German citizens still possess the world's most powerful passport, according to new research, with Australia gaining some ground being able to visit one more country visa-free than in 2016.
The ranking by Henley & Partners, a citizenship and planning firm, takes into account how many countries can be visited without applying for a visa. German passport holders can travel to 176 out of a possible 218, while Britons can visit 173.
The UK topped the 2015 rankings, alongside Germany, but ceded that spot after several countries relaxed visa restrictions to the latter. It was leapfrogged by Sweden last year and now lags behind Denmark, Finland, Italy, Spain and the US.
Austria, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway and Singapore share eighth place with the UK.
Australia sits in equal 23rd place with South Korea, climbing one spot from last year thanks to Belarus introducing visa-free entry for Australians, along with several other countries, in February.
Syria, Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan prop up the table, each with visa-free access to fewer than 30 countries.
"We have witnessed several major events recently that are likely to have an impact on global mobility – including Brexit and the election of US President Donald Trump," said Dr Christian H. Kälin, chairman of Henley & Partners. "Both can be interpreted as steps toward restricting movement and creating barriers to entry. This trend towards curbing travel freedom is already apparent in the shift in rankings on this year's Visa Restrictions Index."
The biggest mover was Peru, which climbed 15 places. The Marshall Islands, the Solomon Islands, Micronesia, Kiribati and Tuvalu all jumped at least nine places. It follows big gains made in 2016 by Tonga (+16 spots), Palau (+20), Colombia (+25) and Timor-Leste (+33).
Several countries - in addition to the UK - lost ground, including Brazil, China, India, South Africa, Russia and Ghana.
"There is still huge disparity in the levels of travel freedom between countries, despite the world becoming seemingly more mobile and interdependent," added Dr Kälin. "Generally, visa requirements are a reflection of a country's relationship with others, and take into account diplomatic relationships between countries, reciprocal visa arrangements, security risks, and the dangers of visa and immigration regulation violations."
The world's 25 most powerful passports
1. Germany, 176 countries can be visited without a visa
2. Sweden, 175
= 3. Denmark, Finland, Italy, Spain, United States, 174
= 8. Austria, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, United Kingdom, 173
= 16. Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, 172
= 19. Canada, Greece, Portugal, Switzerland, 171
= 23. Australia, South Korea, 170
25. Iceland, 169
The Telegraph, London
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