandums of understanding that emerged in the wake of the UAE–Israel normalisation agreement. Sudan normalised relations with Israel in October 2020, and other Arab countries may take similar steps over the coming months.”
The advanced technological and social infrastructure UAE possesses enabled it to tide over the Covid-19 crisis successfully, said Bal Krishen, chairman, Century Financial.
“The country has done mass testing and screening of its citizens, which helped put the Coronavirus crisis under control. High-speed internet infrastructure ensured a seamless transition to WFH environment. Advanced technology and its ability to control the pandemic meant UAE was open for business when other countries were going through a rigorous lockdown. The UAE’s recent efforts to normalise relations with neighbouring countries and its recent reforms, including permission for 100 per cent investment in almost sectors should make its passport one of the most sought after ones in the world,” added Krishen.
As 2021 commences, the latest results from the Henley Passport Index — the original ranking of all the world’s passports according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa — provide fascinating insights into the future of travel freedom in a world that has been transformed by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Without taking temporary restrictions into account, Japan continues to hold the number one position on the index, with passport holders able to access 191 destinations around the world visa-free. This marks the third consecutive year that Japan has held the top spot, either alone or jointly with Singapore. Asia Pacific (APAC) region countries’ dominance of the index — which is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) — now seems firmly established.
Singapore sits in 2nd position, with access to 190 destinations, and South Korea holds on to the 3rd place alongside Germany, with both having a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 189. Slightly further down but still in the top 10, New Zealand is in 7th position, with visa-free access to 185 destinations, while Australia is in 8th position, with access to 184 destinations.
The ascendance of APAC countries in the Henley Passport Index rankings is a relatively new phenomenon. Over the index’s 16-year history, the top spots were traditionally held by EU countries, the UK, or the US, and experts suggest that the APAC region’s position of strength will continue as it includes some of the first countries to begin the process of recovering from the pandemic.
With the US and the UK still facing significant challenges related to the virus, and the passport strength of both countries continue to steadily erode and the balance of power is shifting. Over the past seven years, the US passport has fallen from the No. 1 spot to 7th place, a position it currently shares with the UK. Due to pandemic-related travel constraints, travellers from the UK and the US currently face major restrictions from over 105 countries, with US passport holders able to travel to fewer than 75 destinations, while UK passport holders currently have access to fewer than 70.
Dr Christian H. Kaelin, chairman of leading residence and citizenship advisory firm Henley & Partners and the inventor of the passport index concept, said: “Just a year ago all indications were that the rates of global mobility would continue to rise, that travel freedom would increase, and that holders of powerful passports would enjoy more access than ever before. The global lockdown negated these glowing projections, and as restrictions begin to lift, the results from the latest index are a reminder of what passport power really means in a world upended by the pandemic.”
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