United Arab Emirates Continues to Have World’s Most Powerful Passport

With visa-free access to 181 destinations, the UAE remains the world’s most powerful passport, according to the Arton Capital’s Passport Index.

Passport covers from a dozen countries

UAE’s passport dominates the Passport Index by Arton Capital once again.

Photo by Shutterstock

As the last few coronavirus-related border closures are lifted, the world has become more accessible to many passport holders. Meanwhile, since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, many nations have dropped visa requirements for Ukrainian passport holders. In turn, many countries have stopped issuing visas to Russian citizens and banned Russian airlines from using their airspace.

After taking all of that into account, the United Arab Emirates passport is currently the most powerful passport in the world, with visa-free or visa-upon-arrival access to 181 destinations. This makes it the strongest in the world, according to Arton Capital’s Passport Index, a ranking of the world’s passports in order of the number of destinations their holders can access without obtaining a visa prior to arrival.

Unlike the Henley Passport Index, which has Japan at the top of its 2023 rankings, Arton Capital’s Passport Index updates its rankings in real time as new visa waivers and changes are implemented, showing the current effects that COVID-19 travel bans and the war in Ukraine have on global mobility right now.

After slipping down the rankings in recent years, the UAE made an impressive comeback in 2022, thanks to subsidizing country pavilions at the Expo 2020 Dubai for lower-income nations in exchange for visa-free agreements.

Eleven countries trail behind the UAE in joint second place with visa-free access to 174 destinations currently: Germany, Sweden, Finland, Luxembourg, Spain, France, Italy, Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, and South Korea. Third place is a nine-way tie among Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Portugal, Poland, United Kingdom, Ireland, United States of America, and New Zealand with access to 173 destinations each.

With current travel restrictions in place, Russia doesn’t make an appearance until 37th on the list—slipping two spots since 2022—with visa-free access to 124 destinations. Ukraine gained one spot and moved up to 19th, increasing its visa-free access to 147 destinations from 144 in 2022.

Afghanistan is currently at the bottom of the rankings at 95th place with access to only 39 destinations. Syria and Iraq ranked only slightly higher with access to 40 and 42 destinations, respectively.

2023 strongest passports in the world, according to the Passport Index by Arton Capital

After taking into account COVID-19 and other travel restrictions, here’s how 2023’s most powerful passports in the world rank:

  1. United Arab Emirates (181 destinations)
  2. Germany, Sweden, Finland, Luxembourg, Spain, France, Italy, Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, South Korea (174 destinations)
  3. Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Portugal, Poland, United Kingdom, Ireland, United States of America, New Zealand (173 destinations)
  4. Czech Republic, Greece, Lithuania, Hungary, Japan, Australia, Canada (172 destinations)
  5. Singapore, Malta, Slovakia (171 destinations)
  6. Estonia, Latvia, Slovenia (170 destinations)
  7. Liechtenstein, Iceland (169 destinations)
  8. Cyprus, Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria (168 destinations)
  9. Malaysia (167 destinations)
  10. Monaco (165 destinations)

These rankings show the significant rebound in mobility around the world that’s happened since the pandemic began. During 2020, the world’s most powerful passports allowed visa-free entry to just 112 destinations. Belgium, Finland, Austria, Luxembourg, Spain, Ireland, United Kingdom, and Switzerland shared the top ranking that year.

When you remove these temporary restrictions, travel freedom for holders of many of these powerful passports looks very different. For example, when you view the Henley Passport Index, which released its most recent rankings on January 10, 2023, without factoring in COVID-19 border closures or other travel restrictions, the United States has access to 187 destinations, putting it at seventh on that list.

2023 strongest passports in the world, according to the Henley Passport Index

Without COVID-19 travel restrictions and Ukrainian war–related visa changes in place, 2023’s most powerful passports in the world are:

  1. Japan, Singapore (193 destinations)
  2. South Korea (192 destinations)
  3. Germany, Spain (191 destinations)
  4. Finland, Italy, Luxembourg (190 destinations)
  5. Austria, Denmark, Netherlands, Sweden (189 destinations)
  6. Ireland, Portugal, France, United Kingdom (188 destinations)
  7. Belgium, Czech Republic, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, United States (187 destinations)
  8. Australia, Canada, Greece, Malta (186 destinations)
  9. Hungary, Poland (185 destinations)
  10. Lithuania, Slovakia (184 destinations)

The methodology

While the Passport Index by Arton takes into account the passports of 193 United Nations member countries plus six territories (ROC Taiwan, Macao, Hong Kong, Kosovo, Palestinian Territory, and the Vatican) in its rankings, it excludes territories annexed to other countries—like French Polynesia and the British Virgin Islands—in its list of possible travel destinations that passport holders can access.

The Henley Passport Index ranks the same 199 passports, but it also cross-checks each of those passports against all 227 possible travel destinations in the world even if those territories don’t issue their own passports. Keep in mind that Arton’s rankings are more subject to change as COVID-19 travel restrictions and the Russian invasion of Ukraine continue to evolve throughout 2023. To see the full rankings, visit henleypassportindex.com and passportindex.org.

This article originally appeared in 2020; it was updated most recently on January 24, 2023, to include current information.

Lyndsey Matthews is the senior commerce editor at AFAR who covers travel gear, packing advice, and points and loyalty.
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