The United Arab Emirates (UAE) passport has secured its position as the strongest in the region, climbing three places in the global rankings. According to the latest Henley Passport Index

released on Tuesday, UAE passport holders can now enjoy visa-free entry to 179 countries, compared to 178 countries last year and 176 in July 2022.

In the past decade, the UAE passport has witnessed an impressive transformation, adding 107 destinations to its visa-free score since 2013. This remarkable progress has resulted in a significant leap of 44 places in the global ranking, elevating it to the 12th most powerful passport worldwide. This achievement is nearly twice the advancement of the next biggest climber, Colombia, which rose 28 places in the ranking to occupy the 37th spot.

Dr. Christian H. Kaelin, chairman of Henley & Partners and the inventor of the passport index, praised the UAE's exceptional performance and growth in travel freedom. The index relies on official data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Among GCC countries, Qatar holds the second strongest passport, ranking 52nd globally. Following closely are Kuwait (54), Bahrain (59), Oman (60), and Saudi Arabia (61).

GCC countries, including the UAE, have demonstrated an above-average trend towards increased openness over recent years. The UAE's openness score surged from 58 to 80 since 2018, while Oman's score escalated from 71 to 106 during the same period.

Henley & Partners mentioned that the UAE has been the most significant beneficiary in terms of enhanced travel freedom in the GCC region. Regional governments are taking steps to improve visa schemes, introduce reforms, and launch new initiatives to enhance the supply side of travel facilitation.

Henley & Partners also cited Dr. Robert Mogielnicki, a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, who highlighted the potential impact of a Schengen-style visa to facilitate seamless travel between GCC countries. Such a move would necessitate greater harmonization of visa regulations across the region, potentially boosting the openness rankings of several GCC countries and garnering global attention for the entire region.

On a global scale, Singapore now holds the title of the most powerful passport, granting its citizens visa-free access to 192 out of 227 travel destinations worldwide. Japan, which held the top spot for five consecutive years, fell to third place. Germany, Italy, and Spain share the second position, offering visa-free access to 190 destinations, while Japan, Austria, Finland, France, Luxembourg, South Korea, and Sweden jointly hold third place, granting access to 189 destinations without prior visas. Photo by Swapnil1101, Wikimedia commons.