World's most powerful passports 2018: Japan takes number one spot while Australia slips in rankings

Japan has knocked Singapore off top spot on the list of the world's most powerful passport, according to new research, while Australia has slipped to equal 22nd.

The ranking by Henley & Partners, a citizenship and planning firm, takes into account how many countries can be visited without applying for a visa. Japanese citizens can travel to a record 190 out of a possible 218, having recently gained visa-free access to Myanmar, while Singaporeans can visit 189 and Britons 186. Australia's can visit 183 countries visa-free.

Japan and Singapore had previously been neck and neck - both on 189 - following a visa-exemption from Uzbekistan, with Germany in third. Iran and Afghanistan continue to hold the bottom spot, with only 30 destinations accessible visa-free to their citizens.

Neither Australia, with 183, or the UK or US, both with 186 countries, have gained access to any new jurisdictions since the start of the year, while visa-free travel among Asian countries has soared thanks to up to 40 visa-waiver agreements signed by governments in 2018.

"It seems increasingly unlikely that the US and the UK will regain the number one spot they jointly held in 2015," the report said.

The UAE, in 21rd, is the fastest climber, ascending 38 places since 2008 after securing more visa exemptions for its citizens in 2018 than any other country in the world.

The UK topped the 2015 rankings, alongside Germany, but ceded that spot after several countries relaxed travel restrictions to the latter. It was leapfrogged by Sweden in 2016, and then Denmark, Finland, Italy and Spain in 2017, but now sits in 11th alongside Norway, Austria, Luxembourg, the US, Netherlands and Portugal.

2017 saw Belarus offer British citizens visa-free entry, Kazakhstan and Vietnam renew their visa-free arrangements with the UK, and Ethiopia offer a new e-visa option, helping boost the UK's overall position.

Afghanistan and Iraq prop up the table. Their passport holders can only enter 30 countries without a visa, just behind Syria and Somalia, who each have just 32 accessible countries on their list.

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Overall, 143 countries saw the power of their passport improve over the course of 2017, while seven countries saw visa-free access reduced.

Among the biggest climbers for the first quarter of 2018 were Georgia (111 visa-free countries, up from 99), Ukraine (128, up from 114), China (70, up from 60), and Indonesia (71, up from 63).

"As the world economy has become increasingly globalised, the need for greater visa-free access has grown steadily," said the report. "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."

The world's most powerful passports 2018

1.  Japan 190
2.  Singapore 189
3.  Germany 188
     France 188
     South Korea 188
6.  Denmark 187
     Finland 187
     Italy 187
     Sweden 187
     Spain 187
11. Norway 186
     UK 186
     Austria 186
     Luxembourg 186
     Netherlands 186
     Portugal 186
     United States 186
18. Belgium 185
      Switzerland 185
      Ireland 185
      Canada 185
22. Australia 183
      Greece 183
      Malta 183

The Telegraph, London

See also: Australian travellers will soon need visas to visit Europe

See also: The most surprising countries Aussies can visit without visas

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