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The 61st most powerful passport in the world

The Jamaican passport is currently ranked 61st on the Henley & Partners Passport Index which measures the power of passports based on the amount of destinations passport holders can visit without a prior visa.

The ranking uses data exclusively from the International Air Transport Association which provides the largest and most accurate database of travel information in the world. This data is complemented by the continuing, comprehensive research of the Henley & Partners Research Department.

There are currently 104 places in the index with Japan owning first place and Singapore and South Korea in second.

A number of Jamaica’s neighbours in the Caribbean and Latin American region are ranked favourably by the index. They include St Kitts and Nevis in 27th place, Antigua and Barbuda in 28th, St Lucia in 31st and Grenada in 33rd.

These particular Caribbean countries are noteworthy because they offer citizenship-by-investment programmes. Citizenship-by-investment countries tend to hold strong positions in the index. These nations are interested in attracting wealthy individuals who can contribute in some way to the development of the state.

Usually such wealthy individuals are seeking citizenship in other countries that can grant them greater global access for business, travel and lifestyle. As such, the citizenship-by-investment countries usually have strong passports as part of the attraction for such individuals.

Henley & Partners actually advises governments on the creation and implementation of investment related residence and citizenship programmes. Jamaica does not offer such arrangements. It is worth noting that while citizenship-by-investment countries may benefit financially and otherwise from these programmes there can be a negative side as well.

The systems can be exploited by criminals seeking greater access to foreign countries for illegal operations and they can also be used by individuals or organisations to escape economic sanctions. These dangers open the door to abuse of the citizenship-by-investment programmes if they are not properly regulated.

Other Caribbean countries that are favourably ranked by the index but do not engage in citizenship-by-investment are Barbados in 24th position and The Bahamas in 26th. Trinidad and Tobago, and Guyana are both ranked as more powerful than Jamaica.

The passport index suggests that despite the obvious isolationist tendencies which have emerged in various parts of the world, many countries still pursue a commitment to collaboration. This is the opinion of Dr Christian H Kälin, Group Chairman of Henley & Partners and the inventor of the Passport Index concept.

“The general spread of open-door policies has the potential to contribute billions to the global economy, as well as create significant employment opportunities around the world,” he said. “South Korea and the United Arab Emirates’ recent ascent in the rankings are further examples of what happens when countries take a proactive foreign affairs approach, an attitude which significantly benefits their citizens as well as the international community.”

The United Arab Emirates has the strongest passport in the Middle Eastern region and its citizens have visa-free access to 167 nations. The country has also signed agreements recently with Sierra Leone, Mexico and Japan among others.

European countries are well-placed on the index with France and Germany in third place internationally while Sweden, Finland, Italy and Denmark are all joint holders of fourth place.

The United Kingdom is in sixth position but the current Brexit situation makes their future unclear.

A recent press release from Henley & Partners suggests that for now it is difficult to analyse the potential consequences of Brexit for both EU and UK citizens and for trade and cooperation between the two parties. The release quotes Simone Bertoli, professor of Economics at Universite Clermont Auvergne (CERDI) in France and a Research Fellow at the Institute of Labour Economics in Germany as suggesting: “London’s finance sector could lose a substantial part of its appeal, and other European countries (notably France, Germany, and Ireland) could decide to strengthen policy measures to attract financial sector workers.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum to the powerful passports of countries like Japan, South Korea, Germany, France, Australia, Belgium and others are the worst passports to hold. Some of these include Yemen in the 101st position, Pakistan (102), Somalia and Syria (103) as well as Iraq and Afghanistan in last place at 104.