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Pacific Islands

“Passport power” reflects economic benefits

London, United Kingdom

Tonga is ranked at no. 44 out of 107 countries this year, listed on the Henley Passport Index, which ranks all the world’s passports according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa. The ranking is based on data from the  International Air Transport Association (IATA). Japan and Singapore hold the top spot ranked at no.1, while the Pacific Islands states are ranked between 39-62.

Entering into the final quarter of 2019, Japan and Singapore retain a firm hold on first place on the Henley Passport Index, each with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 190 out of a maximum 227. For most of the index’s 14-year history the top spot has been held by a European country or by the US. However, this shifted dramatically in 2018, with Asian countries now firmly established as world leaders when it comes to both global economic activity and global mobility.

Dr. Christian H. Kaelin, Chairman of Henley & Partners and the creator of the passport index concept, said: “Our ongoing research has shown that when we talk about ’passport power‘, we are discussing more than simply the destinations a holder can travel to without acquiring a visa in advance. Often, there is a strong correlation between visa freedom and other benefits such as business and investment freedom, independence of the judiciary, fiscal health, and property rights.”

With visa-free/visa-on-arrival scores of 188, Finland, Germany, and South Korea remain in 2nd place, while Denmark, Italy, and Luxembourg are in 3rd place, with citizens of those countries now able to access 187 destinations worldwide without requiring a visa in advance. With a score of 184, the UK and the US remain in joint 6th place – the lowest position either country has held since 2010 and a significant drop from their 1st-place ranking in 2014.

Most noticeably, the UAE has climbed five places over the last three months after gaining visa-free access to a number of African countries, including South Africa, and now sits in 15th place, with UAE passport holders able to access 172 destinations without a prior visa.

Of the 32 countries that occupy the top 10 positions on the index, 22 of them are EU member states with scores of 180 and above.

Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan remain at the bottom of the ranking, with visa-free/visa-on-arrival scores of just 29, 27, and 25, respectively.

The Pacific Islands states ranked from no. 39 to 62, with scores between 131 and 83:

[rank] [countries] [visa-free/visa-on-arrival score]
39 Samoa 131
40 Solomon Islands  and Vanuatu 130
42 Tuvalu 127
44 Tonga 125
46 Kiribati 122
46 Marshall Islands 122
47 Micronesia and Palau 119
55 Timor-Leste 95
59 Fiji 88
62 Papua New Guinea 83

The rankings for some of Tonga's development aid partners are currently:

[rank] [countries] [visa-free/visa-on-arrival score]
1 Japan 190
2 Germany 188
6 United States, United Kingdom, Canada, 184
8 New Zealand 182
9 Australia 181
15 United Arab Emirates
18 Hong Kong (SAR China) 168
72 China 71