The New Year has found Japan as the country with the strongest passport in the world. As of January 2019, Japanese passport holders can travel to more countries than the rest of world citizens, visa-free or with either an e-visa or a visa-on-arrival.

According to Henley Passport Index, a list that ranks world passports, Japanese citizens can now travel to 190 world countries without the need to obtain a regular visa prior to their trip. The country has been in the first position of this list, since June last year, when Kosovo removed visa-free regime for Singapore. Previously Singapore and Japan shared the first place.

The latest changes in this list have been caused by several factors. Turkey recently introduced an online e-Visa service, which resulted in some interesting changes to the overall rankings. The UK and the US keep falling down in the list, with other countries gaining more visa-free/visa-on-arrival/e-visa access to the rest of the world countries.

China is one of the countries that improved their positions, going up from the 85th position in 2017, to the 69th in 2018. South Korea improved its position as well, after reaching a visa-on-arrival agreement with India, now sharing the second position alongside with Singapore.

The United Arab Emirates have been performing best, among the Middle Eastern countries. The country is listed 22th in the list, with its citizens being able to visit 164 countries without a regular visa.

The inventor of the Passport Index concept Dr. Christian H. Kälin, commented the latest rankings asserting that despite rising isolationist sentiment in some parts of the world, many countries remain committed to collaboration.

“South Korea and the United Arab Emirates’ recent ascent in the rankings are further examples of what happens when countries take a proactive foreign affairs approach, an attitude which significantly benefits their citizens as well as the international community,” Dr. Kälin said, the press release notes.

Further comparing how much world countries have changed their policies regarding traveling, the press release also highlights that in 2006, a citizen, on average, could travel to 58 destinations without needing a visa from the host nation. By 2018, this number had nearly doubled to 107.

The countries performing worst in the list are Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

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