Germany tops passport index for fifth year in a row

Ireland moves up once spot to joint fifth place

Irish citizens have visa-free access to 173 countries, along with Portugal, the United States and South Korea.  Photograph: Alan Betson

Irish citizens have visa-free access to 173 countries, along with Portugal, the United States and South Korea. Photograph: Alan Betson

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Germany has retained the top spot in an annual ranking of countries according to the travel freedom that their citizens enjoy.

It is the fifth year in a row Germany has topped the 2018 Henley & Partners Passport Index, with its citizens enjoying visa-free access to 177 countries, while Ireland moves up one place from joint sixth to joint fifth.

Irish citizens have visa-free access to 173 countries, along with Portugal, the United States and South Korea.

The rankings are compiled by using data from the Air Transport Association (IATA).

A record 779,000 Irish passports were issued in 2017, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. In an annual report, the department said one in five passport applications were received from Irish citizens living in Northern Ireland and Britain.

Dr Christian H Kalin, group chairman of Henley & Partners,  said the need for visa-free access was “greater than ever”.

“Across the economic spectrum individuals want to transcend the constraints imposed on them by their country of origin and access business, financial, career and lifestyle opportunities on a global scale,” he said.

“The Henley Passport Index shows individuals where they lie on the spectrum of global mobility, revealing the strength that their passport has in relation to other passports.”

For the second year in a row, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan sit at the bottom of the index, with citizens of each able to access 30 or fewer countries without a visa.

Of the 199 countries featured on the index, 143 improved their rank over the past year and 41 countries maintained their position.

The biggest movers in this year’s index were Georgia and Ukraine, which completed the visa-liberalisation process with the EU in 2017 and gained access to 30 and 32 new countries respectively.

Of all the continents, Africa has suffered the most dramatic decline in travel freedom with African countries accounting for 19 of the 27 biggest fallers over the past decade.

1. Germany (177 countries can be visited without a visa)

2. Singapore (176)

3. Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Japan, Norway, Sweden, UK (175)

4. Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland (174)

5. Ireland, Portugal, United States, South Korea (173)

6. Canada (172)

7. Australia, Greece, New Zealand (171)

8. Czech Republic, Iceland (170)

9. Malta (169)

10. Hungary (168)

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