If you’re an avid traveler, it pays to be German. A new survey, called Visa Restrictions Index, compiled by the citizenship and immigration firm Hanley and Partners, reveals a ranking of 104 countries based on the travel freedom provided to their citizens.
Travel freedom basically refers to the number of countries they can visit without needing a visa, or where they are granted a visa upon arrival. The index is based on data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which holds the largest database of travel information.
“Visa requirements define and shape individuals’ ability to travel across borders. They also reflect strongly on each country’s relationships with others, and will take into account diplomatic relationships between the countries, reciprocal visa arrangements, security risks, and the risks of visa and immigration rules violations”, reports Henley & Partners in its press release.
According to the survey, Germany holds the strongest passports, giving its citizen visa-free access to 177 countries. The nation has occupied the index’s top spot for the past three years. Sweden came in a close second, with visa-free access to 176 countries. The United Kingdom, came in third place along with Finland, France, Italy, and Spain, with 175 countries at passport holders’ fingertips. The United States dropped from second place in 2015 to fourth place this year, where it’s tied with Belgium, Denmark, and the Netherlands, all of which offer access to 174 countries.
As for the most unfortunate passport holders, the survey ranks Afghanistan the worst in 104th place, with access to just 25 countries. Pakistan is second-worst, with travel freedom limited to 29 countries, and Iraq is third from the bottom, restricted to 30 countries.
The reports also highlights several other big developments. Countries like Tonga, Palau and Colombia made major strides in the rankings. What’s more, Portugal now has the world’s sixth-most powerful passports. This is a positive outcome of the “golden visa” initiative in 2012 that allows investors from outside the European Union to buy their way into residency.