Irish passport billed as one of the world's most powerful

Opening doors: An Irish passport allows more freedom of movement than one from the UK

John Mulligan

AN Irish passport is the joint sixth strongest in the world, based on the number of countries its holders can visit without a visa, according to a new study.

The latest Henley Passport Index ranks the passport as being stronger than the UK's, the United States' or Switzerland's.

The index, which does not take current pandemic-related travel bans into account, continues to rank Japan as having the world's strongest passport for free movement.

The United States is ranked a joint seventh, along with the UK, Belgium, Switzerland and Norway. Ireland's ranking is shared with France, The Netherlands, Portugal and Sweden.

But if temporary travel bans are taken into account, the US sees its ranking slump to number 28 - the same as Uruguay.

"In another striking inversion, the US's dramatic decline in passport power means that Americans find themselves with a similar level of travel freedom usually available to citizens of Mexico," noted Henley & Partners, which prepared the study.

It conceded that the US's poor showing when travel bans are taken into account is temporary.

The United States is not on a list of countries from which the European Union will currently accept visitors.

The US has broadly failed to contain the coronavirus, with some states such as Florida and Texas having recently seen surges in the number of reported infections. The country has now had close to three million reported cases and 132,000 deaths.

"The pandemic's impact on travel freedom has been more drastic and long lasting than initially anticipated," said Christian Kaelin, chairman of Henley & Partners. The firm helps wealthy individuals with residence and citizenship planning.

"This latest decision by the EU indicates that there is more upheaval to come," said Mr Kaelin. "Look at the US passport, for example - in 2014, it held the number one spot in the world on our index, but US nationals currently have far less travel freedom than most citizens of other wealthy, industrialised nations and even of some less developed nations, being effectively locked out of Europe."

"We see an emergence of a new global hierarchy in terms of mobility, with countries that have effectively managed the pandemic taking the lead, and countries that have handled it poorly falling behind," he added.

The world's second most valuable passport is Singapore's, while the passport that provides the lowest amount of visa-free mobility in the world is Afghanistan's.