The Passport Offering Most Visa-Free Travel Is...

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 9/01/2010 12:10:00 AM
...the United Kingdom. The Economist provided the chart above taken from statistics gathered by Henley & Partners, a specialist in "international residence and citizenship planning." (In plain English, I take that to mean services for the internationally mobile wealthy to minimize tax obligations. To quote the late Leona Helmsley, only the little people pay taxes.) Anyway, despite your possible reservations about the firm, Henley & Partners has been conducting annual surveys on how many countries in this wide world you can visit with different passports without having to apply for a visa. Of all people, I know this process can be tiring: lining up for hours, dealing with sometimes surly consulate officials, and paying pretty large sums for the privilege of visiting other nations takes its toll--especially if you enjoy travelling like I do.

At any rate, here is the accompanying blurb. Unsurprisingly, there are "soft power" and "nation branding" considerations which help determine the number of countries you can visit without applying for a visa. (Referring to my previous post, those easy-like-Sunday-morning Danes come in second place.) Certainly, prestige and bragging rights are at stake:
The Henley Visa Restrictions Index is a global ranking of countries according to travel freedom their citizens enjoy. Henley & Partners has analyzed the visa regulations of all the countries and territories in the world. It has created an index which ranks countries according to the visa-free access its citizens enjoy to other countries. This is the first time that a global ranking shows the international travel freedom of the citizens of the various countries as well as the international relations and status of individual countries relative to others.

In today's globalized world, visa restrictions play an important role in controlling the movement of foreign nationals across borders. Almost all countries now require visas from certain non-nationals who wish to enter their territory. Visa requirements are also an expression of the relationships between individual nations, and generally reflect the relations and status of a country within the international community of nations.
What is striking to me is how low the United States comes in the overall scheme of things. I guess America has overhyped the value of a US passport since it is not exactly the top travel document at all. For every sycophantic nation that has a George W. Bush street, there is another nation which takes a dimmer view of America. Meanwhile, the passing of Europe's colonial era has two advantages: They not only retain strong ties with former colonies that have forgotten earlier times, but they also are also regarded as less malodorous than America whose busybody status is largely undiminished.

Go figure; I was rather surprised with these results, actually. So, my dears, the sun apparently never set on the British empire of visa-free travel.