UAE passport climbs to 27th place globally
UAE now provides its citizens with visa-free access to 140 destinations worldwide.
The UAE continues to be a leading example of travel freedom in the Middle East, climbing an impressive 34 positions on the Henley Passport Index over the past decade - and 11 positions in the past year alone.
It now provides its citizens with visa-free access to 140 destinations worldwide and sits in 27th place on the index after gaining entry to China and Ireland earlier this year.
It also recently signed a visa-waiver agreement with Burkina Faso, set to come into effect in the coming months.
"The UAE's meteoric rise is indicative of the country's growing soft power and its viability as a global commercial, economic and travel hub. The nation has been making steady progress with strengthening its diplomatic ties with other countries across the globe, because of which the UAE passport continues to demonstrate its agility and raise the benchmark for other countries in the Middle East. Since 1999, visa restrictions on Emirati citizens have been lifted by some 45 different countries, and we expect the Gulf country to continue its remarkable growth trajectory over the coming months and years," said Marco Gantenbein, Managing Partner of Henley & Partners Middle East and member of the Group Executive Committee.
In the GCC, the UAE passport is the strongest followed by Kuwait (59th ranking), Qatar (61st ranking), and Bahrain (65thranking).
Globally, Japan and Singapore now share 1st place on the 2018 Henley Passport Index, knocking Germany off its perch after five years at the top. Both Asian nations now enjoy visa-free access to a record 180 destinations worldwide, while the German passport provides its citizens with access to 179, meaning it is now the second most powerful globally.
The shift at the top of the index follows Uzbekistan's decision to lift visa requirements for Japanese and Singaporean nationals in early February, among other developments. Uzbekistan's efforts to increase tourist inflows saw a number of other countries in Asia and the Middle East (including Turkey, Indonesia, and Israel) gaining access. In general, both these regions have in recent months seen high levels of visa-policy activity compared with their European and American counterparts, where the signing of new cross-border agreements on short-term travel has been far less frequent.
As a result of these changes, the UK has dropped down one rank to 4th place overall, but the country still provides its citizens with visa-free access to 177 destinations. The Russian Federation, meanwhile, has climbed three places to claim 45thposition. Partly as a result of China's recent visa-waiver agreement with the UAE, the North Asian nation has shown the most growth in its region over the past year, moving up 11 places compared with 2017 and now ranking 74th globally.
The Henley Passport Index is widely acknowledged as the original and most authoritative passport index, with historical data spanning 13 years. The ranking is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which maintains the world's largest and most accurate database of travel information, and is enhanced by extensive, ongoing in-house research. The index is updated in real-time, as and when visa-policy changes come into effect. Unlike other passport indexes, which only count countries as destinations, the Henley Passport Index includes both countries and territories in its dataset, making for a more robust and holistic view of global passport power.
Asia's steady rise in passport powerThe Japanese and Singaporean passports are among the few in the world that provide visa-free access to all of the four major global economies - India, China, the EU, and the US - which is what makes them amongst the best travel documents to have today. Both countries are also recognized as peaceful commercial powers, with their citizens interested primarily in business and investment activities. Japan has long been one of the world's leading capital exporters, and this role has grown in the wake of 'Abenomics', the set of economic policies implemented by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the outset of his second term. Singapore, which has long been the portal for investment into Southeast Asia, is now also the major conduit for outbound Asian investment as well.
Meanwhile, China and Indonesia have also made great strides in improving the global mobility of their citizens over the past year, each gaining access to 13 additional destinations and climbing 11 and 10 positions on the index, respectively.
The most recent rankings also show promising gains for South Korea and Malaysia, with the former edging ahead of Australia and New Zealand, reflecting its pattern of international commercial success. Malaysia has gained ground on most EU members, with its businesses now reaching across Asia and Africa.
Investment migration is the most direct route to improved mobilityGlobal citizenship is on the rise, with more and more individuals seeking opportunities and experiences beyond their countries of origin. Borders in certain key parts of the world may be tightening, but elsewhere access is evolving.
Hugh Morshead, Member of the Executive Committee of Henley & Partners, comments: "In terms of visa policies and regulations, every week we are witnessing a growing number of countries - especially outside of the West - opening up their borders to strategic partners as they seek to deepen diplomatic relationships and tap into the immense economic value that tourism, international commerce, and migration can bring."
Morshead points out that the countries that offer the most credible citizenship-by-investment programs in the world consistently outperform on the Henley Passport Index. "Malta, for example, offers the top-ranked investment migration program globally, and the country also scores very highly on the index, holding the world's 7th most powerful passport and offering visa-free access to 173 destinations," he says. "Austria also makes it into the top 10, with access to a total of 177 destinations. Cyprus is not far behind in 15th place, with 163 destinations accessible visa-free."
Caribbean countries offering citizenship-by-investment programs have likewise performed well on this year's index.
"For those looking to improve their global mobility, connectivity, and access with a stronger passport, alternative citizenship is the most effective solution. Demand for citizenship-by-investment programs is rapidly growing as talented individuals seek to transcend the limitations imposed on them by their passports. The Henley Passport Index is relevant to anyone seeking to understand how they can strengthen their level of access as well as to governments trying to understand their passport power in a global context," concludes Morshead.