Thursday, May 04, 2017

what is the most powerful passport in the world?

I am a sucker for these non-stories.

You know how they go. Some question that has never even been in your zip code is flashed in front of you, and you are expected to react with the curiosity of a gross of dead cats.

"Twelve Things You Will Not Find In Queen Elizabeth's Handbag." "The Seven Hollywood Stars Who Have Slept With American Presidents." And today's offering: "The World's Most Powerful Passport."

And there is almost always a catch. The contents of the Queen's handbag have been conjured up by a clairvoyant in Hoboken. The stars are Barbra Streisand and her cronies who sleep with a photograph of Barack Obama under their pillows.

I thought the "most powerful passport" would have a similar failing. The ranking being calculated by owners of Albanian restaurants in Dublin. But I was wrong.

It is a legitimate ranking system with objective criteria. A group known as Passport Index keeps a running tally of passports according to their power. 

And how is that "power" calculated? With one simple criterion: how many countries can the passport holder visit without obtaining a visa?

Now, I can probably come up with a different ranking system, but this one is simple and fair. And there is no nonsense about the Queen refusing to handle any currency that displays her face.

I was heading to Colombia when I first saw the summary article in Travel and Leisure magazine. I thought I might write about it while traveling to and from the Land of Bolivar. It turned out I had plenty of other topics for essays.

And it is fortunate I waited. In just a few short weeks, the rankings of the 25 most powerful passports have changed. Some rather dramatically. But, I suspect that is the tenor of our times. Nations generally are tightening their border controls.

But, I have rambled on long enough. I am certain you want to know where your passport has been ranked on the power spectrum.

But, before I tell you, you need to know what I found to be a rather dispiriting fact. There is not a big difference between the 25 countries. They all fit into six categories -- and only 5 visas separate the #1 group from the #6 group.

With that, here they are; the 25 most powerful passports in the world are issued by the following countries.

1. Germany, Singapore

Germany held the title a few weeks ago with 177 visa-free countries. The total for both Germany and Singapore is now 159.

2. Sweden (158)

3. Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Norway, South Korea, Spain, United Kingdom, United States (157)

4. Austria, Belgium, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland (156)

5. Canada, Ireland, Malaysia (155)

6. Australia, Greece, New Zealand (154)

Just in case you are interested, of the last four countries I visited, I needed a visa for one (Australia), but not for the other three (New Zealand, Mexico, and Colombia). Mexico ranks #23 on the list (along with the Bahamas and Vatican City). Colombia is #41 (in the same group as the Russian Federation, Montenegro, and the Marshall Islands).

And who is the Mediterranean Avenue of the passport power game? No big surprise here -- Afghanistan at #93. Afghans can visit only 24 countries visa-free.

So, there you have it. No Miss Congeniality, and a lot of crown-sharing amongst the winners.

Don't you ever wonder if Barbra Streisand keeps a photograph of the queen in her handbag?

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