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Commentary: New passport rankings show that the world is opening up – but not for everyone


Nearly every passport on the index, which includes 193 United Nations member countries and six territories, became more powerful, with holders receiving immediate access to 16 additional countries on average.

But there’s still a massive mobility gap between the most and least powerful passports – and it has big implications for where people can travel, reside and work. The United Nations may proclaim that “everyone has the right to leave any country, including one’s own, and to return to one’s country”, but the fact is, not all passports are created equal or treated with equal respect.


In my book License To Travel: A Cultural History Of The Passport, I explore the evolution of travel documents and how passports have influenced the emotions and imaginings of those who hold them.

Writers and artists like Rushdie have played an important role in identifying and contesting disparities in freedom of movement. They have also led the way in envisioning new forms of international openness.

Despite ongoing migrant crises, disease outbreaks, military conflicts, economic challenges and rising nationalist movements, the world is trending toward greater openness. Still, the international community has dedicated little effort to collapsing persistent inequities in the global passport regime.

Whether we like it or not, our passports define who we are in the geopolitical order. And unsurprisingly, the world’s wealthy have better prospects.

Firms such as Arton Capital and Henley & Partners, the curators of a competing passport ranking index, have arisen in recent years to assess these prospects. They also advise investors, business people and other affluent individuals on ways to attain a second passport when it is advantageous.

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