Passport ranking: Brunei takes third spot in SEA

|     Azlan Othman     |

BRUNEI’S passport is ranked among the top three most powerful in Southeast Asia along with Singapore and Malaysia. Globally, the Bruneian passport is ranked the 21st most powerful travel document in the Henley Passport Index, enabling the Sultanate’s citizens to freely visit 165 destinations.

In the previous update of the index, the Sultanate’s passport was also ranked the 21st most powerful in the world.

The Henley Passport index is an annual ranking of the most powerful passport in the world, officially released in real-time each quarter.

Moving into the third quarter of 2019, Japan and Singapore hold onto top spot on the Henley Passport Index with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 189.

This latest ranking of passport power and global mobility – based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) – marks the culmination of an 18-month long winning streak for both countries after they unseated Germany from its long-held first position at the beginning of 2018.

Falling from the first place spot it shared with Japan and Singapore in the last quarter, South Korea now sits in second place on the index along with Finland and Germany, with citizens of all three countries able to access 187 destinations without a prior visa.

Finland’s ascent from third to second place is due to recent changes to Pakistan’s formerly highly restrictive visa policy.

In the hope of attracting tourists and boosting its struggling economy, Pakistan now offers an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) to citizens of 50 countries including Finland, Japan, Malta, Spain, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

This concession, strikingly, does not extend to either the UK or the US. With a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 183, the UK and the US now share sixth place – the lowest position either country has held since 2010, and a significant drop from their first place spot in 2014.

Denmark, Italy, and Luxembourg sit jointly in third place on the index, each with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 186, while France, Spain and Sweden are in joint fourth place, each with a score of 185.

In significant shifts elsewhere in the rankings, the UAE has entered the top 20 for the first time in the index’s 14-year history, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 165. Over the past five years, the UAE has more than doubled the number of destinations its citizens are able to travel to without a prior visa. Afghanistan remains at the bottom of the global mobility spectrum with its citizens able to access only 25 destinations without a prior visa.

Chairman of Henley & Partners and the creator of the passport index concept, Dr Christian H Kaelin, commenting on these developments said, “With a few notable exceptions, the latest rankings from the Henley Passport Index show that countries increasingly view visa-openness as crucial to economic and social progress.

“Discussions of passport power and global mobility tend to focus on the benefits for the countries with the strongest passports. However, this latest unique research appears to confirm something that many of us already knew intuitively: that increased visa-openness benefits the entire global community, and not just the strongest countries.”