8 Passports with excellent perks

Up until a few months ago the conversation on Brexit dominated the news. Talk of backstops, trade deals and limited travel coupled with endless negotiations made most outlets seem devoid of other topics. But the Coronavirus ended that. Suddenly it seemed every news story on the planet had been relegated to make way for virus updates. The fear and uncertainty created by Covid seemed to force all talk of Brexit from the collective rhetoric. But even a topic as serious and immediate as the Coronavirus has to make way for other news eventually and it seems that this is already happening, as Brexit is once again being talked about. President Elect Joe Biden’s request that Britain honour the Good Friday Agreement has everyone thinking and writing about Brexit once more and I keep thinking about how limited Britain will become, certainly in terms of travel. A major perk of being a citizen in an EU member country has to be the freedom to travel, work and live anywhere within the EU. Considering how many wonderful opportunities a continent can hold, it truly is a magnificent privilege for Britain to have thrown away. Here are eight passports that provide the greatest perks. Keep in mind the data this year for the “best passport to own” is skewed somewhat due to Covid. Virus-driven data has moved certain countries up the list such as New Zealand, but as the virus is a blip in the data and won’t last forever, I am going to stick to the information provided by the annual Henley Index


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Japan currently holds the title for the world’s most powerful passport, as it has since 2018 and has ranked highly in previous years. If you possess a Japanese passport you are granted visa-free or visa-on-arrival entry rights to a staggering 191 countries and territories. It has been recognised as the strongest passport in the world and even though Covid has severely limited travel, it still outclasses it’s nearest rival Singapore. 


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Singapore narrowly misses out on the top spot, trailing behind by just one. If you hold a passport from Singapore you can travel to an impressive 190 countries or territories with relative ease. Japan nabbed the spot from Singapore, who stood as the top contender last year and have placed in the top eleven since 2006. It’s popularity has made it a frequent target for fraudulent travel documentation and it is also the only developed country where it’s passport holders can travel to Cuba without a tourist card or a pre-arranged visa. However, Singapore has strict rules about holding dual-citizenship and ultimately you may have to renounce citizenship of a second country if you wish to be naturalised as a citizen of Singapore. 

South Korea

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Asia is clearly ahead of the passport game as South Korea is the third country to make the list. Again trailing behind by only one, it allows travel to 189 countries and territories around the world, with visa-free or visa-on-arrival access. It has remained in the top 13 since 2006, bouncing mostly between 11th or 3rd position, tending to improve most years. South Korea is one of only three countries that provide visa-free access to all G8 countries, with Brunei and Chile being the other two. Due to political tension between North and South Korea, holders of a South Korean passport can only cross the border to the North with special authorisation and it is carried out independently of a South Koren passport. 


Germany is one of many countries that shares a rank on the Henley Index. Like South Korea, Germany places third and allows easy travel to 189 countries and territories throughout the world. Interestingly, a German citizen can apply for a passport with “overlapping validity,” meaning, if needed they can hold an additional German passport. This allows them to get around travel restrictions in stricter countries. For example,  if they are entering an Arab country but have an Israeli stamp on the passport, a frequent issue when travelling in the Middle East, they may be denied entry. The second passport prevents the bearer being turned away. This is allowed in “exceptional circumstances” and you can actually apply for up to ten passports, each with a life-span of six years. All of this makes the German passport the most powerful within Europe. 


An Italian passport is a valuable passport to hold. It comes fourth on the list and has placed in the top five every year since 2006. As an EU member state, those with an Italian passport can travel to all other European countries and can visit 188 countries and territories with ease. It is tied with Spain, Luxembourg and Finland for this spot and like Germans, Italians are permitted a second passport if the situation warrants it, however, a secondary passport must be held at a Questura or consulate. 


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A Finnish passport allows freedom of travel within Europe, travel to 188 countries and territories and does not need to be presented when travelling to other Nordic states. This is due to the Nordic Passport Union, a deal that allows citizens of Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland to live or work in any Nordic country without the need for travel documentation. Men under 30, who have not completed the mandatory national service obligation, will have the expiry date of their passport curtailed, until they either complete military service or turn 30. 


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The Danish passport is currently the fifth most powerful passport to have in your possession. It has been in the top five since 2006 but has tended to drop a rank almost every year, although it did hold the top spot for four consecutive years before moving to the second spot. Citizens of Denmark can travel to 187 countries and territories visa-free or visa-on-entry and has all of the freedoms afforded to EU member and Nordic countries. EU citizens have the right to travel anywhere in Europe with a National Identity Card, but as Denmark does not issue National Identity Cards, Denmark is the only EU country that does not have this alternative form of travel documentation. 


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A Swedish passport is the sixth most convenient passport and shares this honour with France, Portugal, the Netherlands and Ireland. Swedes can travel with relative ease to 186 countries and territories and placed in the top four every year since 2006, until dropping to sixth position this year. This particular document also holds the title for the most popular forgery, as until 2016 there was no limit to the amount of times an individual could order a new passport. In response to the illegal sale of Swedish passports on the black market a new law was passed stating citizens could only request three within a five-year period. Unfortunately it is a problem that has persisted, with 450 reports of forged Swedish passports in 2020. 

So there you have it, all the passport information you need, if you are considering emigrating. For a more in-depth list check out the Henley Passport Index. 

Laura Varley
Laura Varley

Laura is a graduate of NUIG, writes freelance and is an avid follower of Mayo football, the Arts and current affairs.

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