Just saw this article on CNN


about Japan having the most powerful passport, with the largest number of visa-free and visa-on-arrival access to 190 countries:

Henley Index: Japanese passport now world's most powerful Updated 9:34 AM ET, Tue October 9, 2018 (CNN) - There are few things more liberating than travel -- although some passports offer more freedom than others.

A new report published October 9, 2018, reveals just how many borders some travel documents can cross.

According to the Henley Passport Index, compiled by global citizenship and residence advisory firm Henley & PartnersCitizens, Japan now has the most powerful passport on the planet.

Having gained visa-free access to Myanmar earlier this month, Japanese citizens can now enjoy visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to a whopping 190 destinations around the world -- knocking Singapore, with 189 destinations, into second place.

Germany, which began 2018 in the top spot, is now in third place with 188 destinations, tied with France and South Korea.

Uzbekistan lifted visa requirements for French nationals on October 5, having already granted visa-free access to Japanese and Singaporean citizens in early February.

South Korea gained visa-free access to Myanmar on October 1, while Paraguay removed visa requirements for Singaporean passport holders in 2017.

The United States and the UK, both with visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 186 destinations, are in fifth place. With neither having gained entry to any new jurisdictions this year, it seems unlikely that either will soon reclaim the No.1 spot they held in 2015.

The CIA's World Fact Book says there are 267 world entities.


So how do countries (entities?) work out who can travel where with just a passport? I've read some of the other links about entry not being allowed for having a record or for having been denied previously. I'm asking about what seems like a higher level thing.

Also I'm thinking tourist kind of access, not as a private business person.

  • Hi CrossRoads. Welcome to the site. We try to ask only one question at a time, so I've edited to remove your question about who allows US visa free access. You will be able to ask that question separately shortly (although since it's over 150 countries, and the list is constantly changing, you may not get an answer to it). Oct 10, 2018 at 15:12
  • @CrossRoads: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… Oct 10, 2018 at 15:19
  • Excellent. I was trying to find the same thing here travelmaps.state.gov/TSGMap but could only find the map shown, and not a list of countries.
    – CrossRoads
    Oct 10, 2018 at 15:27
  • Note that those ratings are disingenuous as they only count the number of visa free countries rather than the likelihood of someone actually wanting to go there. E.g. visa free access to Andorra is probably not as useful as visa free access to China.
    – JonathanReez
    Oct 10, 2018 at 15:38
  • Nor are the Travel Advisory countries noted. travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/… That would take out quite a few places that I would travel to.
    – CrossRoads
    Oct 10, 2018 at 16:43

2 Answers 2


The short answer is that it is up to the country being visited. Whether or not Japanese citizens can visit the US without a visa, or what kind of visa they need, is entirely decided by the US. The decision can be for many reasons, such as:

  • How likely citizens of a country are likely to cause trouble or overstay their permissions;
  • How much the country wants to encourage visitors from that country;
  • Historic ties

That being said, visa free access is often reciprocal, i.e. countries A and B often enter into agreements to provide visa-free access to each other's citizens. For example, an EU country cannot (mostly) prevent citizens of other EU countries visiting because the terms of the EU agreement allow free access.

Countries are also allowed to impose whatever other restrictions they like on visitors (depending on whatever other agreements they have signed). Having a criminal record, or a history of overstaying, is often a reason to be denied visa-free access, whatever your citizenship.

All of the above is true for both tourist and business visitors.

  • Not sure I would put "reciprocal" and "EU" in the same sentence. Reciprocal is more "you make my citizens pay for a visa to your country so I will do the same to yours" (unless of course I desperately need tourists from your country).
    – jcaron
    Oct 10, 2018 at 21:24
  • 2
    Reciprocal just means something that is done both ways. Oct 10, 2018 at 21:37

There are a number of considerations that politicians have to consider when deciding whether to grant visa free access.

  1. Risk level, What is the risk of someone doing something undesirable. (for a modern democracy the main risks are of people overstaying or working illegally, other countries may have other concerns)
  2. Benefit level, How much money will these people bring in.
  3. Reciprocity, Granting non-reciprocal visa-free access reduces bargaining power to get future visa-free access for your own citizens and raises difficult political questions.
  4. The wider political picture, what is the historic relationship between the countries? are current relationships friendly.

Like anything in politics it is messy and different countries will take different strategies.

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