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Indian passport becomes 83rd most powerful globally in 2022, up from 90th rank

The Henley Passport Index now places India at the 83rd position globally, after Oman and Armenia were added to the list of visa-free destinations. Indian passport holders now have visa-free access to 60 nations.

January 12, 2022 / 04:33 PM IST
Representative Image.

Representative Image.

The power of the Indian passport has improved, with the country climbing seven places to rank in 83rd place in the Henley Passport Index, up from the 90th position in previous year's rankings.

The Henley Global Mobility Report 2022 Q1, published quarterly by global immigration consultant firm Henley & Partners, shows that the Indian passport now has visa-free access to 60 destinations worldwide.

The index ranks all the world’s passports according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa and is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Oman and Armenia are the latest destinations that Indian passport holders can visit without obtaining a visa compared to 58 visa-free access destinations in the fourth quarter of 2021. Visa-free access refers to the number of countries Indian passport holders can visit without a visa or get visa-on-arrival.

But despite the latest rise, India has only improved its visa-free score by just seven in the last 10 years. It was 53 in 2011. India is currently with a number of countries to expand the coverage of visa-free travel, according to the Ministry of External Affairs.

However, India's rank in the Henley Passport Index may soon go up further given the government's plans to quickly introduce a new generation of e-passports. E-passports add a layer of security to traditional non‑electronic passports by embedding an electronic chip in the passport booklet. It stores the biographical information visible on page 2 of the passport as well as a digital security feature. This digital security feature is a 'digital signature' unique to each country and can be verified using their respective certificates.

More than 12.8 million passports were issued in 2019 by the Passport Issuing Authorities (PIA) in India and abroad, making India the largest passport issuer globally after China and the United States. India has already issued 20,000 official and diplomatic e-passports on a trial basis with an electronic microprocessor chip embedded in them.

The latest results from the Henley Passport Index show record-breaking levels of travel freedom for top-ranking nations Japan and Singapore, but also the widest recorded global mobility gap since the index’s inception 17 years ago.

Germany and South Korea hold onto joint 2nd spot on the latest ranking, with passport holders able to access 190 destinations visa-free, while Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, and Spain share 3rd place, with a score of 189.

The US and the UK passports have regained some of their previous strength after falling all the way to 8th place in 2020 – the lowest spot held by either country in the index’s 17-year history. Both countries now sit in 6th place, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 186.

The index shows that without taking temporary Covid-related restrictions into account, passport holders of the top nations - Japan and Singapore can now enter 192 destinations around the world visa-free. This is 166 more than Afghanistan, which sits at the bottom of the index.

Global mobility gap

"This deepening divide in international mobility between wealthier countries and poorer ones was bought into sharp focus late last year by the raft of punitive Omicron-related restrictions against mainly African nations that U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described as akin to 'travel apartheid'," the report said.

This, even though overall travel freedom levels have expanded significantly over the past two decades. According to historical data from the Henley Passport Index, an individual could, on average, visit 57 countries in 2006 visa-free.

Now, that number has risen to 107, but this overall increase masks a growing disparity between countries in the global north and those in the global south, with nationals from countries such as Sweden and the US able to visit more than 180 destinations visa-free, while passport holders from Angola, Cameroon, and Laos can only enter about 50.

Subhayan Chakraborty
Subhayan Chakraborty has been regularly reporting on international trade, diplomacy and foreign policy, for the past 6 years. He has also extensively covered evolving industry and government issues. He was earlier with Business Standard newspaper.