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An Israeli colleague and I were debating the merits of his passport, and that he can't travel to many countries.

So with the proviso that a passport is not 'useful' if you require a visa to get into another country, which is the LEAST useful passport (ie the one that requires visas for the most countries)?

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How about North Korea, Afganistan, Somalia, Sudan, Mauritania –  Karlson Feb 13 at 2:11
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visahq.com/citizens has all the info but no sorting. –  Loren Pechtel Feb 13 at 2:37
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You can acquire a passport from the Republic of Texas (yes, that is a real thing...) which is not actually recognized by any nation of the world other than the Republic of Texas themselves. Not sure if that counts since it is technically not a real country, but it's definitely my best bet for "least useful passport". –  Dave Feb 13 at 15:33
    
@hippietrail other factoid questions are "useful" in the sense that someone may use the information in the answer to do something, for example go to this unusual place. I don't see someone choosing to acquire a un-useful passport. I haven't close-voted this question yet, though. –  Andrew Grimm Feb 13 at 22:20
    
@AndrewGrimm: You've only listed one property of one type of factoid question. Not all factoid questions have that property. I think the one thing they have in common is "many travellers are curious about this". We've never debated whether we should have such questions but the defacto consensus so far has been to accept them. –  hippietrail Feb 14 at 7:59

6 Answers 6

EDIT: I've decided to rewrite the answer as per suggestions in the comments.

The candidates would be:

Among fully recognized UN members

South Sudan - due to being the youngest country in the world. It is unlikely that many visa-free agreements have been made with South Sudan over the past 3 years

Afghanistan - due to only having access to 28 countries of the world visa-free or with visa on arrival

Among partially recognized UN members

Israel - due to its passport holders being banned from visiting 16 Muslim countries. This would it make it impossible for Israeli citizens to visit every country in the world, unless they acquire a second citizenship.

Among geopolitical entities that are not members of the UN

Transnistria/Nagorno-Karabakh - their passports can only be used to travel to Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Somaliland - while not recognized by any other state in the world, its passports can be used to travel to 8 countries (all of them requiring a visa).

Among other entities such as micronations

Pretty much every passport issued by one of these entities is useless for travel, though the World Passport might have limited recognition.

For reasons other than visa-free status

North Korea requires an exit visa from its citizens. Failing to obtain such a visa would make international travel completely impossible.

DR Congo is one the poorest countries in the world. While visa-free travel is possible to several countries, it is unlikely that a passport-holder would have the means to do so.

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I think that the question is a bit more generic then the Israeli passport vs. New Zealand one. –  Karlson Feb 13 at 3:32
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I would argue that the South Sudanese passport is the worst amongst UN members. Otherwise one might also include passports issued by Sealand, Transnistria, World Service Authority, and other entities od dubious legitimacy. –  JonathanReez Feb 13 at 6:28
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Passport holders from the DRC definitely have the means to travel, the passport costs about 200 USD! Most people in the country don't have one (or any form of ID) obviously… I suspect that many of the Congolese citizens who do have passports live outside the country. –  Relaxed Feb 13 at 7:22
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Well, I don't want to make an argument, but your comment about people from the Congo being too poor to travel is off on a totally different direction. I'm sure Congo is not the only country where that's an issue. And that opens a Pandora's box of possible factors. The U.S. could suddenly rank very low because there are only two foreign countries that can be reached by car; island nations would have zero. Tuvalu might suddenly fall to the bottom because they have no regularly-scheduled commercial flights with major airlines. What about countries where the culture dismisses foreign travel as ... –  Mark Daniel Johansen Feb 13 at 13:35
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... unnecessary or undesirable? At that point the question becomes virtually unanswerable, as it is impossible to come up with a definitive list of relevant factors or how they should be weighed against each other. –  Mark Daniel Johansen Feb 13 at 13:36

After several bits of research over lunch and some arguments, we found the following article in the International Business Times:

The key paragraph would be:

On the flipside, passport holders of Kosovo (38), Lebanon (38), Sri Lanka (38), Sudan (38), Nepal (37), Eritrea (36), Palestinian Territory (36), Pakistan (32), Somalia (32) and Iraq (31) have the least visa-free travel options among all countries and territories surveyed, save those whose passports were issued in Kabul, Afghanistan. Afghani passport holders can only visit 13 percent of the world, or just 28 countries, free of formalities.

indicating that visa-wise, it's Afghanistan who has the worst passport.

Note: The article was written after South Sudan formed, so might or might not be up to date, if more visa agreements have been formed with other countries, as Johnathan suggested in his answer.

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I am surprised that the DRC did not make it to the list. Transit is often restricted, getting visas is usually not easy either, the passport is horribly expensive and valid only 2 years. It's certainly not very attractive. –  Relaxed Feb 13 at 6:42
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Do we trust the International Business Times on this, given that their knowledge of international business doesn't extend to the fact that the Afghani is the currency of Afghanistan? The people are Afghans. –  David Richerby Feb 13 at 21:13
    
Now available as an infographic: magazine.good.is/infographics/how-powerful-is-your-passport . –  choster Aug 15 at 14:39
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@pnuts still not sold on the answers :/ –  Mark Mayo Nov 6 at 22:28

A passport is a document attesting to both the holder's identity and nationality. Since the requirements for identification (name, photograph, birthdate, signature, etc.) have been internationally standardized for some time, I would say the usefulness of the passport will be governed by the usefulness of holding a particular nationality. Your passport will only be accepted by as valid by countries which recognize your government. Therefore, the fewer countries your state is recognized by, the less useful your passport is.

The answer cannot therefore be Taiwan or Israel, as a holder of one of their passports can still enter many other countries. I would venture to say the least useful passport is that of Somaliland. Somaliland is a de facto independent country; while it is nominally part of Somalia, it has functioned as a separate state for two decades. However, no other country recognizes it, and no other country will accept a Somalilan passport. A similar situation exists for several post-Soviet states which are only recognized by certain other post-Soviet states and/or by Russia, and others like Western Sahara and Northern Cyprus.

Among states with wider recognition, I would rank the passports least useful to a traveler are those for which it is most difficult to obtain an exit visa. After all, even if another country will give you or waive an entry visa, it does you no good if you cannot get out. I can think of no more extreme case than the DPRK (North Korea), whose government is recognized by nearly every other UN member, but from which it is almost impossible to leave if not on official state business. The many crossing the border into China are not exactly collecting entry stamps at the airport.

I don't think the other "freedom of movement" rankings are relevant to this specific question, as they are rankings of the number of countries where visa-free travel is possible. In relative terms, a passport holder who can never even apply for a visa is in a far worse situation than someone who must apply for one (and in some cases, visas are available upon arrival for a nominal fee, not much more effort than visa-free travel), hence why a North Korean passport is less useful than an Iraqi or Afghan passport.

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Isn't their own government the main problem for North Koreans? That's a completely different problem. –  Relaxed Feb 13 at 6:36
    
We wondered about North Korea but they do have passports, and the question was about visas, not one's own government. –  Mark Mayo Feb 13 at 8:41
    
@Annoyed along those lines, there's lots of variations on this question I'd love to ask, but they're more appropriate for Expats.SE (: –  todofixthis Feb 13 at 20:56
    
@MarkMayo DPRK probably has internal and external passports like most of the former Soviet Bloc states. –  Karlson Feb 18 at 16:19

By far it is the Northern Cyprus passport. If you have it you can visit only 6 countries in the World, Turkey (obviously), USA, UK, Australia, France and Pakistan. However, the Country itself is not recognized as UN member.

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Maybe it should read “if that's all you have”. Many people living in Northern Cyprus should be able to get a proper Cypriot passport now, some of those who immigrated after 1974 might be able to get a Turkish one (even if I am not 100% sure of the latter). –  Relaxed Feb 13 at 8:48
    
Yes, you are right. They are able to get at least the turkish or cypriot (greek-side) passport. So, yes, if this is all you have, is more precise :) –  Fabio Ricci Feb 13 at 9:28

The Henley Visa Restrictions Index by the agency of the same name pretty much does that for you, there's even a wikipedia page for that, according to which the lowest ranking countries are
Iran, Nepal, Lebanon, Pakistan, Afghanistan http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_movement#Entrance_restrictions_in_certain_countries

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The website doyouneedavisa.com has passport rankings, among others also the number of countries you can visit without a visa. It cites Afghanistan (0) and South Sudan (0) to be the countries with the least visa-free destination, followed by Iraq (32) and Somalia(36)

Obviously the 0 for Afghanistan is wrong, as mentioned in the other answers. Also the overall quality of the information seems to be not very accurate, but it sure can give you an estimated ranking.

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