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What is the World’s Most Powerful Passport?

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What is the World's Most Powerful Passport?

The World’s Most Powerful Passports

Which passports are travel assets, and which are liabilities?

The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.

Whether you seek to explore distant lands, or you just want to sit on a remote island beach with a margarita, your passport can be your biggest travel asset. The right document grants you visa-free access to over 150+ countries, and makes applying for entry to the other places a short and easy afterthought.

But a passport can also be your biggest liability. Having a passport from the wrong place means travel is extremely restricted to just a few countries – and these are generally not the places travelers want to go, anyways.

Even worse, passports on the lower end of the spectrum are also heavily scrutinized at entry-points around the world. If you have a document from Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Lebanon, or several other countries, there may be many hoops for you to jump through to get to your final destination.

The Most Powerful Passport

According to the Passport Index, the distinction for the world’s most powerful passport actually ends up as a tie between Germany and Singapore. Both have unparalleled access to visa-free entries, each with a list of 159 countries that citizens can go to without any hassles.

Like Germany, most other Western European nations do similarly well in the visa-free department:

Global Passport RankCountryNumber of Countries (Visa-Free)
#1 (tie)Germany159
#2 (tie)Sweden158
#3 (tie)Denmark157
#3 (tie)Finland157
#3 (tie)Italy157
#3 (tie)France157
#3 (tie)Spain157
#3 (tie)Norway157
#3 (tie)United Kingdom157

In Asia, however, things are quite different. After Singapore and a few other countries (Japan, South Korea, and Malaysia), things drop off faster.

Global Passport RankCountryNumber of Countries (Visa-Free)
#1 (tie)Singapore159
#2 (tie)South Korea158
#3 (tie)Japan157
#5 (tie)Malaysia155
#16Hong Kong142
#18Israel138
#19 (tie)Brunei136
#24UAE128
#30Taiwan121

Further down the list in Asia, citizens of certain countries find themselves in even a tougher place, especially if they reside in the Middle East. Countries like Afghanistan (22), Pakistan (25), Iraq (26), Syria (30), and Bangladesh (35) have some of the shortest lists of visa-free countries that citizens have access to.

North America

In North America, the United States and Canada both have powerful passports with 157 and 155 visa-free options respectively.

However, they differ in a few key areas. Americans have visa-free access to Armenia, Equatorial Guinea, Palau, the Marshall Islands, and the Central African Republic, while Canadians have visa-free access to Bolivia, Venezuela, and Gambia.

Don’t Own These Passports…

We alluded earlier to the fact that a passport can also be a traveler’s biggest liability.

Here are some of the countries that you would likely not want to have a passport from:

Global Passport RankCountryNumber of Countries (Visa-Free)
#89 (tie)Sri Lanka36
#89 (tie)Nepal36
#89 (tie)Iran36
#89 (tie)Yemen36
#89 (tie)Sudan36
#90Bangladesh35
#91Somalia33
#92Syria30
#93Iraq26
#94Pakistan25
#95Afghanistan22
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Charted: The Number of Democracies Globally

How many democracies does the world have? This visual shows the change since 1945 and the top nations becoming more (and less) democratic.

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Charted: The Number of Democracies Globally

The end of World War II in 1945 was a turning point for democracies around the world.

Before this critical turning point in geopolitics, democracies made up only a small number of the world’s countries, both legally and in practice. However, over the course of the next six decades, the number of democratic nations would more than quadruple.

Interestingly, studies have found that this trend has recently reversed as of the 2010s, with democracies and non-democracies now in a deadlock.

In this visualization, Staffan Landin uses data from V-DEM’s Electoral Democratic Index (EDI) to highlight the changing face of global politics over the past two decades and the nations that contributed the most to this change.

The Methodology

V-DEM’s EDI attempts to measure democratic development in a comprehensive way, through the contributions of 3,700 experts from countries around the world.

Instead of relying on each nation’s legally recognized system of government, the EDI analyzes the level of electoral democracy in countries on a range of indicators, including:

  • Free and fair elections
  • Rule of law
  • Alternative sources of information and association
  • Freedom of expression

Countries are assigned a score on a scale from 0 to 1, with higher scores indicating a higher level of democracy. Each is also categorized into four types of functional government, from liberal and electoral democracies to electoral and closed autocracies.

Which Countries Have Declined the Most?

The EDI found that numerous countries around the world saw declines in democracy over the past two decades. Here are the 10 countries that saw the steepest decline in EDI score since 2010:

CountryDemocracy Index (2010)Democracy Index (2022)Points Lost
🇭🇺 Hungary0.800.46-34
🇵🇱 Poland0.890.59-30
🇷🇸 Serbia0.610.34-27
🇹🇷 Türkiye0.550.28-27
🇮🇳 India0.710.44-27
🇲🇱 Mali0.510.25-26
🇹🇭 Thailand0.440.20-24
🇦🇫 Afghanistan0.380.16-22
🇧🇷 Brazil0.880.66-22
🇧🇯 Benin0.640.42-22

Central and Eastern Europe was home to three of the countries seeing the largest declines in democracy. Hungary, Poland, and Serbia lead the table, with Hungary and Serbia in particular dropping below scores of 0.5.

Some of the world’s largest countries by population also decreased significantly, including India and Brazil. Across most of the top 10, the “freedom of expression” indicator was hit particularly hard, with notable increases in media censorship to be found in Afghanistan and Brazil.

Countries Becoming More Democratic

Here are the 10 countries that saw the largest increase in EDI score since 2010:

CountryDemocracy Index (2010)Democracy Index (2022)Points Gained
🇦🇲 Armenia0.340.74+40
🇫🇯 Fiji0.140.40+26
🇬🇲 The Gambia0.250.50+25
🇸🇨 Seychelles0.450.67+22
🇲🇬 Madagascar0.280.48+20
🇹🇳 Tunisia0.400.56+16
🇱🇰 Sri Lanka0.420.57+15
🇬🇼 Guinea-Bissau0.410.56+15
🇲🇩 Moldova0.590.74+15
🇳🇵 Nepal0.460.59+13

Armenia, Fiji, and Seychelles saw significant improvement in the autonomy of their electoral management bodies in the last 10 years. Partially as a result, both Armenia and Seychelles have seen their scores rise above 0.5.

The Gambia also saw great improvement across many election indicators, including the quality of voter registries, vote buying, and election violence. It was one of five African countries to make the top 10 most improved democracies.

With the total number of democracies and non-democracies almost tied over the past four years, it is hard to predict the political atmosphere in the future.

Want to know more about democracy in today’s world? Check out our global breakdown of each country’s democratic score in Mapped: The State of Global Democracy in 2022.
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