What Are The Best Passports In The World To Have?

As I’ve written about in the past, I’m very fortunate to have dual citizenship — I have both a US and German passport.

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The Telegraph ran a fun story yesterday about the world’s most powerful passports, based on data collected by GoEuro. They’re using two factors to rank the “power” of the passports:

  • First, the number of countries that a country’s passport will get you visa free access to
  • As a tiebreaker, the cost of acquiring a passport, including the number of hours of work required at minimum wage in that country to pay for it

With that in mind, what are the world’s five most powerful passports?

  1. Sweden
  2. Finland
  3. Germany
  4. United Kingdom
  5. USA

Interestingly all five get you visa-free access to 174 countries, so the tiebreaker is simply the cost to get a passport.

The article also talks about some interesting outliers, like the countries with the least and most expensive passports, the countries with the least and most visa free access, etc.

Passports

If you have the time, be sure to check it out. Interesting stuff!

If you could get an additional passport, from which country would it be?

I’d probably go with Australia.

(Tip of the hat to Mike)

Comments

  1. So Lucky, between US and Germany, how many countries are visa-free for you? What does US get you that Germany does not, and vice-versa?

  2. Lucky, I now have an official passport as a U.S. government employee traveling on official business (believe me, it is not as mysterious or as glamorous as it may sound!). What does the official passport get me? It was certainly a lot of headaches to acquire!

  3. What the article misses out is the cost of maintaining that passport. In this respect, it’s almost nothing for most countries but, for a US passport, it’s massive – thousands of dollars per annum in compliance costs even if you don’t owe any tax.

    So, the US may have one of the most “powerful” passports if you look solely at access to other countries visa free, but the second you bring in economics (as the article does in its tie-breaker), then a post-FATCA US will be relegated to one of the worst to own.

  4. How can you get another country passport? You have to marry some one from that country and wait for years!

  5. Last time I renewed my Swedish passport I had a 7 minute wait, five minute processing time and then two minutes when I returned a week later to pick it up.

    Yes, it was way “off season” and slowest time of the day, but that was it.

    Do count in that the passports only have a validity time of five years, and not ten as I realize that US passports have.

  6. The best passport is the official one (probably from any country) as it does not cost anything and gets you through the “special” line in almost all countries. Maybe not North Korea…

  7. I’ve enjoyed my Republic of Ireland passport now for 14 years and while it is not in the top 5, it has all the same benefits. Since my Mom was born there, I was automatically an Irish citizen which made it quite easy to apply for an Irish passport. The best part is that my children could then apply and did so. Unfortunately, my wife would have to renounce USA citizenship to acquire an Irish passport. Our son was able to complete his MBA in Switzerland as well as work there for several years without dealing with restrictive visa requirements.

    I always leave and enter the USA with the US passport to avoid the immigration hassle and besides Global Traveller is the way to go. Yet once in Europe I’m Irish and avoid the long non-EU immigration lines. It is especially helpful on a European cruise as I would dislike having to relinquish my US or Canadian passport at check-in for the duration of the cruise. If interested in acquiring an EU passport, use the Internet to review the requirements for a specific country found via the nearest consulate’s website.

  8. Odd that not all EU passports are the same – I would have expected them to have identical rights everywhere.

  9. @ Mark — In my case I got it because both of my parents are from Germany, and I was born in the US.

  10. While the US passport on paper is ranked number 1 tied with UK, Sweden Finland and Germany, I would still recon that it’s way inferior. This mainly for the fact that US citizens have to pay high entrance fees to some countries, mainly in South America whereas most EU citizens don’t. The rankings will change after July when Kazachstan ends its visa free pilot program for US, UK and German citizens.

  11. @ Zow — Hah, I’m jealous! Not an expert on that, but I believe it gets you access to diplomatic lines.

  12. I agree with NB: This rating only looks at visa requirements/price and does not take into account other factors.

  13. @Henry K,
    Where do you get this idea from ” my wife would have to renounce USA citizenship to acquire an Irish passport”?
    Both Ireland and US allow dual citizenship. I don’t understand why your wife wouldn’t be able to apply. In most EU countries you must have a “connection” to your Vaterland . You are automatically a citizen of both your parents countries until at least age 18. However, if you never lived in your home countries, your citizenship is in many countries tested at age 18.

  14. i do love my singapore passport, gets into virtually any Asian country (China especially) visa free. and travelling round SEA, there are special ASEAN lanes during immigration, instead of the loooong lines.

  15. Ben,

    I wonder which Dual Citizenship Combination would give you the most access around the world? I’m a dual citizen of Italy and Venezuela… Italy is somewhere in the top 10 and Venezuela somewhere in the 50s on the list (I think)… neither one of them alone tops German/US citizenship, but Italy/Venezuela combined give me the same access as Germany/USA PLUS visa free access to Russian and Iran…

  16. I reckon a Swedish/UK passport and a Singaporean passport would get you to most countries visa-free if one could somehow manage to get a Singaporean passport without relinquishing another…

  17. The only thing an Australian passport would get you that you don’t already have is visa free access to Australia.

  18. Another consideration not taken into account is the ability to work with certain citizenships. For that matter, the EU passports of countries that were high (Germany, UK) on the list would be the best, as they offer entry to those 170+ countries while allowing the citizen to work in all EU nations. With all other passports (except some that I don’t know), you can only work in that country where the passport was issued.

  19. The US doesn’t technically allow dual citizenship. Neither does it prohibit it. It’s all about allegiance, and it doesn’t matter how many passports you have, you can enter the US only on your US passport, and while in the US you will be treated as a US citizen, not a foreign one.

  20. Once my US citizenship comes thru and they revert the NZ passport back to 10 years I’ll be all set.
    Plenty of power in the NZ passport without the US/UK/Australia baggage.

  21. @Lucky well, you also need to take into consideration that U.S. Passport cannot visit Cuba and have restrictions visite North Korea and Iran. Holders of US passport are charged with more fee when visit countries like India, China , Russia and Brazil.
    In my opinion, Swiss passport is the best. (There are additional perks for holding non-US passport, ex. People don’t expect you rip them)

  22. To your question on a 3rd passport – I do not see much advantage in getting an Australian one. Better would be to get one from one of the more troubled parts of the world as that would get you extra benefits (as suggested above with the Venuzuela example).
    Alternatively if you really are going to hang out in danger zones, one from a well known neutral country can help, eg. for years, Irish passports were desirable for UK citizens working in some of the global trouble spots as it greatly improved your odds of survival if caught by enemies/bad guys etc..

  23. The most interesting one is probably the UN Laissez-Passer, or UNLP. Similar to official or diplomatic passorts, UN employees and officers use it during official travel, in lieu of their personal national passport.

  24. I suspect most of those top passports overlap significantly in terms of visa-free countries. It’s much better to have a dual citizenship between a top North American or European nation and a passport from a South Asian country for true global mobility.

  25. I love my Canadian Passport! And the new ones are pretty!

    If I had to choose another one, it would probably be from a European country.

  26. I love how my wife, who has a Korean passport, can travel with me pretty much anywhere without additional visa requirements 99% of the time. For instance, we use e-channel to enter Hong Kong (besides HK/Macau residents, only holders of German, Korean, and Singaporean passports can use it). In fact, she became eligible for Global Entry even before I did (I have a German passport, btw),

  27. This article is missing one huge factor in determining the value of passports, and that’s where your passport allows you to work. The US passport is very limiting in that way as it’s very difficult for a US citizen to work abroad w/o a company sponsoring your visa. For this reason, I would take the UK passport over my US passport in a heartbeat as that would allow me to live and work in any of the commonwealth countries as well as the EU.

  28. the best passport in the world is Singapore.

    They do not tax global income unlike the US

    No one actively hates them ( unlike US, EU, Australia etc)

    It’s a serious well run country unlike Grenada etc we here you can also buy a passport

    World class health care is very inexpensive

  29. @Marcus
    I wouldn’t say that. Apartments in Singapore / Hong Kong are too expensive and too small, basically feels like living in prison. US and Europe, however, have cheaper and larger living space.

  30. Beside my german passport, I would take a chinese passport.
    One for the “communist” world and one for the capitalist world 🙂

    Unfortunately (for my wife), it is not possible for chinese people to have two passports…

  31. @Lucky, thanks, I’ll try the Official Passport and report back as to what it is like to go through the diplomatic lines. It was issued at no cost to me, though I did need to pay for the photos myself. And the headaches and hassles of dealing with bureaucracy…priceless.

  32. @Thomas_888,

    Actually it’s possible for Chinese to have two passports in real life… I know what the law says and the consulate do cancel old Chinese passport after you obtain a new citizenship, but there’s a loophole… If you do it right, it’s possible to get ur Chinese passport back 🙂

  33. Living somewhere and having a passport are two different things. If you live in Monaco with a US passport you will be taxed on global income. If you live in Monaco with a Sinagpore passport you will pay no taxes what so ever

  34. @NB @Carlos you don’t even have to be a citizen to join in FATCA fun. I lived in the U.S. as a student and on and H1-B and every year my Australian and UK banks threaten to close my accounts unless I explain why I still have a U.S. social security number and EarthClassMail address.

    I’d like a swiss passport, just because it looks to be one of the most stylish, see also the Norwegian one.

  35. @Jason: I guess, if the Chinese Consulate allready took your passport it is too Late for that loophole 🙂 ??
    If not, I would Love to hear the trick!!

  36. My VERY rich friend from an unmentionable African country can’t travel about freely without a great deal more of a headache than lowly me. #proudTobeanAmerican

  37. The original data is way off with their Scandinavian data.
    For example, Sweden has no minimum wage and the average wage is 170kr an hour ($20).
    If it had a minimum, it would probably be $12-$15 = 10 pounds.
    Similarly, Finland (and Denmark, Norway).
    This makes the other top five look a lot better!

  38. Surely he knows for a million bucks he can buy a Malta passport that is an EU passport giving full residency and rights of EU citizens

  39. The Telegraph and GoEuro are obviously the height of knowledge…with multiple citizenship myself, one of which is Chilean (the others US, Icelandic, and Spanish), the Chilen passport grants visa-free access to 149 countries and territories, which should place it on the list you provide (according to IATA, not a “news” source).

    As well,”currently, the passports of Chile and South Korea are worldwide the only ones to provide visa-free access to all G8 countries” (IATA).

    Let’s not go FOX News on here…

  40. Henley & Partners, all you want to know about countries that sell passports or resident permits
    https://www.henleyglobal.com/

    Google “Henley & Partners Visa Restrictions Index” and you will find a list of all the worlds passports ranked by how many countries they have visa free access to.

  41. @ lucky –

    You asked “If you could get an additional passport, from which country would it be?”

    Easiest answer ever! The Vatican’s passport…because that guy can go ANYWHERE!

  42. Reporting back on the use of the Official United States Passport. Yes, it did allow me to go through the diplomatic line, which was no waiting whatsoever. Agent asked me what kind of work I did, and nodded his head, and after a quick scan of my passport, I was on my way. Of course, I can only use it for official US government travel. In fact, I need to return it to the Federal agency’s central office, where they hold it until I need it for my next official travel. Oh well.

  43. Have UK n Kiwi..
    UK one allows you to work n live in EU members state.
    However, having UK passport does NOT mean you can work or settle freely and indefinitely in commomwealth countries like NZ n Aussie.

    Has anyone seen that so called “World Passport”?

    Regards

    Leon

  44. In my opinion, the best passports in the world are the New Zealand and the Singapore passports.

    Forget about European passports. The future of the EU is uncertain and there is too much potential for political strife in certain European countries. Europe is dead, Asia is resurgent. Forget about the American passport. Too many reciprocity fees to deal with, too much hostility towards Americans in certain parts of the world. Forget about the Australian passport, it isn’t even that high on the list and Australians don’t exactly have the best reputation either.

    Enter the NZ passport. Fantastic visa-free access to most of the world and most importantly: A wide range of working holiday visas to choose from, in pretty much any country in Europe, North America and SE + East Asia. It’s also a safe travel document because most people generally have a positive opinion of NZ.

    However, the Singapore passport is in an entirely different league altogether. My colleague holds one and I did a fair bit of research on it – and just how many passports allow you access to: All BRICS nations (with the exception of Russia, but he told me Singapore citizens will have visa-free access to that part of the world by 2016), every country in Europe, North & South America, and the Carribean, every country in South-East Asia, even NORTH Korea, and random African countries that only grant visa-free access to a handful of nationals? Throw in the fact that most people are oblivious to Singapore’s existence and you get a sturdy and a safe travel document. Singapore isn’t too shabby a place to live either, provided you have the money. I had a better time living in a lush condo with a pool in sings than I ever did back home in england.

    So yeah, if I could choose, I’d get both passports.

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