(CNN) – The gap in freedom to travel is the largest in decades, and according to a new passport report, differences between countries in access to vaccination could exacerbate the situation.
The Henley Passport Index, which regularly reviews the passports offering the easiest travel options worldwide since 2006, has released its most recent rankings and analysis.
Because the index did not take into account the temporary restrictions, Japan again leads the ranking as its passport offers visa-free access with an arrival visa to 193 destinations around the world.
“With extensive travel restrictions still in place worldwide, any level of international travel freedom remains theoretical,” Henley & Partners, the UK-based citizenship consultancy responsible for the index, said in a statement.
“It is somewhat ironic that Japan comes first when it recently made the difficult decision to ban international spectators from the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, which had to be rescheduled and are scheduled to begin in July.”
People with a Japanese passport have visa-free or entry-visa-free access to 167 destinations more than Afghan citizens, which are at the bottom of the rankings. In fact, they can only visit 26 places without needing a prior visa. According to Henley & Partners, this is the biggest difference between countries since the index’s inception.
China and the United Arab Emirates have risen the most
Singapore remained in second place (with 192 destinations) and South Korea remained in third place with Germany (each with 191 destinations).
As usual, most of the other countries in the top 10 are from the European Union.
The United Kingdom and the United States topped the rankings in 2014. However, the power of their passports has steadily declined in recent years. They are currently in seventh place, next to Switzerland, Belgium and New Zealand.
In terms of freedom to travel, the biggest success stories of the past decade have been China and the United Arab Emirates.
Since 2011, China has climbed 22 places – from 90 to 68 – while the United Arab Emirates has risen from 65 to 15. Thanks to their efforts to strengthen diplomatic ties around the world, citizens now have easy access to 174 destinations, compared with 67 a decade ago. .
“With the launch of massive vaccination programs in a number of rich and advanced economies, such as the European Union, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States, global mobility will soon be an opportunity again for some,” Henley said. & Partners.
“For citizens of developing countries and emerging economies, where the introduction of vaccines is slower and where passports generally offer much less freedom to travel, the future looks decidedly less promising,” he added.
‘Permission to circulate’
Political scientists Uğur Altundal and Ömer Zarpli, from Syracuse University and the University of Pittsburgh respectively, pointed out in the report some of the dangers of the vaccination passport model as an alternative to reopening international travel.
Since people will likely need to be vaccinated every year, developed countries can try to secure vaccines for future use. Ultimately, this could prolong the pandemic and increase the risk of new mutations, ”they noted.
Mehari Taddele Maru, a professor at the Center for Migration Policy and member of the Institute for Comparative Regional Integration Studies at the University of the United Nations in Belgium, stated that “countries that are able to vaccinate their populations relatively quickly also have greater mobility. citizens and will attract business and leisure travelers, while conflict-affected countries and countries lacking funding to ensure adequate storage and efficient distribution of vaccines will lag behind in alleviating mobility constraints ”.
Remote work visas have been a big trend over the past year as the pandemic has forced businesses around the world to adopt more flexible work arrangements.
Greg Lindsay, director of applied research at NewCities, wrote in the report that “destinations ranging from Helsinki to Dubai are already developing programs and policies for traveling talent whose employers have authorized them to travel.” He also warned that “any global destination that does not have a program runs the risk of being left behind when the world reopens.”
The best passports of 2021 are:
1. Japan (193 destinations)
2. Singapore (192)
3. Germany, South Korea (191)
4. Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain (190)
5. Austria, Denmark (189)
6. France, Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden (188)
7. Belgium, New Zealand, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States (187)
8. Czech Republic, Greece, Malta, Norway (186)
9. Australia, Canada (185)
10. Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia (183)
The worst passports
Several countries in the world have visa-free or entry-visa-free access to less than 40 countries. Among them are:
102. North Korea (39 destinations)
103. Nepal (38)
104. Palestinian Territories (37)
106. Yemen (33)
107. Pakistan (32)
108. Syria (29)
109. Iraq (28)
110. Afghanistan (26)
The Henley & Partner list is one of many indexes created by financial companies to rank passports worldwide based on the access they provide to their citizens.
The Henley Passport Index is based on data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and evaluates 199 passports and 227 travel destinations. It is updated in real time throughout the year as visa policy changes take effect.
Arton Capital’s passport index takes into account the passports of 193 United Nations member states and six territories: the People’s Republic of China, Macao, Hong Kong, Kosovo, Palestinian Territories and the Vatican. Areas attached to other countries are excluded.
In their 2021 index, Germany, Finland, Spain and Switzerland share first place, with a score of 134 in the visa waiver or visa on arrival category.