News & Analysis

Czechs Hold Emerging Europe’s Most Powerful Passport

The Czech passport is the most powerful of those issued by the 23 countries of emerging Europe. According to the most recent Passport Index, it is ranked eighth globally and allows its holders to travel visa-free to 152 countries around the world. The Hungarian passport is the second most powerful in the region, the only difference to the Czech equivalent being its failure to offer visa-free travel to Lesotho.

The two leaders are followed by Slovenia, Slovakia, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, whose nationals can travel visa-free to 149 countries. The remaining CEE-EU11 member states — Estonia, Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria are all ranked in the top 15.

Ukraine is the leader among non-EU member states, with Ukrainians free to travel without visas to 120 countries globally. Countries whose citizens’ visa-free travel choices are limited to less than 100 countries include Albania (96 countries), Belarus (71), Azerbaijan (64), Armenia (59) and Kosovo (41).

“Visa-free global mobility has become an important factor in today’s world,” Armand Arton, founder and president of Arton Capital, said at the recently held Global Citizen Forum in Montenegro. “More and more people every year invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in a second passport in order to offer better opportunities and security to their families.”

Brexit, for example, has forced Britons to apply for citizenship in other EU countries. According to the BBC, 64,400 UK nationals made a bid for Irish passports in the year to June, compared to 25,207 in the previous year. The number of British subjects applying for other EU passports also rose significantly in Spain (2,300 to 4,558), Sweden (from 969 to 2,002), Poland (from 152 to 332) and Denmark (from 289 to 604).

Historically, the Top 10 most powerful passports in the world were mostly European, with Germany leading for the past two years. Since early 2017, the number one position has been shared with Singapore. Other Asian passports in the Top 20 include those of South Korea, Japan and Malaysia.

According to Philippe May, managing director of Arton Capital’s Singapore office, “For the first time ever an Asian country has the most powerful passport in the world. It is a testament of Singapore’s inclusive diplomatic relations and effective foreign policy,” Mr May said.

While Singapore has quietly climbed the ranks, the power of a US passport has fallen since President Donald Trump took office. Most recently Turkey and the Central African Republic revoked visa-free travel status for US passport holders.