The latest edition of the Henley Passport Index ranked the UAE 21st globally with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 165. The UAE is closing in on a top 20 place in the list of the world’s most powerful passports as it continues its “meteoric rise”.
Henley said this current score marks an extraordinary ascent from the position the UAE held a decade ago when the country shared joint 61st place with Thailand and Zimbabwe and had a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of just 52.
It added that the UAE continued its upward trajectory after the recent formalisation of a mutual visa-waiver agreement signed with Colombia and Russia.
Bata Racic, director of Henley & Partners Dubai, said: “The UAE’s meteoric rise in the Henley Passport Index is indicative of the country’s growing soft power and its viability as a global commercial, economic and travel hub.
“The nation has been making steady progress, strengthening its diplomatic ties with other countries across the globe. Consequently, the UAE passport continues to demonstrate its agility and raise the benchmark for other countries in the Middle East.
“Since 1999, visa restrictions on Emirati citizens have been lifted by over 45 different countries, and we expect the Gulf country to continue its remarkable growth trajectory over the coming months and years.”
Ryan Cummings, director of Signal Risk, added that participation in Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is having an increasing impact in the Middle East.
Discussing the recent ratification of the visa-waiver agreement signed between UAE and Russia, Cummings said: “While touted as being a direct outcome of strengthening trade and diplomatic relations between the UAE and Russia, the move may also be a strategic attempt by the former to replicate its success as the main trading, logistics, and financial hub in the Middle East to Asia.
“This comes amid the UAE’s formalization of a strategic partnership with China, which included a reciprocated visa waiver agreement and which formalized its membership to China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
“In doing so, the UAE may benefit as being the proverbial bridge linking people, trade, and commodities between Asia and the Middle East, which will only further strengthen the power of the country’s passport.”
Globally, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea now hold joint top spot on the Henley Passport Index, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 189, consolidating 12 months of Asian dominance.
Germany currently sits alone in second place, with a score of 188 while five countries – Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, and Sweden – now share third place with a score of 187.
Henley said the UK and the US look increasingly unlikely to regain the top spot they jointly held in 2015, with the UK now sitting in fifth place and the US in sixth.
Afghanistan and Iraq remain at the bottom of the ranking with a score of just 30, a position one or both countries have occupied throughout the index’s 14-year history.