NEW DELHI: Indians now have visa-free access to as many countries they had pre-Covid. The Henley Passport Index — that ranks the “power” of a passport based on the number of countries allowing holders of the same visa-free access — for January-March 2022 lists India at number 87 with access to about 60 countries without a visa.
“Indian passport holders now have roughly the same travel freedom as they did pre-pandemic, with unrestricted access to 57 destinations around the world (as opposed just 23 destinations in 2020),” Henley and Partners said in a statement.
The statement quotes VFS Global, a visa processing provider, saying visa application volumes between January and May this year have grown by more than 100% compared to the same period last year. “With the opening of international borders, easing of travel restrictions, and the resumption of regular international flights, the industry is currently witnessing peak ‘revenge travel’. For example, in India, visa applications are averaging more than 20,000 per day as we head into the July–August holiday season. These numbers include travellers visiting Canada, Europe, and the UK, along with other popular destinations. We are also expecting an extended summer travel season this year with planned international trips stretching right through to September,” VFS Global says.
Henley statement says “recent watershed moments” like the pandemic and the war in Europe have brought “residence and citizenship by investment programmes centre stage as affluent individuals, globally minded investors, and entrepreneurs seek domicile diversification solutions. Henley & Partners CEO Juerg Steffen says: “Throughout the chaos of the pandemic, the benefits of a second or even third passport were self-evident for investors seeking security and peace of mind. Governments have also acknowledged the merits that investment migration offers citizens of host countries if foreign direct investment funds are adequately allocated to much-needed social and economic development initiatives. We have seen an increase of 55% in enquiries compared to the previous quarter, which was itself record-breaking. The top four nationalities currently driving demand are Russians, Indians, Americans, and Brits, and for the first time ever, Ukrainians are in the top 10 globally.”
The index, that includes 199 different passports and 227 different travel destinations, is updated quarterly. The five most power passports this years and number of places where holders of the same have unrestricted access to are — Japan (193 destinations); Singapore and South Korea (192 each); Germany and Spain (190 each); Finland, Italy and Luxembourg (189 each) and Austria, Denmark, Netherlands and Sweden (188 each). UK is the sixth most powerful passport (187 countries) along with France. US is at number seven (186 countries) along with Switzerland and New Zealand. Canada and Australia are at number 8 (185 countries each).
The least powerful passport is of Afghanistan at 112 rank with visa-free access to only 27 countries. Iraq (at 111 rank with visa-free access to 29 destinations); Syria (110 rank, 30 destinations); Pakistan (109 rank, 32 destinations); Yemen (108 rank and 34 destinations); Somalia (107 rank and 35 destinations); 106. Nepal and Palestinian territory ( 106 rank and 38 destinations each) and North Korea (105 rank and 40 destinations) are among the weakest passports of the world.
Sanctions on Russia post its war on Ukraine has seen the country’s passport drop to 50th rank with unrestricted access to 119 destinations. “Russian passport holders are more cut off from the rest of the world than ever before, as sanctions, travel bans, and airspace closures limit Russian citizens from accessing all but a few destinations in Asia and the Middle East…. due to airspace closures in EU member nations, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, the US, and the UK, Russian citizens are effectively barred from traveling throughout most of the developed world, with the marked exceptions of Istanbul and Dubai, which have become focal points,” Henley statement said. The Ukrainian passport is currently ranked in 35th place on the index, with holders able to access 144 destinations around the world without needing a visa in advance.