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The methodology page for the Henley Passport Index says:

[...] A score with value = 1 is also applied if passport holders can obtain a visa on arrival, a visitor’s permit, or an electronic travel authority (ETA) when entering the destination. These visa-types require no pre-departure government approval, because of the specific visa-waiver programs in place.

Where a visa is required, or where a passport holder has to obtain a government-approved electronic visa (e-Visa) before departure, a score with value = 0 is assigned. A score with value = 0 is also assigned if passport holders need pre-departure government approval for a visa on arrival, a scenario we do not consider "visa-free".

But many ETAs cannot be obtained "when entering the destination", but, rather, must be applied for and approved prior to departure. This is the case, for example, with the US visa waiver program. That would seem to fall under the second category (value = 0): sure, an ETA might not be considered a "visa" under most circumstances, but the process of applying for one is quite similar to the process of applying for an e-Visa before departure: you must fill out a form with your biographical information, travel history, etc., submit a photo, pay an application fee, and wait for approval before you can travel.

So why is it considered by the Henley Passport Index that, for example, British citizens can travel to the United States visa-free? Simply because a country chooses to refer to its "e-Visa" as an "ETA", this results in a score of 1 instead of 0?

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  • At a guess, an eTA is permission to travel to a country where you don't need a visa to enter or you have a visa waiver. An eVisa is still a visa and you need it to enter the country. There's likely more documentation required for the eVisa, and you often need to take print outs etc of this to show to immigration when you arrive. With the eTA you don't (normally) need this
    – Midavalo
    Commented Jul 22, 2023 at 1:38
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    It's a pointless marketing exercise. Please don't try to let logic get in the way. Their research also isn't great. For example, for an Australian Citizen it states Turkey requires a visa. However that visa is available either as an e-visa or on-arrival. Given the latter, it really should (by their rules) be listed as visa-free.
    – Doc
    Commented Jul 22, 2023 at 3:51

1 Answer 1

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So why is it considered by the Henley Passport Index that, for example, British citizens can travel to the United States visa-free?

Because they can make up whatever rules they like and believe will result in the highest revenue for the business

They are sloppy in their definitions. Specifically

These visa-types require no pre-departure government approval, because of the specific visa-waiver programs in place.

This equates an ETA with "no pre-departure government approval" which obviously not true.

At the end of the day, they make the rules for their purposes. They can either define a "1" as "no pre-departure government approval required" or as "no Visa required", but that's their choice. You can decide whether you think this data is helpful to you or not.

Practically speaking an ETA should probably be a 0.5: it's typically a fairly simple online process and it's easier to get than a Visa. They also tend to have a longer validity. I currently have active ETAs for Australia and New Zealand, so I actually do NOT need "pre government approval" for the next year and a half for either of these contries.

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