What’s the meaning of a powerful passport?

Three Asian nations, Japan, Singapore and South Korea have the world’s first, second and third most powerful passports, though South Korea shares the third-place podium with Finland and Germany.

News of the annual ranking in the Henley Passport Index could probably give rise to a lot of back-patting and raising of glasses by citizens of these respective nations. But, if you are not a denizen of the top-five, or top-ten countries on the list, you may well yawn and ask, “So what?”. Which is exactly what one Afghani did when we mentioned that his country was at the bottom of the venerable list. “So, what? Most Afghanis do not even have a passport,” he said.

The fact is most of us do not possess a Japanese passport and you cannot get one for the simple reason that the Japanese are not giving one. And, even if they were doling it out, would it be worth getting a Japanese passport knowing that next year Singapore or South Korea could have the world’s most powerful passport.

Moreover, it is not exactly clear what a world’s most powerful passport grants you. Yes, it is true that you could travel without an entry-visa to the 200 or so countries around the world, but why would a Japanese, or a Singaporean want to travel to most of the countries on the list anyway.

Now, if you are a citizen of India or one of the Asian or African countries from where people regularly make a beeline beyond its borders in search of jobs and livelihoods, it makes sense to have a powerful passport that grants access to the whole wide world. Just imagine what fun it would be if on one fine day the 1.3 billion Indians could land in Kuwait without a visa.

On another note, now that we have established that Japan has the most powerful passport in the world, can someone tell us of what interest this news is to a reader in say Uzbekistan, or Kuwait for that matter. Does it make an iota of difference to know all the nations featured on the powerful passport list? But this has not stopped the media from going ga-ga about the news and spending columns of space on it, nor has it stopped social media ‘clickers’ from spending the better part of the day publishing, sharing and liking this news titbit. And, of course, we cannot forget the ‘experts’ at Henley’s who have spent many a laborious hour each day, and a whole lot of money in the process, to compile this list each year.

Having said that, if this is the type of news that rocks your boat, we do not want to be a hinder to your pleasure. So, here is the full glorious list of nations ranked in the order of how ‘powerful’ their passports are. Enjoy.

Most powerful passports

1. Japan

1. Singapore

2. South Korea

2. Finland

2. Germany


3. Italy

3. Luxembourg

4. France

4. Spain

4. Sweden

5. Austria

5. Netherlands

5. Portugal

5. Switzerland

Least powerful passports

105. Somalia

106. Pakistan

107. Syria

108. Iraq

109. Afghanistan