Irish passport ranked joint sixth most powerful globally

Henley Passport Index rates passports according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa

The Irish passport has dropped one place to joint sixth in an annual ranking of the world’s most powerful passports.

The Henley Passport Index, which is based on data from the International Air Transport Association (Iata), ranks passports according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa.

The Irish passport has fluctuated between joint fifth and sixth places for the past seven years. It held second place between 2006 and 2009. This year’s index said it entitles holders to visa-free access to 187 destinations.

Japan holds the number one spot on the index with a record-high visa-free or visa-on-arrival score of 193, while Singapore and South Korea are in joint second place, with a score of 192.


However, international passenger demand in the Asia-Pacific region has reached only 17 per cent of pre-Covid levels, according to Iata’s latest statistics, having hovered below 10 per cent for most of the past two years.

This figure is far behind the global trend where markets in Europe and North America have recovered to about 60 per cent of pre-crisis travel mobility levels.

Iata chief economist Marie Owens Thomsen said passenger numbers should reach 83 per cent of pre-pandemic levels in 2022.

“By next year, many markets should see traffic reach or exceed pre-pandemic levels, while we expect this to be the case for the industry as a whole in 2024,” she said.

EU member states dominate the rest of the top 10 spots, with Germany and Spain in joint third place with access to 190 destinations visa-free. Finland, Italy, and Luxembourg follow closely behind in joint fourth place with 189 destinations.

Denmark, Netherlands and Sweden share fifth place with their passport holders able to travel to 188 destinations worldwide without a visa. The UK joins Ireland in dropping down a place to joint sixth, while the US is in seventh place.

Afghanistan remains at the bottom of the index, with its nationals only able to access 27 destinations worldwide visa-free.

Henley said the top-ranking passports have “almost bounced back” to pre-pandemic levels in terms of access.

It said UK and US passport holders now have unrestricted access to 158 destinations around the world as opposed to just 74 and 56 destinations respectively at the height of the pandemic in 2020. Japanese passport holders enjoy unrestricted access to 161 destinations as opposed to only 76 in 2020.

Indian passport holders now have roughly the same travel freedom as they did pre-pandemic, with unrestricted access to 57 destinations around the world as opposed to just 23 destinations in 2020.

Similarly, while restricted to just 46 destinations at the height of the Omicron wave in 2021, South African passport holders now have unrestricted access to 95 destinations around the world, which is close to their pre-pandemic passport score of 105.

Russian passport holders are more cut off from the rest of the world than ever before, as sanctions, travel bans and airspace closures limit Russian citizens from accessing all but a few destinations in Asia and the Middle East. The Russian passport currently sits at 50th place on the index, with a visa-free or visa-free on arrival score of 119.

However, due to airspace closures in EU member states, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, the US, and the UK, Russian citizens are effectively barred from travelling throughout most of the developed world.

The Ukrainian passport is currently ranked in 35th place on the index, with holders able to access 144 destinations around the world without needing a visa in advance.

Ukrainians displaced by the Russian invasion have been granted the right to live and work in the EU for up to three years under an emergency plan in response to what has become Europe’s biggest refugee crisis this century.

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter