India has improved its passport power, climbing seven places to rank in 83rd place compared to 90th position last year, according to the latest results from the Henley Passport Index.

The Henley Passport Index ranks all the world’s passports according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa. The index is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

As per the report, India now has visa-free access to 60 destinations worldwide, with Oman and Armenia being the latest destinations Indian passport holders can now visit without obtaining a visa compared to 58 visa-free access destinations in Q4 2021.

Japan and Singapore ranked first on the index with visa-free access to 192 destinations. Germany and South Korea ranked second with visa-free access to 190 destinations, followed by Finland, Italy, Luxembourg and Spain that ranked third with visa-free access to 189 destinations. At fourth spot, were Austria, Denmark, France, Netherlands and Sweden with visa-free access to 188 destinations. Ireland and Portugal ranked fifth with visa-free access to 187 destinations.

The passports of the United Stateds and the United Kingdom have regained some of their previously held power, after falling down to the eight spot in 2020 – the lowest spot held by either country in the index’s 17-year history. Both countries now are in the sixth place, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 186.

Mobility impact

The report also highlighted the widest recorded global mobility gap since the index’s inception 17 years ago.

Without taking temporary Covid-related restrictions into account, passport holders of the top two Asian nations, Japan and Singapore can now enter 192 destinations around the world visa-free – 166 more than Afghanistan, which sits at the bottom of the index.

“This deepening divide in international mobility between wealthier countries and poorer ones was bought into sharp focus late last year by the raft of punitive Omicron-related restrictions against mainly African nations that U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described as akin to “travel apartheid”,” the report said.

“This, even though overall travel freedom levels have expanded significantly over the past two decades,” it added.

According to historical data from the index, on an average, an individual can visit 57 countries in 2006 visa-free. Today, that number has risen to 107. However, overall, these is a growing disparity between countries in the global north and those in the global south, with nationals from countries such as Sweden and the US able to visit more than 180 destinations visa-free, while passport holders from Angola, Cameroon, and Laos can access about 50 destinations visa-free.

Vital instrument

Christian H Kaelin, Chairman of Henley & Partners and the inventor of the passport index concept, said that opening up migration channels is essential for post-pandemic recovery.

“Passports and visas are among the most important instruments impacting on social inequality worldwide as they determine opportunities for global mobility. The borders within which we happen to be born, and the documents we are entitled to hold, are no less arbitrary than our skin color. Wealthier states need to encourage positive inward migration to help redistribute and rebalance human and material resources worldwide,” said Kaelin.

Mehari Taddele Maru from the Migration Policy Centre, said, “the expensive requirements associated with international travel institutionalise inequality and discrimination. Covid-19 and its interplay with instability and inequality has highlighted and exacerbated the shocking disparity in international mobility between wealthy developed nations and their poorer counterparts.”

Misha Glenny, award-winning journalist and associate professor at Columbia University’s Harriman Institute, remarked the pandemic’s impact on the wider geopolitical trends in migration and mobility. Glenny in the report said, “the very presence of Omicron points to a major geopolitical failure. Had the US, Britain, and the EU diverted more money and vaccines to South Africa, the chances of such a robust new strain emerging would have been much lower. Until we share the distribution of vaccines more equitably, new mutations will have the ability to send us all back to square one.”

Andreas Brauchlin, an internationally renowned cardiology and internal medicine specialist and member of the SIP Medical Family Office Advisory Board in Switzerland, in the report stated, “an individual’s health and vaccination status are as influential on mobility as their passport’s visa-free access. Being a resident in the ‘wrong’ nation can heavily impact on your access to business, health, and medical services, and make it impossible for some to travel.”