The rand might be weak, but the South African passport has strengthened in terms of the global passport rankings, according to the Henley & Partners Visa Restrictions Index 2014. The Index is an annual global ranking of countries based on the freedom of travel enjoyed by their citizens.
“Visa requirements continue to play an important role in controlling the movement of individuals across borders,” says Andrew Taylor, Vice Chairman of Henley & Partners. “Visa policies are also an expression of the relationships between individual nations and generally reflect the relations and status of a country within the international community.”
The 2014 Index reveals that South Africa has moved up one spot in the rankings and now occupies 41st position on its own. The RSA passport now offers visa-free access to 97 countries around the globe, up three from its 2013 ranking.
At the top of the Index, Finland, Sweden and the UK have been joined by Germany and the US, with citizens of each of those countries able to travel visa-free to 174 destinations.
The US has continued its strong progress up the rankings from 7th position in 2010 to its current share of top spot.
Canada has jumped from fourth place to second with 173 countries, along with Denmark.
Strengthened by their attractive residence programs, Belgium and Portugal have the third best passports in the world (172), a position they share with France, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Spain.
Moldova was the big riser in 2014, moving up 22 places in the rankings to 46th place, adding 30 countries to its visa-free status, which now totals 89.
The Republic of Korea, a country which until 2011 featured much lower in the rankings, has risen dramatically to its current 3rd place.
Switzerland has risen to 5th position, along with New Zealand and Singapore, with a score of 170.
With 166 visa-free countries now available to its citizens, Malta has the 8th best passport in the world, moving up one position since 2013.
Cyprus has moved one place up the rankings to 14th position, adding 6 countries to the 151 its citizens could visit visa-free according to the 2013 Index.
Passport holders from Hong Kong (15th) have much better travel accessibility than their counterparts in China (83rd).
St. Kitts and Nevis (132) has moved from 49th to 24th place in five years, while Antigua and Barbuda (also 132) moved up from 31st to 24th in one year.
Chile has moved up three places to 18th position with a score of 149, while Croatia, Panama and Turkey all moved up four rankings to 22nd, 28th and 38th places respectively.
The 2014 index lists 199 countries and territories, with a nett increase of 453 visa-free additions across all those countries. A total of 25 countries showed no increase in the number of countries their passports could access visa-free, while just 8 countries experienced a decrease (Paraguay, El Salvador, Central African Republic, Algeria, Ethiopia, Libya, Syria and the Palestinian Territory).
“Citizens from developed countries have more freedom to travel compared to developing countries and countries that are suffering from political instability. The bottom four spots remain the same as in 2013, with citizens from Pakistan (32), Somalia (32), Iraq (31) and Afghanistan (28) enjoying the least freedom of travel,” says Taylor.
The Henley & Partners Visa Restrictions Index is produced in collaboration with the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which maintains the world’s largest database of travel information. The Index can be downloaded at https://www.henleyglobal.com/