UAE biggest climber on passport index as Covid-19 grounds mobility

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The passport now has a visa-free score of 171.

Global travel is almost at a standstill and only a few countries are still allowing flight operations because of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

According to the latest rankings released by the Henley Passport Index, based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the Japanese passport continues to be on top. However, it is the UAE passport that has caught everyone’s attention. The Emirati passport has been the biggest climber on the index, soaring a remarkable 47 places over the past decade to sit in 18th position.

However, the current restrictions mean that most non-essential travel is curtailed for citizens of almost every country.

Managing Partner for Henley & Partners Dubai office, Philippe Amarante, says: “With 3.5 billion people, nearly half the global population, presently living in voluntary or mandatory confinement, the latest results from the index raise challenging questions about what travel freedom and global mobility really mean, both currently and in a deeply uncertain post-pandemic future.”

Dr. Christian H. Kaelin, Chairman of Henley & Partners and the inventor of the passport index concept, points out that in an unprecedented global health emergency such as this, relative passport strength becomes temporarily meaningless. “A Swiss citizen can, in theory, travel to 185 destinations around the world without needing a visa in advance, but the last few weeks have made it apparent that travel freedom is contingent on factors that occasionally can be utterly beyond our control. This is, of course, something that citizens of countries with weak passports in the lower ranks of the index are all too familiar with.”

“As public health concerns and security rightfully take precedence over all else now, even within the otherwise borderless EU, this is an opportunity to reflect on what freedom of movement and citizenship essentially mean for those of us who have perhaps taken them for granted in the past,” he added.

Highlights from the latest rankings:

> The UAE has seen the biggest increase in travel freedom over the past 10 years. In 2010, the country was ranked 65th worldwide, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 64. It is now ranked 18th, with a score of 171, which means the country has added a remarkable 107 visa-free travel destinations over that period.

> Japan retains its top spot on the Henley Passport Index, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 191. Over the past decade, its travel freedom score has increased by 31 points: in 2010, the country was ranked 6th worldwide, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 160.

> Singapore continues to hold on to the 2nd place, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 190. Over the past decade, Singapore’s travel freedom score has increased by 35 points: in 2010, the country was ranked 11th worldwide, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 155.

> Germany remains in 3rd place, with access to 189 destinations compared to the 161 destinations its passport holders were able to access a decade ago. It shares 3rd position with South Korea, which has increased its travel freedom score by 38 points: in 2010, South Korea was ranked 13th worldwide, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 151.

> The UK is currently ranked 7th on the index, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 185. Over the past decade, the UK’s travel freedom score has increased by 19 points: in 2010, the country was ranked 1st worldwide, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 166.

> The US is also currently ranked 7th on the index, with a score of 185. Over the past decade, the US’s travel freedom score has increased by 26 points: in 2010, the country was ranked 7th worldwide, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 159.