SINGAPORE - Singapore and Japan have the most powerful passports in the world, according to the latest update of a global index.
Holders of passports from the two countries can travel without a prior visa to 192 destinations, it noted last week.
This is a change from April, when Japan outstripped Singapore in having the world's most powerful passport, with Japanese passport holders able to travel to 193 destinations without a prior visa, while Singaporean passport holders had such access to 192 destinations.
In the latest update, South Korea and Germany are tied for second place, with such access to 190 countries. The two countries had been tied for third place in April, with access to 191 destinations.
Finland, Italy, Luxembourg and Spain are in third place, with access to 189 nations; while Austria and Denmark are in fourth, with access to 188 countries.
The index, administered by Henley & Partners and updated throughout the year, ranks passport power according to how many destinations their holders can travel to without a prior visa.
The global citizenship and residence advisory firm noted that the gap in travel freedom is at its widest since the index was started in 2006, with Singaporean and Japanese passport holders able to visit 166 more destinations than Afghan citizens, who can travel to only 26 nations worldwide without acquiring a visa in advance.
Britain and the United States have been facing eroding passport strength since they held the top spot in 2014. Both remain tied in seventh place, but have a score of 185, down from 187 in the first quarter of the year.
Egypt is ranked 97th, with its citizens having access to 51 countries without a prior visa, while Kenya is 77th, with access to 72 destinations visa-free.
Meanwhile, Singapore will be allowing vaccinated travellers to travel to nine more countries and return without quarantine, the authorities announced last Saturday (Oct 9).
From Oct 19, vaccinated travellers from Singapore will be able to fly to Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Britain and the US.
The scheme will be extended to South Korea from Nov 15, it was announced last Friday.
These are in addition to Brunei and Germany, which Singapore had already approved for quarantine-free travel for those fully vaccinated.
In total, there will be 11 countries that Singapore approves for quarantine-free travel.
Based on data from the International Air Transport Association, the index showed that countries in the global north with high-ranking passports have enforced some of the most stringent inbound Covid-19 travel restrictions.
On the other hand, many countries with lower-ranking passports have relaxed their borders without seeing this openness reciprocated, it noted.
Henley & Partners chairman Christian Kaelin said: "It is pivotal that advanced nations consider revising their somewhat exclusive approach to the rest of the world, and reform and adapt to overcome the competition and not miss the opportunity to embrace the potential."
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.