Influential Passports: A Global Perspective

A U.S. passport primarily serves as a travel document, allowing you to enter foreign countries. With an American passport, you can journey to 184 out of 227 countries and territories without applying for a visa. Considering the appeal of American tourists globally, you might assume that the U.S. passport would be the world’s most potent travel document.

However, data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) indicates otherwise. The American passport actually ranks 27th, tied with Lithuania, trailing behind countries like Singapore, which offers visa-free access to 192 destinations, Germany, Italy, and Spain (190 each), and Japan among others (189). The U.K., Denmark, Ireland, and the Netherlands provide their citizens with visa-free travel to 188 countries, and a dozen other countries grant access to between 185 and 187 locations.

Conversely, the least powerful passports, as per the IATA, belong to countries like Afghanistan (27 visa-free destinations), Iraq (29), Syria (30), and Pakistan (33).

There are also select locations that require no visas for any travelers, regardless of nationality. However, these tend to be less conventional tourist spots, such as the Maldives, Micronesia, or Seychelles. On the flip side, the most restrictive nations—Afghanistan, North Korea, Papua New Guinea, and Turkmenistan—grant no visa-free access to anyone.

As for the U.S.’s stance on incoming travelers, it only allows 44 nationalities to enter visa-free, positioning it at 78th on the openness index. This list includes Taiwan and South Korea, but excludes major nations like China and India. Also, not a single African country makes it onto this list.

IATA’s long-term data highlights an overall increase in travel freedom. Since 2006, the average number of destinations a typical passport holder can visit without a visa has almost doubled, going from 58 to 109. Notably, the United Arab Emirates has added 107 visa-free destinations since 2013, and Colombia has included 50 new ones