The UAE passport remains the strongest in the region, with its international ranking improving by three positions. It is now the 12th most powerful passport globally.

According to the latest Henley Passport Index released late on Tuesday, UAE passport holders can go to 179 countries without obtaining a visa before flights — as compared to 178 countries at the end of last year and 176 in July 2022.

“The UAE has added an impressive 107 destinations to its visa-free score since 2013, resulting in a massive leap of 44 places in the ranking over the past 10 years from 56th to 12th position. This is almost double the next biggest climber, Colombia, which has enjoyed a jump of 28 places in the ranking to sit in 37th spot,” said Dr Christian H. Kaelin, chairman of Henley & Partners and the inventor of the passport index.

The latest ranking by Henley and Partners is based on official data from the International Air Transport Association (Iata).

Ranked 52nd globally, Qatar is the second strongest passport in the GCC region, followed by Kuwait (54), Bahrain (59), Oman (60) and Saudi Arabia (61).

Schengen-style GCC visa

“Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have generally displayed higher-than-average shifts towards increased openness, in particular, the UAE’s openness score increased from 58 to 80 since 2018 and Oman’s leapt from 71 to 106 over the same period,” said Henley & Partners.

Quoting Dr Robert Mogielnicki, a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, it said only the UAE has enjoyed a significant increase in its own travel freedom.

“Regional governments can impact the supply side of the development equation by adjusting visa schemes, enacting reforms, and launching new initiatives. However, a greater supply of such offerings does not necessarily guarantee reciprocity or an immediate boost in global demand from individuals and firms. A Schengen-style visa to facilitate smoother travel between GCC countries is reportedly in the works. Such a step would require greater harmonisation of region-wide visa regulations, potentially boosting the openness rankings of several GCC countries and placing the entire region more firmly in the global spotlight,” he said.

Singapore takes over Japan

Globally, Japan was dethroned from the top spot for the first time in five years to third place.

Singapore has been ranked the most powerful passport in the world, with its citizens able to visit 192 travel destinations out of 227 around the world visa-free.

Germany, Italy, and Spain all move up into 2nd place with visa-free access to 190 destinations, and Japanese passport holders join those of six other nations — Austria, Finland, France, Luxembourg, South Korea, and Sweden — in 3rd place with access to189 destinations without a prior visa.

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