UK Passport Ranks 4th in 2024 World’s Strongest Passport Index

| January 11, 2024
UK Passport Ranks 4th In 2024 World's Strongest Passport Index

The United Kingdom (UK) passport has greater travel freedom than before, climbing up two ranks on the 2024 Henly Passport Index

Henley & Partners, the leading global residence advisory and citizenship by investment firm, releases the Henley Passport Index quarterly.

Throughout history, the general trend has been toward greater travel freedom. 

The global mobility gap between the top and bottom of the index has reached an all-time high.

“The average number of destinations travelers are able to access visa-free has nearly doubled from 58 in 2006 to 111 in 2024,” said Dr. Christian H. Kaelin, Chairman of Henley & Partners, via a press release

He added, “However, as we enter the new year, the top-ranked countries are now able to travel to a staggering 166 more destinations visa-free than Afghanistan, which sits at the bottom of the ranking with access to just 28 countries without a visa.”

How the Henley Passport Index is put together

For 19 years, the Henley Passport Index has ranked passports based on the number of visa-free travel destinations available to their holders.

To do this, Henley & Partners draws on exclusive and official data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Each country earns a point for every destination they can visit without obtaining a visa or a government-approved e-visa before departure. 

This includes cases where travelers may obtain a visa upon arrival, a visitor’s permit, or an electronic travel authorization when entering their destination.

However, no points are awarded for destinations that require a visa or where the passport holder must obtain an e-visa before departure. 

UK passport climbs to 4th place; European nations dominate top ten

British passport holders now have visa-free access to 191 destinations compared to only 188 a year ago. It jumped from 6th in 2022 to 4th in 2023 going into 2024. 

Many other European countries leaped up through the rankings.

France, Germany, Italy, and Spain now share the top spot with Singapore and Japan. These countries have the most powerful passports in the world. 

The citizens of the four European Union (EU) member states can visit 194 out of 227 destinations visa-free. The two Asian nations have dominated first place on the Henley Passport Index for the past five years. 

South Korea has achieved visa-free travel to 193 destinations, joining Finland and Sweden in second place.

Another four EU nations, Austria, Denmark, Ireland, and the Netherlands, share third place with visa-free access to 192 countries.

Belgium, Luxembourg, Norway, and Portugal join the UK in fourth place.

Almost the remaining top 10 positions are held by European nations, with Greece, Malta, and Switzerland in 5th place. 

Australia and New Zealand passports ascended in the rankings, securing 6th place with 189 destinations accessible without a visa. Czechia and Poland join them in sixth, too. 

With Canada and Hungary, the United States maintains 7th place. These countries have access to 188 destinations without needing a prior visa.

Completing the top ten are Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Iceland. 

Traveler traffic set to increase moving forward

According to Frederic Leger, IATA’s Senior Vice President of Commercial Products and Services, passenger traffic is set to double by 2040. 

This is why optimizing and streamlining airport processes, such as automating checking and verifying travel documents, will continue moving forward. 

Travelers may also soon be traveling without passports. Countries turn to biometric systems, such as facial scans and fingerprints, for faster immigration control.

The British government plans to implement facial recognition technology at its borders, following examples set by Dubai and Australia.

The EU will also roll out its biometric border control Entry/Exit System (EES) in October 2024.

More countries using electronic travel permits

Many countries are also moving to eliminate the need for visas and using digital travel permits to streamline the immigration process without sacrificing security. 

The UK already launched its new Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA). It is mandatory for travelers who do not need a visa to visit England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. 

The UK ETA has been available only to Qatari travelers starting November 2023. 

In February 2024, the UK ETA system will open to serve citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council. These are the countries of BahrainKuwaitOmanSaudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). 

Another Arab country, Jordan, whose citizens used to require a visa before traveling to the UK, will also be able to use the new ETA system starting in February.   

By 2024, the UK government expects all non-visa foreigners to obtain a valid ETA before traveling to the UK. 

The EU will also implement an electronic document system similar to the UK ETA, the  European Information and Travel Authorization System (ETIAS), for non-visa nationals entering the Schengen Zone by mid-2025.

Kenya, on the other hand, has scrapped visas altogether. It will issue electronic travel authorizations to all travelers.