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Rankings reveal power of passports
September 1, 2018, 2:43 pm

For many people their passport is a gateway to the world, for others it is often the barrier. Being the citizen of a rich or economically powerful nation does not inevitably grant you visa-free entry or visa on arrival into another country.

As of 2018, Indian passport holders had visa free, or visa-on-arrival, access to 59 countries. But that is hardly any consolation, given that much smaller and economically weaker states have visa free access to significantly more countries. On the global mobility spectrum, the status and recognition of your passport abroad ultimately depends on various factors.

The Henley Passport Index (HPI), prepared annually by the global citizenship and residency firm Henley and Partners, ranks passports of the world according to the number of countries their holders can travel to visa-free or with visa-on-arrival status. The listing is based on in-house research at Henley and is derived from data provided by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which maintains the world’s largest and most comprehensive database of travel information.

The HPI ranking allows you to compare the global mobility conferred on you by virtue of your passport. The HPI for 2018 shows passports from Japan and Singapore topped the list with visa-free access to 189 countries. In second place was a German passport that granted visa-free access to 188 countries. In third place with access to 187 countries were Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, South Korea, Spain and Sweden Korea, while vying for fourth place were Austria, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, United Kingdom and United States with access to 186 countries. Belgium, Canada, Ireland and Switzerland citizens with entry to 185 countries rounded off the top-five list.

Wealth on its own was not a guarantee of higher HPI rankings, as shown by many oil-rich Middle Eastern nations. Among the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) bloc, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) came in first, and was 21st on the global list. The largest leap up the HPI in 2018 was by the UAE with visa-free or visa on arrival access to 158 countries worldwide, mainly on account of receiving visa-free travel access to Europe’s Schengen Area.

A Kuwait passport entitled the holder visa-free access to 93 countries placing the country second in the GCC and 53rd globally in terms of border access. A Qatari passport (58th rank) holder had visa-free entry to 85 countries, while a Bahrain passport (61st rank) gained access to 81 countries. An Omani (64th rank) passport holder could visit 78 countries visa-free and a Saudi Arabian passport (67th rank) holder was limited entry to 75 nations around the world.

A large economy also did not confer any advantage on its passport holders when it came to visa-free access, as evidenced by China, the world’s second biggest economy which ranked 69th in HPI and had access to only 72 countries. Similarly, holders of Indian passport, which was ranked 78th in HPI had access to only to 58 countries. Meanwhile, some of the world’s smallest economies, such as Seychelles and St. Kitts and Nevis, both ranked 24th in HPI, had access to 151 countries.

At the other end of the HPI scale, a passport of Yemen (99th rank) allowed the holder access to 37 countries, a Pakistan passport (100) granted entry to 33 nations, while a Somali or Syrian passport (101 rank) granted the holder entry to 32 countries. At the bottom of the HPI list were Afghanistan and Iraq (102 rank) with entry to 30 countries each.

Arguably, the HPI is a narrow index that measures only the freedom of mobility conferred on a passport holder and does not reveal the quality of life, or the peace and stability that prevails in the place that a passport holder might want to visit. The Quality of Nationality Index (QNI), another annual ranking by Henley and Partners, aims to rectify this shortcoming by providing a broader view of the country in question.

The QNI provides a comprehensive ranking of the quality of nationalities worldwide as it measures both the internal value of nationality, which refers to the quality of life and opportunities for personal growth within the country of origin, and external value of nationality, which identifies the diversity and quality of opportunities that nationality allows one to pursue outside their country of origin.

The QNI ranks nationalities on a scale from 0 – 100 percent and gives 40 percent weightage to internal factors — economic strength (based on data from the World Bank), and human development (using data from United Nations), as well as on scores for peace and stability — and 60 percent to external factors, such as countries providing visa-free access, or the eligibility to legally settle down in another country without cumbersome formalities.

The weighted QNI saw France top the list, with its quality of nationality being the best in the world. The French nationality earned a score of 81.7 percent out of a possible 100 percent, knocking Germany off by 0.1 percent point from the pole position it had occupied for the past seven years. Iceland and Denmark took the 3rd and 4th position respectively, while the Netherlands rounded off the top five positions.

On the scale of freedom of settlement, France came out on top with a score of 100 percent followed by Netherlands (96%), Iceland and Finland (93.6%), Sweden, Denmark and Norway (93.5%), Italy (91.5%), Estonia and Latvia (89.5%). On the other end of the scale, countries with a score of zero for settlement freedom included Bangladesh, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Kenya, North Korea, Pakistan, Philippines and Vietnam.

Citizenship was once about an individual’s rights within a certain territory and countries such as Canada continue to cling on to this 19th century ideal of one country, one citizenship, one territory of rights. Despite such reservations, in general, as the world continues to open up through globalization, people are beginning to realize the value of citizenships beyond the national borders of their country of origin.

Visa free or visa on arrival for Indian passports

If you are travelling to Oman, you can now get a month-long tourist visa on arrival in the country for an amount of 20 Omani Riyal (Rs. 3,700). But this rule holds only if you reside or hold an entry visa to the US, Canada, Australia, UK, Japan or Schengen states. Your spouse and children accompanying you can also get a visa on arrival.

Travelling to Myanmar is now a cakewalk if you are planning to drive into the country. You need to display your e-visa at the check-post. The e-visa can be obtained in two days.

UAE is now granting a 10-year long-term visa to highly-skilled professionals and investors who are willing to visit the country. These visas are granted to specialists in science, medicine and research. Visas are also being granted to ‘exceptional students’.

Travelling to Uzbekistan from India is also easier now. Submit your e-visa application three days before your trip. You can get a single-entry e-visa for a 30-day period.

Japan has now relatively eased travel to the country for holders of Indian passport. If you are applying for a short-term stay in Japan or a multiple-entry visa, you do not need to show an employment certificate or explanation letter stating the reason for your visit. Only proof of your financial stability is needed if traveling for tourism purposes and for business trips documents proving affiliation to your enterprise would be required.

Indian passport holders can now get visa on arrival in Zimbabwe. India is among the 28 countries that Zimbabwe has relaxed visa rules for.


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