May 29, 2023

Passports are not just about getting across borders; they are about having rights when visiting other countries that make the quality of someone’s life better–the right to stay for a long period of time, the right to travel to neighboring countries, the rights to healthcare, schools and to seek work.

After two years of living through a global pandemic and now with a war raging inside European borders, it’s clear that the power of certain passports has changed, possibly for decades to come.

There are several organisations which keep track of passport power around the world (The Henley Passport Index is one of them)–tracking how many countries a passport can provide access to, without needing a prior visa. A recent update to Henley’s global passport index provides ample proof that the war has radically shifted the power of Ukrainian and Russian passports.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, EU countries have radically reduced travel for Russian passport holders, blocking airspace to Russian airplanes, banned individuals from traveling and stopped processing visas and golden passport applications for Russian passport holders–as reported by Henley, “effectively condemning the Russian passport to junk status throughout much of the developed world.”

On the other hand, Ukrainian passport holders have new rights to live and work in Europe for up to 3 years, effectively raising its global ranking to a record 34th place (having climbed 26 places since 2012), with Russia now in 49th place with “a gap that is likely to increase even further in the coming months as a result of the conflict.”

Japan and Singapore currently rank joint first, with their passport holders able to access 192 destinations around the world visa-free (this does not take current Covid-19 travel restrictions into account).

Germany and South Korea are second, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 190, while Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, and Spain share 3rd place, allowing their passport holders to access 189 destinations around the world without having to acquire a visa in advance.

The U.K., which recently scrapped all existing Covid-19 travel restrictions, is now in 5th place, while the U.S. is one place behind in 6th place.

Afghanistan is at the bottom of the index with its passport holders only able to access 26 destinations without a visa.

However, whilst the current geopolitical crisis is sending shockwaves through the world, many scientists predict that it is climate change that will have the biggest impact on displacement over the next 25 years.

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