UAE passport Gulf region's most powerful for third year
The UAE has increased in ranking on the Visa Restrictions Index by 23 positions over the past decade.
The UAE has retained its leading position as the most powerful passport in the GCC for the third consecutive year.
According to the most recent edition of the Henley & Partners Visa Restrictions Index, a travel freedom ranking published annually by the global residence and citizenship advisory firm.
The Index is produced in partnership with the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which maintains the world's largest and most authoritative database of travel information.
In this year's Index, the UAE ranked 38th with visa-free travel to 121 countries, including Europe's Schengen area.
The UAE has increased in ranking on the HVRI by 23 positions over the past decade.
In the wider GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council), all member countries maintained their positions and ranked within the top 70 of the Index.
Kuwait was placed in 60th position, with access to 80 countries and Qatar, at 62, has visa-free access to 78 countries. Bahrain (66), Oman (68) and Saudi Arabia (69) followed closely behind, with visa-free access to 73, 69 and 68 countries respectively.
The world's most powerful passport
Germany held on to its top spot on the Index for the second year running with access to 176 countries in total.
Sweden also remains stationary in second place with 175 countries, and Denmark, Finland, Italy, Spain and the US are jointly ranked third with 174 countries that their nationals can visit without a visa.
The UK, however, has slipped down yet another position this year to fourth place, having held the top position on the Index with Germany for three consecutive years, from 2013-2015.
Bata Racic, Manager of Henley & Partners in the Middle East, said that although the size and make-up of the 'Top Ten' remains the same as last year's Index, we expect the changing geopolitical climate to heavily impact the rankings over the next 12 months.
"In recent months, we have witnessed several major events that have had a negative impact on global mobility. This includes Brexit, the election of US President Donald Trump, and most recently the European Parliament's vote to end visa-free travel for Americans. Although the changing regulations and the magnitude if its impact is still unknown, it is expected to curb international movement and create barrier across borders. The impact of some of these events has already been felt and is reflective of the shift in rankings we see in this year's Visa Restrictions Index."
The biggest movers in this year's Index were Peru and Ghana. Peru was the highest individual mover, gaining 15 places.
Syria, Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan sit at the bottom of this year's Index, with visa-free access to less than 30 countries worldwide.
This shows a slight change from last year's ranking, with Somalia rising out of the bottom four with access to 30 countries, and Syria dropping into it with only 29.
Iran has also improved its ranking, moving out of the bottom four and reaching 95.
What affects visa requirements
Bata Racic added: "There still exists a huge gap in the levels of travel freedom between countries, despite the world becoming seemingly more mobile and interconnected. As we have seen recently, visa requirements reflect strongly on a country's relationships with others, and will take into account diplomatic relationships between the countries, reciprocal visa arrangements, security risks, and the risks of visa and immigration rules violations."
In contrast to 12 years ago when the Henley & Partners Visa Restrictions Index was first published, there are now many more residence- and citizenship-by-investment programs available.
More and more governments are embracing these programs as a means of stimulating economic development and growth, and there is a growing number of wealthy and talented individuals looking to diversify their citizenship portfolios to give themselves and their families greater international opportunity, stability, freedom and security.
"Malta offers the top-ranked investment migration program globally and scores very highly with the world's 10th most powerful passport with visa-free access to 167 countries. Austria is also in the top ten with a total of 173 countries and Cyprus is not far behind at 16, with 158 countries accessible without a visa," said Dr. Christian H. Kälin, Chairman of Henley & Partners.
Countries which offer citizenship-by-investment programs in the Caribbean have also performed consistently well.