Ireland has been ranked joint 14th on a list of the most prized passports in the world because it offers visa-free or visa-on-arrival travel to 187 countries, according to the latest ranking by Henley and Partners.
Japan and Singapore were joint first on its passport index, while Germany and South Korea were joint third, and Finland, Italy, Luxembourg and Spain were joint fifth.
Austria, Denmark, France, Netherlands and Sweden were also ranked ahead of Ireland in joint ninth, while Portugal was ranked joint 14th alongside Ireland.
The index found the widest recorded global mobility gap in its 17-year history, with Japan and Singapore passports giving holders access to 192 countries without a prior visa while passports of bottom-ranked Afghanistan do so for just 26 countries.
After losing ground in the previous index, the US and the UK have regained some of their strength, with both passports giving holders visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 186 countries.
The index did not take "evolving and temporary" Covid-related restrictions into account in its study, which is based on data from the International Air Transport Authority (IATA).
Henley and Partners, which advises wealthy people on citizenship and residency, said the deepening divide in international mobility between richer and poorer countries had been brought into sharp focus by the arrival of the Omicron variant of coronavirus, which was met with a raft of punitive restrictions against mainly African nations.
This was described by UN secretary-general António Guterres as “travel apartheid”.
Overall, travel freedom levels have expanded over the past 17 years. In 2006, an individual could, on average, visit 57 countries without needing to acquire a visa in advance. Today, that average stands at 107.