Today we are publishing our first edition of of Best Passport Rankings 2020, developed in association with World Citizenship Council (WCC) and Best Citizenships (BC)
As we head towards the future, Globalisation is playing an important role shaping the free movement. With increased pressure on immigration systems, developed countries look to reduce free movement by hardening visa restrictions on passports day by day. A significant number of countries have moved to eVisa/eTA digital platforms to cut Govt spending and reduce administrative burden on missions abroad.
Our study shows freedom movement is declining on global scale. By 2022 we believe, the travel freedom with passports will be more curtailed, and sadly freedom of boarding a plane with just your passport will be pretty much over. All passports will most likely require a Electronic authorisation or Evisa when boarding a plane. The European Travel authorization ETIAS will start by next year and United Kingdom has also announced similar plans to impose ETA’s similar that of US and Canada.
First things First
Before we get into passport rankings, just think about few basic questions first.
- Which is the best passport in the world giving me maximum travel freedom with less visa restrictions?
- What good is a passport if does not have access to the BIG-6 countries? That is United States, United Kingdom, Canada, EU schengen, Russia and China?
- Does the passport offer safety and protection in case of emergencies traveling abroad? How many embassies/consulates are there for passport holders?
- Dual citizens are issued more than one passport. Can i combine my passports to maximize by visa free movement?
Our model will precisely provide best answers to above questions.
We have developed a PBS scoring model, that looks into visa restrictions imposed on 199 world passports and basically tells you which best passport has gives you access to countries in the world. We collected visa data from freely and publicly available information from Wikipedia for our study.
Our model, looks even further, more than visas, such as ability to combine dual passports to travel to more countries and also seek consulate protection available for passport holders abroad. We have integrated these two metrics for the first time, to rank a passport. These two important metrics is perhaps what differentiates our model from other passport indexes.
Our model also scores low points to soft visa categories (eVisa /eTA, VOA etc.), as we consider these as soft visa restrictions. As a result
- Countries that are not open to dual citizenship do not perform well in the rankings.
- Passports with soft visa restrictions also score low rankings in our model
We looked into visa restrictions of 199 passports in the world. Here are our findings
- No country has visa free access to all countries in the world. This is because some Asian and African countries impose hard visas on world passports, Even the top 10 passports require visas to enter 25+ countries in Asia/Africa.
- Travel restrictions to disputed states also apply for certain passports. For example admission refused for Israel passport by 12 countries as a result of Arab league boycott. Another example is admission refused for Kosovo passport by 18 countries. Kosovo has a disputed status recognized by only 98 UN member states. US citizens refused entry into North Korea.
Top 10 Strongest Passports
These are the top 10 best and strongest passports in the world
- Denmark / Finland
- Italy / Sweden
- Belgium / Spain / Japan
- Greece / Norway / Portugal
- Hungary / Switzerland / United States / United Kingdom
- France / Ireland
- Luxembourg / Netherlands
Our study showed European passports especially from Nordic countries dominated our best passport rankings for 2020.
- Denmark and Finland are the world’s most powerful and strongest passports.
- Italy and Sweden have the second best passports in the world.
- Brunei is the only country in the world that has visa free access to all BIG-6 countries.
- Chilean passport moved up in rankings becoming a powerful passport in the Americas tied with Canada as it has visa freedom to visit BIG-5 countries except China.
- US/UK passports are tied at sixth place. The value of US and UK passports cannot be discounted.
- Norwegian passport jumped up to fourth place after the country fully allowed dual citizenship from Jan 2020.
- Afghanistan and Somalia are the weakest passports in the world.
- Seychelles and Mauritius have the best passports in Africa.
- Poland passport moved up in ranks after new visa waiver program (VWP) implemented with United States
- Greek and Portuguese passport tied at fourth place. Both countries offer popular golden visa schemes in Europe.
Top 10 Weakest Passports
Here are the top 10 weakest passports in the world severely limiting travel freedom to its citizens. Perhaps these can be rightly considered as the worst passports in the world for 2020
- Iraq / North Korea
- Eritrea / Ethiopia
- DR Congo
- Libya / Sudan
Our Ranking Model
This model looks into 199 passports with visa access to 196 countries and territories to score the passport rank.
For example, when a country allows dual citizenship, the ability to combine/swapping passports for travel is very important. One passport has visa free access to Russia and other for China. Similarly citizens can seek nearest consulate help in case of emergency using either of passport. For example China, United States have highest number of diplomatic missions worldwide.
These include Hong Hong, Macau, Taiwan, British territories, US territories etc.
Vatican, Kosovo, Palestine not part of UN are also included in the rankings as they issue separate passports.
Before we go any further, first we classify visas into three categories
- Hard Visas – These are full visa restrictions, you will need to visit consulate/embassy to apply physically. Our model assigns no points.
- Soft visas – We classify this category eVisa, Visa on arrival (VOA), Electronic travel authorization (ETA) or all of it. All these categories require permission before crossing the border, we see a soft visa restriction. Our model assigns only half points per access.
- Visa not required – This means zero visa requirement offers full travel freedom, just board the plane using your passport. Our model assigns full one point for this access.
Below we will briefly explain the features vectors we fed to the model. We first classified visas into 8 categories. Then we added passport features to the model.
Visa not required = 1 point
Visa required = 0 points
eVisa = 0.5 points
eTA = 0.5 pints
Visa on arrival = 0.5 points
eVisa / Visa on Arrival = 0.5 points
Other = 0 points
Refused/Disputed territories = 0 points
1. Visa freedom to BIG-6 countries
- United States – 5 points
- United Kingdom – 5 points
- Canada – 5 points
- EU schengen area – 5 points
- Russia – 5 points
- China – 5 points
We considered free movement for visiting these countries most important travel requirement for tourism, business and visiting family and friends including for studies.
2. Dual Passports
Dual citizens often travel with multiple passports. This gives them ability to combine passports is essential to maximize visa free travel freedom. For example one passport could have visa free access to United States, while the other passport could be used to travel to Russia.
We have assigned 5 points to passports issued by countries that are open to dual citizenship.
3. Consulate Protection
We have integrated countries that maintain diplomatic missions (embassy/consulates) into this model.
We felt passport holders seeking protection from embassies for safety during emergencies is very important benefit comes with passports when traveling abroad. Dual citizens can seek protection from embassies of more than one country.
Countries that maintain more than 50 diplomatic missions abroad are given 5 points, thus gets boost in passport rankings
Consular protection refers to help provided by a country to its citizens who are living or traveling abroad and are in need of assistance, such as in cases of:
- arrest or detention
- serious accident
- serious illness or death
- natural disaster or political unrest
- loss of passport or travel documents
4. Full visa exemption
Visa not required – Visa not required grants full visa free movement from one country to another with just a passport. you can enter the country with just your passport, giving full freedom of movement.
We assign full one point for this category
5. Soft Visas
We assign reduced half point (0.5) to all these visa categories, as soft visas still require prior travel permission.
- Visa on arrival (VOA) – Visa on arrivals are granted at a port of entry. This is distinct from visa-free entry, where no visa is required, as the visitor must still obtain the visa on arrival waiting in line, before proceeding to immigration control.
- eVisa – An eVisa is an alternative to a paper-based visa issued by the embassy. It is the easiest, cheapest and fastest way to apply for travelers. eVisas are usually single entry and have restrictions on port of entry. eVisa platforms help Governments to reduce administrative burden on embassies and cut costs.
- eTA – ETA is an electronic travel authorisation applicable to travelers. US and Canada require eTA on all visa waiver countries. ETA differs from eVisa because it only applies to nationals of countries that have Visa waiver program (VWP)
- eVisa / Visa on Arrival – Some countries do offer both options for passport holders depending on the purpose of visit.
Our model only considers visa free access to 196 countries and territories excluded. We did consider visa free access to British/US territories to scoring model (not to visa totals). This is because millions of travelers visit US and UK territories and we consider access to territories adds value to passports. Only the passports that have full visa free movement to these territories are given full points
- US Territories (5 points) – Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands (USVI), Guam, American Samoa
- British Territories (5 points) – British Virgin Islands (BVI), Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Turks and Caicos Islands, Gibraltar, Anguilla etc.
Other territories were not incorporated into the model.
We collected visa data from freely and publicly available information from Wiki database, Govt sites and other trusted sites. We extracted the data using Wiki API, filtered and processed this data using python and libraries such as pandas, numpy, beautiful soap finally classifying the data into 8 categories (see pdf)
We created a sparse matrix and crossing tabbing to collect the visa data as vectors. Finally we assigned points to features depending on its impact on passport ranking,
Visa free access to Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan also incorporated into the database.
Passports from Citizenship by investment (CBI) countries have performed well in our rankings with european passports scoring top in the table.. We also did a comprehensive study on best CBI scheme in the world for 2020.
EU citizenship schemes take top spots, while Grenada is tied with Antigua for the fifth spot. Egypt has the worst CBI passport in the world as Egypt recently launched a brand new citizenship by investment scheme
These are the powerful CBI passports for 2020
- St Kitts and Nevis
- Antigua / Grenada
- St Lucia
Golden Visa Passports
Passports of Golden visa countries also performed very well in Best passport rankings 2020. European countries took top spots in Golden visa passport rankings.
These are the best golden visa passports
- Greece / Portugal
- United Kingdom / United States
- Luxembourg / Netherlands
- Malta / New Zealand
- Hong Kong
- Cyprus / Latvia