Want to travel the world with ease? Then you may want to consider getting one of the most powerful passports in the world.
These passports offer visa-free or visa on arrival access to a large number of countries, allowing you to travel without having to worry about getting a visa in advance.
Even better, the most powerful passports in the world are mostly from European countries. Exceptions include Japan, Singapore, and the United States.
Having a passport from an EU member state brings a special advantage that goes beyond visa-free travel access.
Citizenship of an EU country automatically gives you the rights to live, work, study, do business, and retire in any of the EU or EEA member states, plus Switzerland. We think that’s an even more important benefit than being able to travel freely.
The most well-known passport freedom index is the Henley Passport Index (HPI), although it only focuses on freedom of travel. A passport ranks highly on the HPI if it allows the holder to enter a country with any of the following:
- Passport only
- Electronic travel authorization (ETA) / online visa waiver
- Visa on arrival
Because the HPI is so well known in the industry, we’ll refer to it as the basis for this roundup. Just keep in mind the added benefits of EU citizenship that go far beyond mere freedom of travel.
Let’s dive in and look at the 30 most powerful passports in the world.
The 30 Most Powerful Passports in the World in 2022
#1. Japan (193 countries)
If you’re looking for a country with great travel options, then you can’t go wrong with Japan. The Japanese passport is ranked as the most powerful in the world, allow visa-free access to 193 countries. This makes it easy to travel to almost anywhere in the world without having to worry about getting a visa in advance.
How easy is it to get Japanese citizenship?
According to Japan’s nationality law, a foreigner must have been domiciled in Japan for at least five consecutive years before applying for citizenship. You’ll also need to be of “upright conduct”, and able to make a living in Japan.
Naturalization is forbidden if you have ever “formed or belonged to an organization plotting or advocating the overthrow of the Japanese government”. Japan doesn’t recognize dual citizenship, but at least the language requirements are easy. You only need to have a grasp of basic Japanese suitable for handling daily life.
#2. Singapore and South Korea (192 countries)
Singapore and South Korea hold joint second place on the Henley Passport Index. Both of them allow travel to 192 countries without the need for a visa in advance.
How easy is it to get Singaporean or South Korean citizenship?
In theory, you only need to maintain permanent residency in Singapore for a minimum of two years to be eligible for citizenship by naturalization.
You can get permanent residency in several different ways:
- By having an employment pass with a monthly income of at least 2,500 SGD
- By investing at least 2.5 million Singapore dollars in the country’s economy. You must also show proof that you have your own company with at least 50 million Singapore dollars in annual turnover.
But jobs in Singapore are increasingly difficult to get, and the government is making the citizenship process more rigorous.
What’s more, Singapore doesn’t recognize dual citizenship and has compulsory military service for all male citizens.
For South Korea, there are three main ways for foreigners to naturalize: through residency, family, or owning a business.
Residency is the most common, and you’ll need to meet the following criteria:
- Be at least 20 years old
- Have an Alien Registration Card
- Have a Korean address on file
- Be eligible to work in South Korea
- Be of good conduct – no criminal record
- Be able to make a living on your own
- Have basic knowledge of South Korea, including an understanding of Korean language, customs and culture
Just like Singapore, South Korea has compulsory military service and doesn’t recognize dual citizenship.
#3. Germany and Spain (190 countries)
Tied for third position on the HPI are Germany and Spain. Passports from both countries allow travel to 190 countries without getting a visa in advance.
What’s more, having Spanish or German citizenship makes you an EU citizen, with all the added benefits of free movement across Europe.
How easy is it to get German or Spanish citizenship?
German citizenship requires residency of at least eight years, plus passing an exam in the German language at at least B1 level.
To become a Spanish citizen, you’ll need to live in Spain for at least 10 years and pass a Spanish language exam at at least A2 level.
Neither Germany or Spain typically recognize dual citizenship, although there may be certain exceptions.
#4. Finland, Italy and Luxembourg (189 countries)
These three European countries are tied for fourth position. Their passports allow access to 189 countries without a visa in advance.
Of course, any of these passports would also make you an EU citizen.
How easy is it to get Finnish, Italian or Luxembourg citizenship?
Citizenship requirements vary between these three countries.
Luxembourg citizenship is the most straightforward, requiring just five years of residency, plus knowledge of the Luxembourgish language to B1 level. It also recognizes dual citizenship, so you wouldn’t have to give up your original passport.
Italy also recognizes dual citizenship, but requires 10 years of residency before you can apply. You’ll also need to pass an Italian language exam at B1 level or above.
And finally, Finland also requires at least five years of residency, plus it recognizes dual nationality. You’ll need intermediate level Finnish language skills (and it’s considered one of the hardest languages in the world).
#5. Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Sweden (188 countries)
These four European countries are ranked in joint fifth place on the HPI. Their passports allow holders to travel freely to 188 countries. Even better, all of them offer EU citizenship.
How easy is it to get Austrian, Danish, Dutch, or Swedish citizenship?
Both the Netherlands and Sweden allow you to apply for citizenship after five years of residency. Sweden recognizes dual citizenship, where is the Netherlands doesn’t (except for special cases).
In Denmark and Austria, the residency timelines are much longer. For Danish citizenship, you’ll need to be resident for at least nine years. In Austria it’s usually 10 years, with five of those as a permanent resident. Both countries will require you to pass a language exam.
#6. France, Ireland, Portugal, United Kingdom (187 countries)
In position 6 we have three EU countries, plus the world’s only ex-EU country – the UK.
On first glance, these four passports look equal, according to the HPI. But although the UK may still have one of the world’s most powerful passports, it’s vastly inferior to the other three.
Although the UK passport still grants you easy travel around the world, it no longer gives you the rights to live, work, study, retire, and do business freely across the 30 countries of the EU, EEA, and Switzerland.
If you want to get a second passport, we recommend you focus on one from an EU country, instead of the UK. We highly recommend Ireland or Portugal.
How easy is it to get French, Irish, Portuguese or British citizenship?
All four of these countries have relatively short residency timelines of five years before you can apply for citizenship.
(What’s more, Portugal is one of the easiest countries for Americans to move to).
For British or Irish citizenship, there’s no language requirement except English. For British citizenship, you’ll also need to pass the Life in the UK exam, which tests your knowledge of British history and culture.
Irish citizenship is now the best in the EU, offering full EU rights plus the rights to live and work freely in the UK. No other European citizenship can do this.
Plus, all four countries recognize dual citizenship, so you can keep your original passport.
We think the four countries in position 6 offer the best potential for a second passport. They’re some of the world’s most powerful passports, yet also have relatively easy naturalization requirements.
#7. Belgium, New Zealand, Switzerland, Norway, the US (186 countries)
These five countries rank joint seventh position among the world’s most powerful passports. Holding a passport from any of them allows you to travel to 186 countries without a visa in advance.
Having a Belgian, Swiss, or Norwegian passport will also give you the rights to freedom of movement across the EU and EEA. New Zealand and the US aren’t EU member states, so their passports won’t give you this advantage.
US citizenship means you’ll be liable for citizenship-based taxation, no matter where you live in the world. The US is one of the only countries still using this system. New Zealand is popular because it’s one of the world’s safest countries – worth considering if safety and security are high on your priority list.
How easy is it to get Belgian, New Zealand, Swiss, Norwegian, or US citizenship?
Getting citizenship of these five countries has varying requirements. US citizenship is probably the most popular, but has notoriously strict requirements. Swiss citizenship is also well known for its challenges.
Belgian citizenship is probably the easiest here. You can get it by maintaining residency in Belgium for at least five years and learning one of the national languages (French, German or Flemish) to a sufficient level (B1).
#8. Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Greece, and Malta (185 countries)
Ranking jointly at position eight on the HPI is this diverse mix of EU and Commonwealth countries. All of their passports allow travel to 185 countries without a visa in advance. But only the Czech Republic, Greece, and Malta provide EU rights for their citizens.
How easy is it to get Australian, Canadian, Czech, Greek or Maltese citizenship?
Australia and Canada both operate points-based systems for getting residency. You can apply for citizenship after maintaining a residency for the required number of years. Malta is probably the most interesting option of this group.
Malta is the only EU country that still offers a true citizenship-by-investment program, in which you can get a Maltese EU passport in 12 to 18 months after making a significant investment in the country.
Other EU countries with similar programs, such as Portugal with its Golden Visa, require investors to maintain residency for much longer (e.g., 5 years) before they can apply.
#9. Hungary (183 countries)
The central European country of Hungary holds ninth position all on its own. With a Hungarian passport, you can travel without a visa in advance to 183 countries. Hungarian citizenship is also EU citizenship, giving you full access to all countries in the zone.
How easy is it to get Hungarian citizenship?
Getting Hungarian citizenship is a relatively tricky endeavor, compared to other EU nations. First, you’ll need to learn the language, considered one of the world’s most difficult.
If you don’t have any Hungarian relatives, you’ll also need at least eight years of continuous residency in Hungary before you become eligible to apply.
#10. Lithuania, Poland, and Slovakia (182 countries)
The final group of countries in this list of the 30 most powerful passports in the world are all from the EU. Holders of a Lithuanian, Polish, or Slovakian passport can travel to 182 countries without arranging a visa in advance.
Citizens of these three countries also benefit from full EU rights that go beyond travel.
How easy is it to get Lithuanian, Polish, or Slovakian citizenship?
These three countries are not the easiest for naturalization. For Lithuania, you need to maintain residency for 10 years and pass a language exam. Dual citizenship is only allowed under certain conditions.
For Poland, you can apply for citizenship by naturalization after at least eight years (five years holding temporary residency, then three years holding permanent residency). Timelines can be shorter if you have Polish ancestry or are married to a citizen.
For Slovakia, you’ll need to maintain continuous residency for at least eight years, and pass an exam in the Slovak language. You can keep your original passport, but you’ll be considered Slovak only when on Slovakian territory.
In this article we’ve looked at the 30 most powerful passports in the world. The list is dominated by EU/EEA countries (including Switzerland), accounting for 22 out of 30 passports.
Most attempts to rank the world’s most powerful passports focus only on freedom of travel.
While this is an important concern for many people, we believe your ultimate goal should be to acquire a passport from one of the EU countries. That opens up a world of opportunity, giving you and your family full rights to live, work, study, do business, and retire across 30 strong and stable countries.
Not all EU countries are created equal when it comes to citizenship requirements. So it’s best to choose one of the easier options, such as Portugal, Luxembourg, Malta, or Ireland.